The Incremental Photographer Course

My dear friend Moira, who blogs over at Moi du Toi Photography is a phenomenal photographer and she has just recently launched her Incremental Photographer course which is SO much more than any other course out there.  Moira is your personal mentor, guiding you through mastering shooting in manual.

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The course is for anyone who owns a DSLR camera and wishes to improve their photography and will provide you with a solid foundation with which to begin your photographic journey.

During the course, Moira will guide you through the process of shooting in Manual Mode and teach you how to juggle Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO to create properly exposed images, the art of Composition and how to use Natural Light at any time of the day to produce beautiful photographs.

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Thanks to Moira, I was able to capture this incredible photograph

Over the 5 week course, you will receive assignments to be completed and Moira will do personal assessments for you with weekly video critiques.

Moira is currently running a special launch price of just USD $69.99 and there are only 10 places available to anyone worldwide so contact Moira today, you will be glad you did.  Class starts in 2 weeks.  I learnt so much and had so much fun doing the course until as you all know, my camera fell and died.

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The word photography stems from two ancient Greek words: photo, for “light”, and graph, for “drawing”.
I look forward to teaching you how to draw with light.

Contact Moira to sign up for her incredible 5 week course via her Launch Page or her facebook page.

Nairobi, Kenya

On leaving the airport en route to the hotel (the same one Obama stayed in a week earlier) I caught site of no less than 8 giraffe in the Nairobi National Park which borders the city – only one in the world I believe.  I learnt later that it costs USD 50 (±ZAR 650) per person to get into the national park – madness!

Kenya

The hotel, Kempinski, Villa Rosa – pure opulence – pucker 5 star!  Thousands of roses everywhere!  The room heavenly; including gown and slippers and for those inclined an iron and ironing board – not doing any of that while I am visiting, even an umbrella! 3 telephones to boot – heaven forbid you have to move to answer the phone. :-)

Kempinski

As we always do on our first evening away, we ordered room service.  Well!  Room service has never been this good, the dining table which was rolled into the room even had a fresh rose with our dinns staying warm in the warming drawer underneath the tray.  Pete ordered a hamburger and I ordered the green thai curry.  Both were outstanding – restaurant quality.  I could get used to 7 days a week room service, especially when you eat in your housecoat and slippers. :-)

Kempinski2

The cloakrooms in the gym have a hot spa bath, sauna room and sauna and all the conveniences available for your convenience, even down to slip slops and individually packaged combs and shaving kits.  It was quite cool running in the same gym where Obama did his workouts for a couple of days.

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Cool down walk after a 4km run

The second nights sleep was non existent.  We arrived on a Sunday so guess traffic was at its quietest.  Not so for the remaining part of the week.  24 hour seriously noisy seemingly permanent peek hour traffic and you can’t get away from it being in the city.  I was later told the roads are never quiet.  Might explain why they are in such bad condition.

We went to the Westgate Mall which has just reopened after the 4 day terrorist attack and bombing 2 years ago.  It was quite surreal being there after watching the horror on the telly.  So sad what happens in our world every day.

More seriously, our trip was a look-see about the possibility of a move to Nairobi for a couple of years for Pete to head up the start up of a sister company as he did when we lived in Mauritius.  Pete was given a housing allowance which clearly was extremely unrealistic,  he then doubled it and off we went to the estate agents.  Haa.  Well that budget didn’t turn up anything particularly worthwhile either, plus everything in the budget amount is unfurnished.  It is frightfully expensive to live in the city and close surrounds with neighbours right on top of you, a garden, even teeny tiny is a luxury and majority of the buildings are very old, think 70’s with lots of layers of lacquered paint and parquet flooring and avo or pink bathrooms.  We shall take our time until the right place comes along if it must and I shall have to get used to a non village, no space and little freedom.  I have put a spreadsheet together of the costs involved in living in Kenya and it is extremely expensive from start to finish!  We could live palatially for the same cost here at home!

Nairobi in a nutshell – like all other African countries, the city is loud, dirty, busy with drivers hell-bent on going as fast and as dangerously as they can on roads which are in dire need of repair and everything is scarily expensive.  I will say though, they are not aggressive like our local drivers.  The people are lovely and friendly and the further you go out of the city, the more beautiful it becomes.  My favourite was the makeshift nurseries on the side of the road – wish I could have taken a photo.

All the museums and the like are also expensive to visit but guess majority of the tourists are coming from first world countries so doesn’t dent their pockets like it does ours.  As a lot of you know, I always joke and say I want a giraffe and a squirrel to complete our family so Pete took me to the Giraffe Orphanage in Karen and I got to feed a lovely fellow named Eddy.  I am not one for animals in captivity but there is sometimes the need as with the Giraffe Centre, which was established to protect the endangered Rothschild giraffe.

GiraffeMandy

I want to bring Eddy the Giraffe home with me

Kenya Giraffe Centre

We also visited the Karen Blixen (Out of Africa) Museum which I loved.  What a life she lived!  It was wonderful being able to put my hands on her very bed and jewellery cabinet amongst other goodies which she sold to a friend, Lady McMillan after the farm went bankrupt and was later retrieved from the library the friend donated it to.  Sadly you aren’t allowed to take photo’s inside the house.  Apologies about the quality of the (phone) photos but my camera died when it fell out of my camera bag.  I am still sick to my stomach about it and not ready to talk about it. :-(

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KarenBlixen

Addo, Addo, Addo

I hope you don’t tire of me sharing our trips with you from our visits into Addo.  We truly are in a special part of the world to be able to see these magnificent animals any day of the week when Pete is home.

