Sunday, April 25, 2010

So, Is That What You Call a Getaway? Tell Me What You Got Away With.

Nae was robbed on Friday while out doing a dolphin survey with another girl. She didn't give Mom a lot of details, probably because she didn't want to scare us, but the not knowing is pretty scary, too. Did they have knives? guns? threaten them in some other way? Are they people she had seen before or known?
What she did say is they took her camera, and the equivalent of about $50 U.S., but not her wallet, and also her headlamp. The police came by to question her multiple times and told her they hoped this didn't put her off visiting South Africa again. She is trying to make light of the situation and says at least she doesn't have to do dolphin surveys again for awhile and that they will never have to go back to the spot again.
Thank God she is alive! Thank God they didn't take much and did not harm her or her friend. Someone was looking out for her that day. Maybe now she will heed our and all of our South African friends' warnings to be vigilant while there.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Live Through This and You Won't Look Back

I don't have much to say right now. I haven't been feeling particularly well for about a week. I'm really missing Boyfriend. I'm sick of the visa process. I can't wait to get back to Australia to see Boyfriend and my friends, but then I know I'll be sad, missing my family back in California. I'm selfish, spoiled, a brat; I don't think about it as "you've got the best of both worlds," I think about it as I'm always missing a piece of my heart. Let's hope tomorrow has me feeling better and with something more optimistic to write about.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jaws Swimming Theme Part 3

Here are a ton more pictures from Nae's adventure so far. This weekend she may be going on a game drive and bungee jumping (I hope not!). The pictures are from where they do their dolphin surveys at and from Cango Wildlife Ranch, which Boyfriend and I are now dying to go to, especially because Nae says the facilities are top notch for the animals, the zoo keepers are really knowledgeable, and because for an extra $20 you can pet the cheetahs and lions!

Ostrich egg over a light to see if their is a chick inside.

Sophie the dwarf ostrich


Ostrich rides...Nae was going to do it until she saw the ostrich fall on top of one of the riders

Weaver bird nest

Weaver bird

One of Nae's friends commented on the photo that this thing was super creepy, when Nae told her it was a stork, she said "You mean to tell me that ugly thing is what delivers the babies?!"

Nae doesn't think these are native to South Africa. I know they are to Australia because it's what we get by the dozen in our backyard when we put sunflower seeds out.

Cool picnic sign. I love baobab trees!

Golden Orb Spider

Nae's group took some kids to a wildlife park. Here is her commentary on this picture, it kills me: "The children with the tiger that kept trying to rip through the cage and grab them...special moments"

A lion cub that is being raised by dogs.

Nae's commentary: "The cutest skunk ever. Her name is Flower and she bites."

They found a tortoise literally trying to cross the road so they got out and moved it in to the bush.

A local bar with swings for seats, but Nae says the height they have the swings at makes it pretty dangerous as you could crack your head on the counter.

The countryside. Mom says it reminds her of the California desert.

Nice set rolling in.

Surfers right in the shark zone. Nae's research boat sits just outside the swill line tracking sharks here. There are 50 resident sharks in the bay and the older, bigger sharks are moving in this month to feed on the seals....this guy is a dedicated surfer!

A Kona Hema 'O Ka Lani

I made these Pacific Rim Burgers that I had seen on the Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy Blog a couple of weekends back and thought they were so, so good. My parents thought they were "interesting" and didn't seem as in to them as I was. I might make these again when I got back to Australia and get Boyfriend's opinion of them because I was really surprised that my parents weren't raving over these burgers like I was. I served them with sweet potato fries (and I thought the mayo made a good dip for the fries, too) and I thought it was the perfect backyard barbecued dinner to celebrate the start of spring.

Pacific Rim Burgers with Ginger Mayonnaise
Adapted from Kristine Snyder and The Food Network

  • 1 1/4 pounds ground chicken ( I used one pack of Trader Joe's minced chicken and it was just a little over 1.25 pounds)
  • 2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (I use 2 cloves.)
  • 1 teaspoon Asian hot chili sauce (I use Sambal Oelek and add 2 teasoons!) (I didn't have this so I sprinkled some red pepper flakes in)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup bottled teriyaki glaze (I didn't have any so I used soy sauce)
  • 4 teaspoons honey (I use 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus extra for hands
  • 4 sesame buns, split and toasted
  • 1 seedless cucumber, peeled and sliced very thinly (any one want to tell me how you easily deseed a cucumber without being left with just the outside ring? guess I misread this and I was supposed to buy seedless to begin with!)
  • Ginger Mayonnaise (recipe follows)

In a large bowl, mix together the chicken, panko, egg, green onions, chopped cilantro, garlic, chili sauce, and salt. With oiled hands, form mixture into 4 patties ( I think I got more like 6-7 good sized patties out of my meat mixture).

In a small bowl, mix together the teriyaki glaze and honey. Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken patties and cook on both sides, brushing each side with the teriyaki-honey mixture, about 10 minutes, or until fully cooked through. (SGCC Note: I find that the glaze sometimes starts to burn before the burgers are cooked through, so I sear the burgers and finish them off for 10 minutes in a 400 degrees F. oven)
(I did my burgers on the bbq)

Place burgers on toasted buns and top with cucumber and Ginger Mayonnaise. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and cucumber slices.

