Sunday, July 31, 2011

Secluded Serenity

A view down into the wetlands below a dam on the mine

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Hedges Cats in Kenya

Ambrose in the Kitty nursery looking out.  I just love the reflection of his nose in the window glass!

Ginger sunning himself on the rockery

Shadow - free at last!

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

End of term school report

It's that time again. End of the school term and time for school reports. Yesterday Naomi brought me daughter, Stacey's report. I'm thrilled to say this little girl has improved markedly since starting at the company school in March. Her first percentage mark of 57% ending May, 65% at the end of June to an amazing 80% at the end of July. Her English (orginally low marks in this language dragged down her total) has improved very much as well. I decided to write her a little note congratulating her and encouring her to aim for 600/700 marks next term. I enclosed a KES100/- note (about US$1.50) and gave her mother half a dozen suckers (lollypops) for Stacey and the other children living in their compound.

There's a man in Nakuru who creates and then sells these cards on the street. My friend, Penny (Snap That blog) will probably recognize these pieces of art. I used one to write Stacey a note

The contents of the card to which I added a little money gift

Friday, July 29, 2011

Morning has broken

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

An encouraging verse

Good news from far away is like cold water to the thirsty. Proverbs 25:25

This is a special post for someone very close to me who's waiting for an answer. God always answers prayer. Always in His own time, on time and often not in the way we expect.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Birding in Kenya IX

Last week, Zephania and I stopped at the dam to see if we could spot the injured stork I posted about last week. There was no sign of it. 
Zephania using my binoculars looking for the stork  
 Driving along the road, we saw Meyers Parrots fly from trees on one side to the electric cable on the other. As we stopped, I photographed this parrot launching itself off the wire towards its nest in the wooden pole...

... to feed its young inside the nest

It turned and faced outwards to chew the food (I could see it doing this)

It almost climbed inside this time, and I wondered if there were nestlings to the back of the nest that it was feeding

And turned outwards to chew some more! I left the site after a while and the parent parrot was still feeding in this manner

On Sunday, Grant and I rode out into the bush and stopped to watch a Red-and-yellow Barbet collecting food on a termite mound.

Red-and-yellow Barbet female

While on a branch nearby another Red-and-yellow sunned itself on a branch.
Red-and-yellow Barbet male

As I turned from photographing these barbets, I noticed a skulking movement in a fence to the left of the road. I managed to snap this bird once before it flew off:

Slate-coloured Boubou

At the same time a small flock of birds dived into a nearby bush; they were so rowdy  and seemed to be squabbling. One flew up onto a fence post and then hopped onto a fallen log:
A Brown Babbler

Not only did we see the birds I posted above; we saw two Robin-chats singing in unison (too obscured by tree branches to get a good photo), we saw three Northern White-crowned Shrikes sitting tightly together on a branch above the Robin-chat concert. We saw a pair of Nubian Woodpeckers creeping up the tree trunk near us, to the right of us, we watched a pair of d'Arnaud's Barbets doing a mating dance and we saw a group of twenty Speckled Mousebirds (Grant counted them), a Beautiful Sunbird and female on a bush with rose-like blossoms, Greater Blue-eared Starling on the road in front of the vehicle and various Weavers flitting about. We'd spent an hour in one place and were rewarded with all these sights and sounds.

On the way back to camp we spotted this White-browed Coucal

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Thanks to all for your kind comments on my preparations for the VVIP lunch and dinner. Sue phoned me yesterday morning and said she'd had positive feedback about all the food: the leg of lamb was apparently very tasty and soft (phew!), her pumpkin pie (which is divine) was enjoyed, Caro's chickpea casserole went down very well and the Bread-and-butter pudding with a twist was lapped up.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A successful day