Can you believe 3 cheetah broke into the park and they have certainly made themselves at home and we finally saw them.

A quick cheetah lesson:

♥ Male cheetahs (usually brothers) form coalitions while females remain solitary.

♥ Cheetahs weight ranges between 21 – 72 kilograms but average around 60kg.

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♥ The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world reaching speeds of up to 110km/h and can accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in just 3 seconds and a single stride can cover about 7.6 meters.  Only one paw touches the ground at any one time during a sprint.

♥ The Cheetah’s claws are semi-retractable enabling them to grip the ground helping them accelerate as they run.

♥ Their long tail acts as a rudder and helps to maintain their balance while chasing prey.

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♥ A cheetah has amazing eyesight during the day and can spot prey from 5 km away.

♥ Cheetahs have black stripes running from the corners of their eyes down to the corner of their mouth. These help block out sunlight, which helps them in spotting prey.

♥ Cheetahs communicate through a series of chirps, barks and hisses.

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Life isn’t always as I would like it to be either and one of the lioness (Josie) met with a bit of a feisty warthog who before becoming dinner left a lasting impression on her.  I was hoping to see her 3 cubs but alas, they were well hidden.  Don’t think mom was feeling all to well either as she flopped about every few steps before settling behind a bush to rest.

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Ouch!

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Please let me be while I quietly heal

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Let me tell you a secret…

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Just for Anna :-)

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Kisses

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Tasty

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In My Kitchen – August 2015

Yippee, one more month until Spring.  Can’t wait.♥

BTW:  Pete and I are in Kenya so I may only chat with you when I get back. :-)

In my kitchen…

Village life truly is wonderful, especially when friends give you beautiful spinach from their garden delivered right to your front door!  Thank you so much Wayne and Kelly – honestly was the best spinach I have enjoyed.

KellyWayne spinach

In my kitchen…

Are 2 new custard jugs which I, well, just couldn’t resist, besides, every home needs 2 custard jugs.

Custard jugs

In my kitchen…

Are 2 new sets of espresso cups and saucers, well, just because my other sets do’t match each other – I know, I have issues. :-)

Espressco cups

In my kitchen…

Are mini sauce containers – you know, my other obsession, nunu things. :-)

Mini sauce bowls

In my kitchen…

Is what I would love outside my kitchen.  Wish I could remember where I saw this pic but I love the idea of recycling wooden palettes for a wall garden.  Think I would have one with herbs and the other with seasonal flowers.

palette garden

In my kitchen…

Is a new pack of Daim chocolates which Pete brought home recently from one of his international trips.  Good thing they are so teeny as I feel less guilty after having a whole one. :-)

Daim chocs

What’s in your kitchen this month?

Please remember to link back to Celia’s blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial if you partake in the fun and drop her a quick note to let her know when your post will be up and please note Celia needs all IMK posts submitted by the 10th of every month.

Winter Garden Update

I know I recently shared our garden with you but there have been a few changes since then so for your viewing pleasure (before it starts raining again)…

I could not resit this bench when I saw it for sale down the road from home.  The gentleman selling the furniture fell on hard times and refurbishes and recycles wooden palettes to earn an income.  He lives a very frugal life without electricity and running water and has the most love I have ever seen for his dog and cat.  They are his entire life.  I did not realise until I stopped to make enquiry about the bench that he has the most beautiful fully indigenous garden with veggie patches dotted all around.  Best R350 (± USD $28) I have ever spent on anything.  He even refurbishes the nails before re-using them to make his furniture.

Garden July 2015 3 Rummaging through our leaky old corner back shed I found a piece of sleeper gifted to Pete from our previous neighbours son about a zillion years ago and decided its time to get out into the garden and one can never have too much seating so another bench was made. The cats love this and I often find them sunning themselves on one of the corners while watching over the garden..Garden July 2015 1

From the leaky shed into the wendy house which holds an untold amount of boxes and other storage bits and bobs plus an outdated old satellite dish which I converted into a much wanted bird bath.  Waste not want not I say.  My dad said it should be blue but I thought green blended so much better with the garden.  A few birdies have visited but none I have yet been able to capture on camera.Garden July 2015 2

Going back to the leaky shed, hanging up in a corner was a small ladder which was looking worse for ware so out it came and a quick refurbishment and placed outside our bedroom door with a few potted veld plants and its as pretty as a picture.Garden July 2015 8

On the backside of our bedroom is a strip that never gets any sun and always has a muddy slope of soil so it was morning of laying some unused bricks to make a walk way.  Can’t believe it took me this long to do!Garden July 2015 7

Amongst the unused bits and bobs was a number of pots and bowls which I have started displaying around the garden.  There are a few more to come.  I will take some updated shots as soon as I have been back into the veld for more plants. Garden July 2015 4 Speaking of being in the veld, just over the road from our home is a huge amount of mother in laws tongue which I have potted and standing in a makeshift nursery in front of Pete’s workshop.Garden July 2015 5

After cleaning out the pots outside the front door, it dawned on me we have not had lavender in our garden for the longest time so I had to succumb to spending a little cash on a beautiful lavender bush which I am not able to find in the veld. :-)Garden July 2015 22