Ginger Mayonnaise

1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used light mayo because that is what we had open)

(I think that I ended up adding more relish and ginger and lime juice and garlic to my mayo to give it a stronger flavor so start out with this and then add extra as needed for your taste)

2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, mix together all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

If I Could, I Would Shrink Myself...And Remove Whatever Makes You Hurt But I am to Weak to be Your Cure

Last Thursday Mom and I got up bright and early and hit the road down to Orange County. I posted on my Facebook that I was going to be in town and got a few well wishes from friends to have fun while I was there and a teasingly angry email from my best guy friend from high asking why he hadn't been informed that I would be around and that we should head out and get a drink together. I hadn't made any solid plans to see friends, though, because the reason we were in town was not a fun one (it never seems to be these days!)- we were there because my Grandma recently found a large lump in her breast that turned out to be cancerous and she was being rushed in to surgery. She had had breast cancer about 8 years ago and on the other side, but this cancer is completely different.

Friday morning we got up and were at the hospital by 7am. Grandma seemed in good spirits considering and went in for surgery at 10:30. The doctor came out when it was done and Mom went over to see him. I thought he would just give her a general debriefing like I had seen other doctors come out and do with other patients' families so I opted to stay with our stuff and hold on to our seats. When Mom got over to the doctor, he directed her in to a small office and closed the door-"Ah, shit" I thought, this can't be good news. And it wasn't. Grandma had made it out of the surgery fine, that was one hurdle, but the bad news was that the cancer had spread in to both lymph nodes they had checked so they had had to remove the other ones and were going to process those to see if the cancer had spread.

Friday afternoon Grandma was pretty groggy, but not in a lot of pain because they had her on the good drugs. When we returned on Saturday morning, Grandma didn't remember that we had been there before and after her surgery the day before and she didn't think she had had the surgery yet, either. She told us that she was very unhappy because if she had had the surgery, she had heard it wasn't her doctor who had performed it, but an associate (which wasn't obviously the case) and she told the case worker who came in to the room to check on her just that (which we then had to correct). She was released Saturday afternoon and went from being in a lot pain and bitchy to being nice, happy Grandma who snuggled on the couch with me (a first in about 10 years since I am not the favorite granddaughter I once was since I am not skinny and Grandma has extreme disdain for anyone who is overweight) when she had taken some vicodin!

We left on Sunday afternoon to head to Cambria where we stayed the night to decompress after such a stressful weekend and Mom and I drove in two separate cars because Grandma decided she didn't want her car anymore and we took it so that Dad could sell it and make sure she got a fair price for it. It's a good thing she decided she didn't "want" to drive anymore because legally she can't. After getting in to two accidents in two consecutive Tuesday nights and taking out a total of 5 parked cars, her license has been revoked and her insurance is dropping her. We were just really fortunate that Grandma didn't hurt herself or anyone else.

If you ask me, this getting old thing doesn't sound like too much fun! I am feeling really badly for my Mom,too, because she is getting all of my Grandma's drama dumped on her. I don't mean to make it sound like we are cold, heartless people-the cancer stuff is a not drama at all and we are concerned for her about that, there is just a TON of other stuff that is drama, plain and simple, and, thus, avoidable that I'm choosing not to air on here that my Mom has to deal with in regards to Grandma all the time and it is definitely taking a toll and wearing Mom down.

We don't know the results of the other lymph nodes they removed yet, but we should know by the weekend so I'm sending some positive energy in to the universe that the cancer hasn't spread and I'd appreciate any positive energy or prayers you could send up for her, too.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jaws Swimming Theme Part 2

All photos by Nae

I got to briefly chat with Nae this morning on Facebook. She had just gotten back from being out on the boat all day and Nae said they saw 9 different sharks! I can only imagine how excited she must have been when the first one approached the boat. It took her nearly 25 years to see her first one in the wild and then 9 all in one day-fantastic! That girl is living her dream right now! She seems to really be liking South Africa in general, so far, too.

A few different people have asked me about what the food is like there so I asked Nae this morning and her two complaints were that a) the only time she's felt like she has really eaten veggies is when she cooked dinner for the house last night and b) that they like to put a lot of mayo on stuff there and Nae hates mayo!

Anyway, she is supposed to be emailing us later if she gets a chance to fill us in more about how it's all going so I'll share more when I know more. I've said to her that she should start a blog to chronicle her adventure there, but I don't think she will.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Jaws Swimming Theme