The day finally came, the visitors arrived and all went off smoothly. Sue, Wheatcliffe, Caro and I worked like mad in a kitchen not at all equipped for catering but everything turned out perfectly in the end. We also had Naomi (back in my house) on standby if we needed anything extra. I phoned her quite a number of times: Naomi, please could you ask Stanley to cut some basil and bring it up here. Stanley duly arrived with a bag of mint! No problem, we needed mint for mint sauce later.  I explained where we'd planted basil in the garden and off he went back to my house. No sooner had he delivered the basil to us and returned home, when I phoned Naomi again. Naomi, can you please go to the sideboard and check the fruit bowls. How many apples do we have. Six? OK please ask Stanley to bring them up to me. (The small fridge in the Guest House was icing up and the apples for the Waldorff Salad and all other for the fruit salad had frozen over the weekend.) Then I phoned for lemons. And again for coriander. And again for mangoes. Get the picture? These two people were actually the unsung heroes of the day.

When I got home at around 12.30, I thanked them both for their behind-the scenes-help. Naomi just smiled; Stanley said tunks!
Guess who's using my stile? Mmm?

The various breads I baked on Saturday. Only the loaf with topped with sunflower seeds was for the visitors' lunch! The rest is for home use, with one of the white breads going to Johan as normal

Channa Dahl, an Indian dish which I made for the lunch

I'm sorry I didn't photograph the Waldorff and smoked salmon salad. It was a masterpiece! And the Chicken Pesto Pasta looked good too and apparently tasted divine.

Caro folding napkins into a Bishops Hat for the table setting. She and Wheatcliffe did the flower arrangements for the table centres!


Grant phoned me when he returned to the office and said lunch was a great success.

Just after 2, Caro arrived with a tray and two plates of food on it for me. Sue made the apple pie from her mum's old-fashioned recipe. She cooked her own apples instead of taking the easy way out by using tinned. It was delicious

Now it was time to do my two dishes for dinner. I had a leg of lamb to roast and for dessert I made the Bread-and-butter pudding which I've posted before. While doing the roast, I read a few blogs which was most relaxing. I especially enjoyed one I've only recently started  following: The Squashed Tomato. Linda is a bubbly young lady with such a passion for life which shines through in her posts. Please do visit her blog here It was while reading this post, I saw an interesting twist to bread-and-butter pudding. She made hers in ramekins and topped them with meringue. I mailed Linda and said I'd like to try this with my large -size dessert and she agreed it would work very well . I tried it and it did!. Here's the end result.

Bread and butter pudding with a twist

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Weekend of baking, birding and preparations

As mentioned last week, we have VVIP's arriving on the mine today.They will visit the mine and be here for lunch, dinner, sleep over in the Guest House and after breakfast tomorrow they will leave. Meanwhile Sue, Wheatcliffe, Caro and I are preparing lunch and dinner for them and the company  HOD's.

We started on Friday with a meeting to discuss who would prepare and cook the meals we'd previously decided upon. I used the newly-built stile at the top of my garden to get into the yard above, which is next door to Sue's house. BTW, I have posted a close-up of the stile to show how sturdy the structure is. Thanks to all who expressed concern. I am very careful when I climb over it but it is a really strong ladder with handholds all the way up and over.

A close-up of my stile showing how strong and safe it is!

After the menu was discussed and tasks allocated, Sue handed out ingredients that she'd bought in Nairobi.(Chef Wheatcliffe and assistant Chef Caro look on)

One of the pasta dishes on the lunch menu, needs pesto. I have herbs planted in between my flowers and shrubs and made a bowl of pesto from the fresh basil.

We went birding on Sunday morning. I hope to share a few of our sightings later this week. When we drove home, we spotted a goat on sleeping on a rock. She is very fat, so I expect she's expecting!
No, there's nothing wrong with the animal in the photo. We saw it's ear twitching while I took the photos!

This morning I'll be up before the post is aired. I need to get a few dishes prepared before the day starts. At about 9am I'll walk up to the Guest House and help prepare salads and dishes there as well. I will be back tomorrow with a full report on the day!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Kraai River, Eastern Cape

The Kraai*River on the BarkleyPass between Barkley-East and Elliot, Eastern Cape, South Africa

*Kraai (pronounced "cry") is the Afrikaans word for a crow/raven.