Always at the ready to lend a hand is my beautiful boy who has an incredible knack of bumping me off my feet more often than not when I am trying to take a photo – there are loads of blurry shots in amongst the few I manage to salvage.Garden July 2015 21 On the backside of our lapa is a long bare wall so  a narrow bed was made with a variation of 2 flowering bushes – one is a yellow daisy of sorts and the other is a blue/purple spur something or another.  I am never very good at remembering names of plants.Garden July 2015 20

I hope its not too late but I finally planted last years sweet pea seeds – I saved just the violet colour ones.  Can’t wait for the fragrant flowers for vases throughout the house come Spring.Garden July 2015 6 All things going well, we will have some tasty cauliflowers – I have no idea how long they take to grow but the plants are looking very healthy. :-)Garden July 2015 16

There is also some healthy happy looking spinach.
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Seems we will also have some mini cabbages at some stage – think I will have to thin this bed soon.Garden July 2015 9 - Copy

And finally is a pot that nearly broke my back.  Our lovely neighbours were kind enough to gift the pot but it was up to me to get it over the wall and obviously I could not wait for help and had to get it over myself.  Not sure if it was the coat of paint or all the rain which has left one of the plants looking a little worse for ware. Hopefully a little TLC will get it all perky again otherwise out it comes.
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How is your winter garden or summer garden if you are in the northern parts of the world?

Running Update

Somewhere between my Running Slow post and today my 5km became 4km and then 3km where I seemed to settle.  This was over a period of 10 months and then it happened, the unthinkable, the dreaded, unwanted, ever more difficult to shake off weight gain!  A whole 4 kilograms!  *Screams*  No rocket science involved that less calories burned with the same food and wine intake equals weight gain.  Urgh!

Trail runners

Before I realised there was all this extra weight running around with me, I started getting shin splints – seriously painful shin splints which needless to say did not help my times and it took me the better part of 2 months to figure out buying a pair of inner soles for my runners would solve the problem.  Oh, joy of joys, it was like running on air.  Bliss.  Soon 3km became 4km – yippee.  See, the 5km excuse at this stage is its winter and gets too dark for me to be out that long – that’s my legitimate reason.  You believe me right?

Inner soles

Speaking of winter running – what a pleasure,  I find summer running incredibly draining – the heat is just too much for me, even though I am a summer lover, just not for running.  Makes sense right?

 Anyhoo, seems I am back on track which is awesome.  Here’s to being back up to speed with my 5km daily runs before summer gets here, oh, and I seem to have lost 2 of those 4 sneaky kilos. :-)

How’s your exercise routine going?

Emma’s Ellies

The lovely Emma over at Surrey Kitchen asked if I would do a guest post on her favourite animal, the elephant and even though she has visited South Africa, she never got to see any babies so I set out to share as many babies as I could find in our park in the Eastern Cape; Addo Elephant National Park.

Do pop over to Emma’s Ellies to see a few adorable pics of some baby ellies and some fun facts too.

Earth’s Essence Pinotage

A short while back, I entered and was the lucky winner of 4 bottles of Earth’s Essence Pinotage on Tandy’s blog, Lavender and Lime.

Earth's Essence

Traditional KWV wines are fabulous so I was excited to try this “new age” way they are preserving Pinotage:

By utilising a revolutionary natural process using indigenous Rooibos and Honeybush during the winemaking process their powerful anti-oxidants protect the wine naturally negating the use of added sulphites or preservatives.

Firstly a label on a bottle of wine will either entice me to buy it or look past it on the shelf of the bottle store and I must say the Earth Essence label is very eye catching and your eye is immediately drawn to the bottom of the label “No Sulphites or preservatives added“. Not to mention the wonderful name – Earth’s Essence. The shape of the bottle and screw top are also pleasing, so a good start before evening opening the bottle!

Now, I am not a fan of Rooibos tea so was slightly sceptical about the whole Rooibos flavour but was a greatly mistaken.  This wine truly is fantastic.  So as not to undermine this great wine, I quote the makers:

This Pinotage shows upfront fruit sweetness with prominent cranberries, Turkish delight and dark chocolate aromas.  Nuances of nuts, Rooibos, Honeybush and sweet basil are complimented by the grippy tannin structure and the intense, lingering finish.

 What a wonderful wine!  Thank you again Lavender and Lime, Earth’s Essence and Tin Can PR for the awesome prize.

In My Kitchen – July 2015

It seems I spoke to quickly last month as we have had a month of cold days.  One month down, 2 more to go.  Here’s hoping they pass mildly and that Spring shows her beautiful face with warm days.

In my kitchen…

Can’t think why I never included this a couple of months back.  It is a bottle of bubbly Pete bought for me when we were in the Game store in Maputo, Mozambique.  I only wanted it because of the kitty picture.  Still haven’t opened it so have no idea whether it is drink worthy.

Gatao Bubbly

In my kitchen…

Is a kitty mould from my wonderful neighbours Dean and Lesley.  I think I shall use it to make a few catnip treats for my fur babies.

Kitty mould

In my kitchen…

Is a birthday present from my brother Chris and sister in law Elmien and their 4 littlelies.  Thanks guys!  I hope you will come and visit soon so I can make a few cupcakes for you.

Cucake recipe book

In my kitchen…

Is a jar of homemade pickled onions made for us by our friend Cazzie.  They are nearly ready to be eaten.  Can’t wait to taste what they are like with the chilli.

Caz picked onions

In my kitchen…

Are Sistema mini sauce and salt and pepper containers from friends Frans and Yolandie.  It was part of my birthday gift from them.  They know we always take a picnic with us on the boat or when we go into the park so these containers will be very handy.