Nae Nae made it safe and sound to Mossel Bay finally. We got up at 4:30 Tuesday morning, after no one really sleeping from excitement or nerves the night before, and took her to SFO. After that, we tracked her flight to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. and then we did a lot of waiting to hear from her. She finally messaged me at about 1pm on Wednesday from her hotel room in Capetown. She said her flights went well and that she was able to sleep a lot. She even made a stop that she didn't realize she was going to make in the country of Senegal. After a few hours of sleep in her hotel, she was picked up at 4:30 am and taken back to the airport in Capetown where she was supposed to have a quick 45 minute flight out to where she was going to be doing her internship. For whatever reason her flight was cancelled or delayed and she spent about 10 hours waiting in the airport. Luckily, since she had booked that part of her flight only last week (she had thought the internship people picked her up in Capetown) she had to buy a business class ticket (which was only $300 roundtrip) so she at least got to do her waiting in the South African Airways Business Class Lounge. She finally made it to Mossel Bay yesterday (Thursday) afternoon and has been out to see the little town a bit. Today, she was off for a day and night trip to Seal Island to do some research on the seal population there. Her only gripe so far is that there only seems to be instant coffee in the house (just like Australia!), but she says if she gets desperate there is at least a coffee shop nearby. She posted a photo of the view from her house and it looks pretty nice. Hopefully she'll send us more updates and pictures soon so that I can share them with you!
After we had returned from the airport, we passed back out at the condo for a few hours then we went out to grab some lunch at a place just around the corner. The food was super good and they had tons of different beers to try. The prices were pretty reasonable, too. I had wanted to take Boyfriend there when we first visited the condo, but we ran out of time so it will definitely be on the "To Do" list for next Christmas when he is back. Anyway, it's called the 21st Amendment and I highly recommend it if you are near the stadium and looking for a place to grab food or a few beers.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

There is Nothing to Keep Me from Coming Back to You

(Yes, I'm singing a love song to my food in the title there like only a fat kid could!)

Tonight I made Avocado Chicken Cakes, Cous Cous, and Mom pitched in and made an Organic Spinach Salad with Oranges and Trader Joe's Soy Sesame Dressing. It was so delish! Oh man, I'd go back and have seconds if I wasn't so full from my first mega serving. I don't think I've ever had cous cous before, is that weird? I've certainly never made it, but it was super simple and really tasty. Here are the recipes for the Avocado Chicken Cakes from the blog Cake, Batter, and Bowl and the Sauteed Garlic and Onion Cous Cous from Hot Off the Garlic Press. In case you've forgotten how I do this, my changes to their recipes will be in parenthesis as we go.

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (Like I really measure this stuff, I just poured some in to my fry pan)
1/2 cup chopped red onions (I used white)
2 garlic cloves, minced (I used a big heaping tablespoon of the crushed stuff in a jar)
2 cups cooked shredded chicken (I used 3 medium sized chicken breasts since this recipe says it serves 2)
1/2 avocado, mashed (mine was a little less than 1/2 cup) (I used 2 medium avocados)
1 cup panko (I poured out 2 cups but ended up with about 1/3-1/2 panko crumbs left over at the end)
1/4 teaspoon cumin (didn't measure, I just sprinkled some in)
1/4 teaspoon paprika (didn't have so I used some chili powder)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (no measuring, just sprinkling)
1/2 teaspoon salt (probably used a bit less than that)
1 egg, beaten (used 2 eggs since I was doubling the recipe)
5 tablespoons of your favorite salsa


(Cook chicken if you haven't already)

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and sauté onions for 5-7 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic and sauté one additional minute.

In medium bowl, mix together the shredded chicken, onion mixture, avocado, 1/3 cup panko, cumin, paprika, oregano, salt, and egg. Shape mixture into 5 cakes that are 1/2-inch thick; lightly coat all sides of each cake in the remaining 2/3 cup panko.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat in a nonstick skillet. Add 2 chicken cakes and cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and 3 chicken cakes. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of salsa over each chicken cake. (Maybe because I had my heat on high, but there is no way that 1/2 tablespoon was enough for 2 of the cakes, just pour some oil in, fry these guys off and if you need more, add more) Makes 2 servings.

Nutrition: 468 calories, 13.9g fat, 1.8g fiber, 45.3g protein per serving

Sautéed Garlic and Onion Couscous:

2 drizzles of Olive oil, divided

1 clove garlic

1/3 of an onion, sliced into 1/2 rings

chicken stock or bouillon (I used Trader Joe's Organic Free Range Chicken Broth)

couscous (I used Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Cous Cous)

Add a drizzle of olive oil to small saucepan and in the onion. Saute over low heat until onions turn translucent, being careful not to burn the onion {this will probably take about 10 minutes}. Add a clove off finely minced garlic.

Make chicken stock out of the bouillon according to package directions, for mine it is 1 c. water to 1 tsp granules. Then add the stock to the onions and garlic and use as you would water according to package directions on your cous cous. (I had to add about another 1/2-3/4 cup of stock then what was called for on the recipe because my cous cous was looking dry half way through)

Sorry, this may be confusing. Each of the couscous brands has a different water to couscous ratio they use, so make up however much stock you need and then add however much couscous your package calls for, my current is 1 1/2 c. stock to 1 c. cous cous, plus the garlic and onions we added. The package will tell you the rest, which will likely be something like 'after combining the water {stock} and cous cous, remove from heat and leave it to absorb for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork and serving'.

Drizzle with another light drizzle of Olive Oil and serve. (I also added a tiny bit of salt and some cracked pepper to this)

All-in-all this was a fairly simple dinner to make. I did get the stove pretty messy with spilled cous cous and some oil splatters, but the taste made up for all of that. Hope you enjoy it!