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Remember me?

I'm the kitten who appeared here last week and said my name was Amber. Only thing is I'm a boy kitty, so my name has been changed to Ambrose!

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

A stile African style

For many months I've been asking Grant to arrange for a stile to be built over the fence leading to the house on the hill above ours. This house, which belongs to the mine owner, is unoccuppied and directly next door to Sue. With a stile, she and I would be able to visit each other without going the long route which is - for me - along our lane, up her steps to her house  and in reverse when she comes to me.

Ten days ago I hit upon the brilliant idea of asking Stanley to build it for me. Together, we went through the items needed: wooden poles (Mr Borries, our neighbour, had asked him to chop down an exotic tree - he'd use those branches), a hammer and nails, which I subsequently bought in Eldoret.

On Monday Stanley could be seen (and heard!) hammering away on the bank above my "side" garden. With the office garden project on this week, Stanley only completed the ladder on Wednesday.

Today I attended a meeting with Sue, chef Wheatcliffe and his assistant,  Caro at Sue's house. We discussed the menu for Monday and Tuesday for the VVIP's (more about this later) Of course, I used the stile!

Stanley, with the first part of the stile completed, was very proud of his handiwork, and rightly so!

Self portrait of me climbing over the fence via the stile

When I left for the meeting yesterday morning, Stanley was hoe-ing a bed in the side garden. As I stepped onto the stile and stepped cautiously onto each rung, it was all silent behind me. I turned and peered downwards, through the rubber tree foliage and said: "Stanley, are you watching me?" He answered "Yes". So I said "Do you see how well your ladder works. You've done a very good job, thank you!" To which he replied "Thanks" (pronounces it "tunks" !)

I hope you're all having a wonderful weekend.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

School Clubs Visit

At the beginning of next week, the company is expecting VVIP's (Very, very important persons!) Sue arranged to have the chairman's house cleaned and the Guest House is also been given the "once over" for the visitors. As she is away for a few days, she asked me to supervise the above work. The cleaners washed the carpets, took down all the curtains and washed them. Washed all the bedlinen and soaked the mosquito nets in insecticide. Below is just one section of the washing line full of curtains. Sue's patio, the chairman's patio and front lawn was lined with washing!

Just some of the washing being done to prepare for the special visitors next week. Isn't this a beautiful garden?

Last week in Eldoret, Sue and I bought white damask material for tablecloths at a factory shop (I bought two kikois/shuks as gifts for friends in SA. They were a fraction of the price you pay at tourist stalls and shops). We also bought two meters of red damask for serviettes. I took the material to the sewing "fundi" on Tuesday after market and she said I could collect the items on Wednesday afternoon.

Mrs Selous, seamstress/sewing fundi in front of her dressmaking shop

I duly collected the items on Wednesday. Normally there are only two toddlers sitting on stools near her while she works. When I looked up after paying Mrs Selous, I found a large group of children standing around and gazing up at me!  
I was sorry I didn't have my bag of sweets/candy with me. I  normally keep these in my basket (which was too full going to school) and hand out treats along the road

At school I visited the art class first. The pupils each had a leaf on the table, and with water colours were painting the leave and pressing it onto a blank paper

As I'm a wordsmith I normally don't try my hand at conventional art,  but, for the above picture above,  I helped a little guy mix the colours, press the leaf down and lift it carefully to reveal our artwork!  (I'm sure I saw the teacher frown at the smudge mark near the image!)

I had a message - which I'll divulge at the end - with photographic evidence,  for all the clubs.The teacher quietened the children and I was able to speak to them.

Next I visited the Science Club which was held outside. The pupils were creating a rainbow prism. They had a piece of glass in a basin of water and were reflecting it onto the veranda wall. I had a skeleton of a ghekko which I donated to the Science Club for their natural display.  Once again, the teacher called the pupils to form a semi circle around me and I delivered my message. They, like the Art Club, promised to heed my words. I don't know how, but I didn't take a photo of this club!