Sistema containers

In my kitchen…

Is a Thai Green Curry paste, which I am sure will be used quite often through the winter cold nights.  I use it most often for coconut curry.

Woolies Thai Green Curry Paste

What’s in your kitchen this month?

Please remember to link back to Celia’s blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial if you partake in the fun and drop her a quick note to let her know when your post will be up and please note Celia needs all IMK posts submitted by the 10th of every month.

Pearl Barley

Do you ever have those days where you are looking for something satisfying and hearty to eat but don’t want a protein packed sandwich or the leftovers from the previous evening dinner isn’t what you feel like… Well, pearl barley is a perfect fit for those days and couldn’t be easier to prepare.

Pearl Barley

Pearl Barley

Ingredients

1 large onion sliced
2 large garlic cloves crushed
1 inch piece ginger grated
2 scant teaspoons of dukkah spice
1 cup pearl barley
5 cups chicken stock

Method

  1. Fry the onion in a little olive oil until tender.
  2. Add the garlic, ginger and dukkah spice and fry for one minute.
  3. Add the barley and chicken stock, bring to a gentle boil and simmer for approximately 45 minutes until the barley is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.

 

Swaziland & The Kruger National Park

We had the most wonderful few days away in Swaziland and the weather was heavenly!

Our breakaway started with a night’s stopover at my folks which is always a wonderful treat and after breakfast the following morning Pete and I packed the car and hit the road.  Before I knew it, we were at the border post.  A quick three and a half hour drive from Johannesburg  – fabulous!


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Swaziland has beautiful rolling hills and mountains.  Sadly the autumn weather wasn’t kind enough to give us a clear view but they were breathtaking nonetheless.

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Unfortunately for Pete he had to work the whole day after we arrived which left me to my own devices for a leisurely long breakfast, followed by tea in the room with my feet up on the bed doing a crossword before heading to the pool for some additional R&R followed by what I thought was a necessary run around the very hilly golf course.  All that relaxation leaves a girl a little plump around the middle!  Pete took me on the route the day before when we arrived and I almost thought he was joking about how steep some of the inclines were – I had to go up on my toes otherwise I would have rolled back down.  Needless to say these were the most challenging runs of my life!  I wish I could capture it on a photo so you can see how steep it all is.

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Pete treated me to the best meal of my life in the hotels in house restaurant, Planters – a quaint welcoming and elegant restaurant/bar.  It was lovely to dress up and put on some lippy for the evening out and I have truly never eaten a better steak in my life!  The wine and company weren’t half bad either. ;-)

Planters 2

Seems our waiter had the shakes when taking our photo. At least I look slim and young. :-)

Sadly 3 days later it was time to leave Swaziland  and decided to do one more stopover en route back to the folks and went into the Kruger National Park, a sister park to our Addo where you know Pete and I spend lots of time.  Holy macaroni!  We weren’t anticipating much excitement as we could only spend a couple of hours in the park (it is HUGE – you need 5 days or more to cover its magnificence) before heading to our overnight accommodation but were we in for a serious surprise!

Kruger map

No sooner had we entered the park and driven  around 1 km when we were graced with the presence of 2 snoozing rhinos!  We have only spotted one in our park which we may never see again so this was incredible!  I snapped away frantically thinking we would never have such an opportunity again but wait…there was more!  We were squealing with delight by the time we left the park as we saw no less than 13 rhinos – all with their horns.  Now that I am typing this it worries me that some revolting poacher may read it and hunt down these near extinct magnificent animals for their horns.  What idiots to think their horns are an aphrodisiac.  How can keratin, the same material found in your hair and fingernails possibly be an aphrodisiac.  They can just as well grind up their own hair and nails, but I am getting off the point.  I have always said to Pete that a giraffe and squirrel will complete our family – he ain’t buying it. :-D  Well, the second I spotted a graceful long legged beauty, I whacked Pete so hard on the arm, I am sure he has a permanent bruise!  I couldn’t believe how incredibly lucky we were.  Short of putting in an order before heading into the Kruger, I couldn’t have asked for better viewing.

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We also saw loads of Impala and a couple of buffalo, a pair of vultures and a wildebeest (gnu) and some fascinating birds!  What a treasured couple of hours in the park.  Must say though the toasted sandwiches we ordered for lunch were revolting.  No matter as the viewing was out of this world.

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We enjoyed 2 more sleeps with my folks and had a wonderful evening with my brothers and their families.  Unfortunately my one sister in law and her youngest weren’t able to join us as the little one was sickly.

3 siblings'

Two brothers and a sister

Guess we will just have to go back and visit again soon.

Apple Crumble (The Cake the Buddha Ate)

Nothing like a comforting piece of apple crumble hot from the oven with some custard or cream to warm the cockles of your heart on a cold wintry evening with aromas from the spices which are beautifully intoxicating.

I adjusted the recipe slightly by increasing the spice quantities and placing the entire crumble on top of the apples instead of mixing a portion of it in with the apples as with the original recipe in the book, The Cake the Buddha Ate.

Buddha apple crumble

Apple Crumble

Ingredients

500g self-raising flour
½ tsp cinnamon – I used 1 tsp
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cardamom – I omitted this as I only have pods
⅛ nutmeg – I used almost ½ tsp
½ tsp salt
250g butter, soft
2 cups brown sugar – I only used 1¼ cups
500g apples, cooked or 1 x 725 g tin – I cooked 4 large red apples in a about 2 tbsp lemon juice and 2 tbsp brown sugar
½ cup raisins – I omitted these because I was plum out of raisins
½ cup chopped nuts – I omitted these because I was plum out of nuts

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare a pie dish.
  2. Gently work the flour, spices, salt and butter together between your thumbs and fingertips to form crumbs.
  3. Add the sugar and blend with your fingers to retain the consistency of breadcrumbs.
  4. Combine half the mixtures with the apples and raisins, and place in a dish, alternatively just place the apples and raisins in the bottom of the dish followed by the entire crumble mixture on top.
  5. Sprinkle over the remaining crumbs and then the chopped nuts.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes until golden.
  7. Serve warm with custard or cream or possibly even ice cream if it isn’t too much of a wintry night.

In My Kitchen – June 2015

It is officially winter.  So far, so good; here’s hoping the rest of winter is as mild.  In fact, the weather has been so good that I have been spending as much time in the garden as I can so the start of this months post its just outside my kitchen, around the corner outside the back door.

Just outside my kitchen outside the back door…

I have been filling pots with a few flowering winter plants to keep things upbeat for those cold days.

Back door June 2015 4 Back door June 2015 3 My precious little boy was around to help take a few photos.Back door June 2015 6As you can see he was being very helpful!
Back door June 2015 5 Back door June 2015 1 And I have transformed the herb patch into a flower patch.Back door June 2015 2

In my kitchen…

Is a flask I have had for the better part of 15 years which I used on a daily basis for a long while and then Celia mentioned in post how she is now officially an old Chinese woman as she has an insulated flask on my kitchen bench to which I commented: “Eek! I must have been an old Chinese woman about 15 years ago when I got one of those insulated flasks – I made my tea in it for years. Hee hee.”  So Celia, not that I am Chinese but I will be honoured to be an old woman with you. :-D

Flask

In my kitchen…

Is the most precious birthday present from my cousin Renee.  I thought I was spoilt with the lovely mug and chocolates until I opened the wrapping to find a gift voucher for a pedicure!  Oh how I cannot wait to redeem it.  Thank you so much Renee for spoiling me so very much!

Birthday pressie 1

In my kitchen…

Is a wonderful birthday gift from my friends Wayne and Kelly who were also kind enough to have me over for a Spanish Omelette breakfast because my Pete was away on my birthday.  Very special to spend the morning with you both.  Thank so much for spoiling me so much.

Birthday pressie 2And if that is not enough their darling little granddaughter made me a birthday card!  Thank you sweet little Abby, you are a pure delight to be around with your sparkly personality.
Birthday card abby

In my kitchen…

Are more birthday pressies from friends.  Thank you so much Wayne and Cheryl for including me on my birthday at your home for a roast dinner!  You can make me roast potatoes any day of the week and still to get a beautiful bottle of wine was very special.  Thank you too Bertie and Mags and Tony for the the wine and chocolates.

Birthday pressie 4

In my kitchen…

Is the prettiest cake platter and server from my sweet neighbours and friends Dean and Lesley.  You guys really spoilt me with the lovely gift, thank you so much!

Birthday pressie 5

What’s in your kitchen this month?

Our dear friend Celia over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial links all our monthly instalments on her blog so we won’t have to miss out on any of the wonderful kitchen views and as always a big thank you to Celia for the fun of being able to pop in around the world to see what everyone has to share every month.

Please remember to link back to Celia’s blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial if you partake in the fun and drop her a quick note to let her know when your post will be up and please note Celia needs all IMK posts submitted by the 10th of every month.

Spekboom

Pete has whisked me off to Swaziland for a little getaway so I will be a little scarce for a short while. :-)

To quote Wikipedia:  Portulacaria afra (known as elephant bush, dwarf jade plant, porkbush and spekboom in Afrikaans) is a small-leaved succulent plant found in South Africa.  It is a soft-wooded, semi-evergreen upright shrub or small tree, usually 2.5–4.5 metres (8–15 ft) tall.  In the wilds of South Africa, large plants do survive the winter frosts by growing dense enough to provide their own natural cover. Drought-tolerant and fire-resistant, it will endure desert sun and heat once established. Cuttings root very easily in most potting media.  In southern Africa it is commonly eaten, usually as one component of a salad or a soup.”

Garden May 2015 5

Must remember to use the leaves in a salad next summer

And to quote The Spekboom Foundationan: “Spekboom has enormous carbon-storing capabilities. Its capacity to offset harmful carbon emissions is compared to that of moist, subtropical forest. This remarkable plant is unique in that it stores solar energy to photosynthesise at night. This makes spekboom thicket 10 times more effective per hectare at carbon fixing than any tropical rain forest. Each hectare of spekboom could capture 4,2 tons of carbon yearly.”  How cool is this plant!

“The miracle plant of the twenty-first century: Stef Delport The Spekboom (Portulacaria Afra) is truly the miracle plant of the Eastern Cape and the Sundays River Valley. The Addo Elephant National Park is privileged to be the centre of the Spekboom region. The Valley Bushveld Biome (Xerix Succulent Thicket), of which The Spekboom certainly forms the main part, occurs mainly in the Eastern Cape’s river valleys of the Gamtoos, Sundays, Fish and their surrounding areas.