Caroline (the Head Teacher)  and I walked across the school field to where the Wildlife Club was busy with their project. This club is incredibly popular with the most members - 36! (Could it be that they get to go on weekend outings to the nature reserves?) The pupils are very dedicated and I found them preparing a wildlife garden. They'd already created a pond and I promised that I would take them some grasses and papyrus plants to fill up around the water feature. As the soil is clay there, I showed them how to add leaves and other dry material to improve it.

The Wildlife Club stood around me as I delivered the same message as I had to the previous two clubs

My final club to visit was the Journalism Club. As you can imagine, I had quite a few projects to share with them. I took my articles (in the SA magazines) and showed them my byline and bio. I also showed them my WIP (my recent two articles) and the revision and correction in red pen on the documents. I shared the fact that I'd been writing since I was twelve and today I write, write, write.  I didn't mention electronic writing i.e. Blogging as they don't have computers or access to the Internet. (they're 12 years and younger) I also stressed that it's hard work, writing. And conversely, it's also easy. You can write about anything. We discussed the many different topics and they became quite excited about the ideas.  

Then I showed them the photo I had brought as I put my message across. (warning: not for sensitive viewers)

On Sunday Sue had been at the dam and photographed, among other things, the little flock of storks. When she downloaded her photos at home, she was shocked to see the following:

The bird flew up everytime anyone approached it. Sue thought if they could catch it, saw off both ends of the arrow, they'd be able to pull it out, as it was through the crop. I 've been to  the dam twice while Sue's been away but the stork was nowhere to be seen.

I spoke to all the children that unnecessary pain inflicted onto a dumb animal is a no-no. One little lad said he thinks it's a young man who wants the bird's feathers. This could well be, I only hope he stayed around to collect the desired feathers when the birds finally dies/died. At the Wildlife Club the teacher stressed that the children shouldn't even kill a frog and they all agreed.

The head teacher has pasted this photo on the school notice board, each club has a photo in their classes. Each pupil said they 'd tell their older brothers, cousins, friends, who like to hunt, to take care not to aim at birds and animals that you cannot eat.

Let's hope that this photo made enough of an impression on pupil and teacher alike that they spread the word and so we may prevent a similar situation in the future.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On-line shopping II, cats and man-made custard

Shopping in the village in general and at the market in particular, is ridiculously economical. In my list below, I calculated the first item, afterwards I'm sure you'll find it easy to work out the rest.

Yesterday I bought avocado pears each, KES10 / US$ .11 c/ ZAR1; tomatoes per kg KES20; pawpaw each KES15; spring onion bunch KES5; mangoes each KES15; oranges each KES5; watermelon (see next to cabbage) KES15; Cabbage KES15; Spinach bunch KES5, red onions per kg KES80, potatoes per kg KES40; bananas each KES5 and so on. Naomi shopped at Tamil's store for me and bought sachets of fresh (longlife) milk, KES50; eggs each KES10; sunflower oil 1 litre, KES200; hair gel bottle KES50; baking powder per packet KES40; large plastic bowl KES120; small plastic bowl KES45. We also "shopped" at the open-air clothes rack and bought two mens' shirts for KES250 each. This was Stanley's gift from me.

An array of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as household items and groceries bought in Kimwarer Centre yesterday

The cats? Well, the photos are self-explanatory.

The custard? Well, on Sunday Grant asked if I'd make custard with the dessert. As I had a lot to do already I thought of refusing politely; instead I reminded him how my custard often always turns out lumpy and horrid. He agreed and proceeded to make the custard. As I said, man-made custard!

Perfect custard made by a man

This afternoon, in Sue and Sharda's absence, I'll be visiting the school clubs on my own. I intend to share something each of the four clubs and will report back on my activities tomorrow.