The Xhosa name for the Spekboom is iGwanitsha and in English it is known by the descriptive name of Elephant’s Food (and not as the Pork Bush according to the wrong direct translation from Afrikaans) as it forms up to 80% of the diet of elephants. An elephant eats up to 200kg of Spekboom leaves per day.

During this process they can strip almost all the leaves off the tree, but the tree very soon sprouts new growth. The broken or down-trodden branches also develop new roots and grow again as part of the thicket. Thus Spekboom flourishes if it is grazed upon, trodden and fertilised from the top. The destruction of large areas of Spekboom in the Eastern Cape was actually the result of over-grazing these bushes by grass and bush herbivores such as goats and sheep, which stripped them from the bottom and, in this doing, destroyed the Spekboom and the micro-climate under their protective thickets. The eyesore this resulted in is clearly visible for all to see on many farms. The Spekboom is a herbaceous shrub and the only specie in its genus and restricted to the south-eastern regions of South Africa. The Spekboom prefers summer rainfall with warm summers and a temperate winter climate. The occurrence of large numbers of Africa’s big game in this area can be mainly attributed to the presence of the Spekboom. An interesting fact is that in the Spekboom regions of the Eastern Cape, virtually no large anthills of termites are found. North of the Kei River the tropical termites occur, while the temperate region termites are found south of the Eastern Cape Spekboom region.

Spekboom 1

The first Europeans to penetrate this part of the Eastern Cape were hunters who came to the Sundays River Valley as early as 1702. Thus, fifty years after the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in the Cape, this Valley was already known for its elephants, thanks to the abundance of the Spekboom. The Spekboom was known in Europe at an early stage.

In 1771 the well-known botanist, Linnaus, reported that one was flowering in Italy and when the French Revolution started in 1786, another was flowering in Vienna. Early travellers through southern Africa noted the occurence of Spekboom. In 1834 Thomas Pringle wrote in his African Sketches: “The Spekboom, with its light green leaves and lilac blossoms” ….. and later he refers to…” browsing on the succulent Spekboom, which clothed the skirts of the hills.”

In the Cape of Good Hope Almanac of 1843 we find: “One of the most valuable shrubs … is the Spekboom (Portulacaria Afra). It is found in great abundance on the stony ridges and affords excellent food for those large flocks of sheep and goats…. In severe drought the bush is truly invaluable.”

Today the Spekboom supports the tourism industry of the Eastern Cape with its many game farms, nature parks and the Big Five which are being reintroduced to their old natural habitat everywhere. Today, an ever increasing number of farmers are moving away from veld-destroying goat and sheep farming to sustainable game farming.

Spekboom 3

The Spekboom flourishes in areas with an annual rainfall of 250 to 375 mm and warm summers. It reaches heights of 2,5m to 4,5m with a trunk which averages 20cm in diameter and can live up to 200 years. It has succulent green leaves of 1,3 to 2mm long. These are stubby or rounded and are joined by a small stem. It flowers in spring or early summer after good rains and has pink or light purple hermaphroditic flowers which produce good honey.

The fruit is small, berry-like, pink and transparent with 3 small wings and need follow-up rain soon after the fruit drop to germinate.

The Spekboom is exceptional as it uses 2 two methods of photosynthesis:

1. During the winter months when it is cool and damp, ordinary photosynthesis and better growth occur.

2. In dry conditions, winter or summer, a process is activated whereby the plant opens its stomata and ‘inhales’ carbon dioxide and builds up acid inside the plant. During the night the stomata are closed and the acids are broken down to release carbon dioxide inside the plant without losing moisture through its stomata. The available moisture is then stored by means of these carbon compounds in the leaves, stems and roots of the Spekboom.

Thus the Spekboom is an exceptional plant as it can utilize both these processes. These facts have been established thanks to the physiological studies by scientists in especially America and Japan.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s scientists realised that the Spekboom functions differently to other plants.

The Spekboom is even more special as its humus cannot burn. Thus a fire cannot destroy it and its organic material, as well as the carbon dioxide taken from the air, is finally stored in the ground. Studies done in the veld show that an average patch of Spekboom can capture up to 4 tons of carbon per year.

Global warming will eventually have catastrophic consequences for mankind.

One of the reasons is that carbon dioxide is building up in the atmosphere and this causes global warming. The Kyoto Protocol endeavours to halt this process by, among others, creating Carbon Sinks which will remove large quantities of carbon from the atmosphere in a natural way. Research has proved a Xerix Succelent Thicket and especially Spekboom in the Valley Bushveld to be one of the most successful Carbon Sinks in the world. A Spekboom can remove up to 100 times more carbon from the atmosphere than a pine tree of similar size can do. This type of Bushveld only occurs in South Africa, Mexico and Spain, but has been virtually destroyed in the latter countries. The Spekboom is thus going to cause a mind-boggling revolution in farming in the Eastern Cape. Millions should eventually be available to pay farmers to have the Spekboom veld restored by decreasing their livestock or planting Spekboom. At present projects are afoot to replant hectares in the vicinity of the Sundays River and Baviaanskloof with Spekboom. So, perhaps, in future, farmers will use the Spekboom to farm with carbon.

Spekboom 2

Nowadays trading is already taking place with Carbon Debits and Carbon Credits. Countries such as Germany and others which signed the Kyoto Protocol, are assessed and penalised with Carbon Debits because of their excessive pollution of the atmosphere as a result of the high

CO2 emissions of their vehicles and factories. They then have to buy Carbon Credits to neutralise their outstanding debits.

Farmers in the Eastern Cape who participate in this system and who have their carbon deposit evaluated by German certifiers, will be able to trade their carbon credits on the open open market. Sums of anything from $1 to

$600 per hectare, depending on the density of the Spekboom area, have been mentioned. So farmers will be able to sit on the stoep having coffee, while their Spekboom bring in the money.

Another fact contributing to the Spekbooms reputation is its ability to stimulate milk production. The traditional Xhosas believed that the grandmother should start eating lots of Spekboom leaves a month before her first daughter would give birth. A few days after the birth of a daughter, the baby was handed to the grandmother to suckle so that the young mother would be available to fetch wood and water as the grandmother aged. I mentioned this once to experts on grazing of the University of the Free State and they could confirm that research showed that the milk production increased considerably when cows grazed on Spekboom.

Spekboom is the staple diet of bush grazers such as kudu and other big game.

It is also digestible by herbivores like cattle, providing it is consumed with other available plants suitable for fodder. Thus it is an exceptional habitat for game as it not only provides food when grass and smaller bushes are no longer edible in the dry winters, but also serves as shelter during bitterly cold weather because of the moisture in the Spekboom which maintains some of its heat at night and thus acts as a good insulator.

Spekboom also differs from other bush shrub as it is edible for people. The leaves, which have a slight lemony taste, are suitable to use in salads.

The Spekboom is rich in manganese, cobalt and especially magnesium. It also contains large quantities of the micro elements, iodine and selenium.

Millipedes use concentrated iodine as a defensive mechanism and this explains the presence of large numbers of these in the Eastern Cape Valley bush. This also sheds light on the movement of thousands of millipedes across the tar road near Uitenhage, where dense areas of Spekboom occur next to the road.

People have been planting Spekboom as hedges over hundreds of years.

Spekboom branches take root quickly and start growing when put into the ground. By merely planting branches in the ground close to one another, one can create a living hedge which is ideal to enclose one’s property. Black stock farmers have used these over centuries as fences for a kraal. The stock could then maintain the inside of the kraal by grazing on the leaves and protruding growths, while the outside could grow freely.

We hope the symbiosis of people, big game and the Spekboom will lead to fruitful ecological and economic co-existence in the Eastern Cape in future.

Spekboom, the miracle plant of the Eastern Cape, may eventually be known as the saviour plant of the Eastern Cape.”

Garden Update – May 2015

It has been quite a long while since I have shared a garden update so here are a few close ups of our wintery garden for you.

Garden May 2015 19

A little rusty but still works a treat

Garden May 2015 17

Young and tender Brazilian pepper corns

Garden May 2015 5

We have planted spekboom around the perimeter of our garden – can’t wait for it to fill out – need to do a post on this incredible plant

Garden May 2015 12

Pete’s protea keeps on growing and growing

Garden May 2015 8

Our very first and only olive

Garden May 2015 2

Poor pot has been waiting forever for something to be planted in it

Garden May 2015 1

The last of the fig leaves

Garden May 2015 3

Love how ferns are green all year around

Garden May 2015 4

Quite normal having coral in the garden

Garden May 2015 6

Water tank tap is nearly hidden

Garden May 2015 16 Garden May 2015 15 Garden May 2015 14 Garden May 2015 13 Garden May 2015 11 Garden May 2015 10 Garden May 2015 9 Garden May 2015 7

Garden May 2015 18

A lot of cat claws have been sharpened here

 

Teavivre Tea take 2

The lovely Alison at Teavivre sent me a second batch of teas to test.  I had so much fun with the first lot that I couldn’t believe I didn’t find time before now to try these.

Teavivre tea

As with my first review, please bare in mind the following is my layman explanation of these teas.  You can view the Teavivre website for any health benefits, caffeine content, their origin and pricing etc.

First up was the Tie Guan Tin Oolong Tea (Anxi Monkey Picked Ma Liu Mie)

Anxi Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea 1I loved how these leaves opened gently when I poured the water over them.  The aroma reminded me of jasmine but softer and slightly sweeter and had a lovely light refreshing taste.
Anxi Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea 2

Second up was the Goddess Oolong Tea (Tie Guan Yin Iron)

Goddess Oolong Tea 1This was quite similar in smell and taste to the first tea although I would have to say had a very slight bitter taste at first.
Goddess Oolong Tea 2Then it was onto the Milk Oolong Tea (Taiwan Jin Xuan)

Milk Oolong Tea 1This tea has a slight grassy nose with a flavour which I would kin to black tea – I did not really pick up a milk aroma.  Might have to try this one again.

Milk Oolong Tea 2

Next up was the Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea (Taiwan Monkey Picked Ma Liu Mie)

Taiwan Tie Guan Yin oolong Tea 1

The leaves of this tea didn’t seem as tightly packed as the others and had a beautiful smooth soft taste – I think this may be my favourite.
Taiwan Tie Guan Yin oolong Tea 2
Finally it was the Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea (Da Hong Pao Big Red Robe)

Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea 1The leaves of this tea were very different to the others and was the only one which had a slight brown tinge to it once brewed.   It is regarded as the king of Oolong among all the Chinese Oolong Teas and one of the China’s Top Ten Teas.Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea 2I  am not sure my palette is sophisticated enough for these teas but I thoroughly enjoyed doing my own little tea ritual all the same.

I was not remunerated or asked to do a review on these teas. I did a this post as a courtesy after receiving the tea.

In My Kitchen – May 2015

Even though it is my birthday month, all the gifts below were just because gifts and thank you gifts.  Very special!

Celia over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial must spend hours linking all of the instalments of IMK every month as there are so many wonderful blogs to visit.  Thank you Celia for the fun of being able to pop in around the world to see what everyone has to share every month.

In my kitchen…

Is the most thoughtful gift from my sister in law Elmien.  When I was last up in Johannesburg visiting and seeing their new home for the first time, I commented on how much I like one of her plant pots and how I cannot find the gift tags she uses down here and next thing, when the folks were here visiting, along came a gift for me.  Dankie Elmien, ek waardeur dit baie!

Pot and gift tags

In my kitchen…

Along with the pressie from Elmien was a gift from my brother Chris (Elmien’s husband) – aww, they miss me.  Thank you Honey Bunny.

candles gift set

In my kitchen…

Is a big bottle of my dad’s favourite spice which has also become mom’s favourite and all my siblings.  It’s a good spice.  Thank you for brining one along for me too daddy. Love you. xo

Worcester Sauce jumbo

In my kitchen…

Is some fabulous tea from the UK and some home grown olive oil.  Friends of Pete’s from varsity days, now living in London came home for a visit and made time to come and visit with us and brought along the most thoughtful gift for me!  Thank you Ian & Ruth.  It was wonderful finally meeting you and here’s to us coming and visiting you in the UK soon.

tea olive oil

In my kitchen…

No sooner had Ian and Ruth left that my brother in law and sister in law from Plettenberg Bay came to visit for a weekend and brought Pete and I a beautiful gift bag filled with loads of treats.  Don’t tell Pete I managed to finish the Lindt chocolate all on my own.  Thank you D and Trishy.  Missing you – come back for another weekend soon!

Trishy goodies

In my kitchen…

Are two nunu mini sauce jugs.  Can’t believe I forgot to share these with you last month.  My friend Yolandie sent them down with her son who was here doing swimming trials.  She said she saw them and bought them for me because she knows how I love little things.  So sweet of you Yolandie, thank you so much!  Hopefully we can use them later this month when you are here.

Mini sauce jugs

What’s in your kitchen this month?

Please remember to link back to Celia’s blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial if you partake in the fun and drop her a quick note to let her know when your post will be up and please note Celia needs all IMK posts submitted by the 10th of every month.

Grilled Sweetcorn with Sweet Chilli, Coriander & Lime (The Cake the Buddha Ate)

This is the first recipe I tried from my by birthday book, The Cake the Buddha Ate and it is divine!  An absolute must make!  Pete and I  did the corn on the braai  but you could easily grill them in the oven too.

sweet chilli coriander corn

Ready to go on the braai for 5 minutes

Grilled Sweetcorn with Sweet Chilli, Coriander & Lime

Ingredients

1kg sweetcorn ± 6
50g butter
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp cumin seeds, bruised, crushed
½ tsp coriander seeds
¼ cup sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp garlic, crushed
1 tbsp lime juice – you could substitute with lemon
½ cup fresh coriander, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Precook the sweetcorn in the microwave for 5 to 7 minutes until tender alternatively boil in water for ±15 minutes.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan with the oil.
  3. Add the spices and sweet chilli sauce and bring to the boil.
  4. Add the garlic and cook while stirring for 5 minutes until thick.
  5. Add the lime juice and chopped coriander and add seasoning if required.
  6. Pour the sauce over the sweetcorn and braai for 5 minutes turning while basting with the sauce.
  7. Alternatively place in a preheated oven at 220°C and place on the highest rack in the oven.  Turn the mielies when they turn brown and grill to finish off.

Addo Elephant National Park – Picture overload

To celebrate my 5 year Blogoversary, I bring you lots of photos from the past few months which I snapped in our beautiful National park, Addo.  As you know though, camera has been misbehaving but thanks to a friend, it is all better now.  So, moving forward we should have sharper images.  Thank you Luc!

Addo 2015 704 Addo 2015 631 Addo 2015 581 Addo 2015 568 Addo 2015 559 Addo 2015 541 Addo 2015 531 Addo 2015 497 Addo 2015 487 Addo 2015 461 Addo 2015 380 Addo 2015 373 Addo 2015 348 Addo 2015 331 Addo 2015 318 Addo 2015 255 Addo 2015 244 Addo 2015 381 Addo 2015 225 Addo 2015 221 Addo 2015 212 Addo 2015 183 Addo 2015 168 Addo 2015 165 Addo 2015 137 Addo 2015 136 Addo 2015 119 Addo 2015 110 Addo 2015 107 Addo 2015 74 Addo 2015 68 Addo 2015 51 Addo 2015 35 Addo 2015 31 Addo 2015 28 Addo 2015 27 Addo 2015 18 Addo 2015 7 Addo 2014 718 Addo 2014 712 Addo 2014 698 Addo 2014 697 Addo 2014 681 Addo 2014 666 Addo 2014 655 Addo 2014 602 Addo 2014 634 Addo 2014 633 Addo 2014 605 Addo 2014 553 Addo 2014 646 Addo 2014 511 Addo 2014 507 Addo 2014 491 Addo 2014 494 Addo 2014 497

Maputo, Mozambique

It’s been so long since our return so here is a quick synopsis of our trip before I forget!
The start of our road trip to Maputo, was a 10 hour drive mostly in the rain to my folks home in Johannesburg for a quick braai and sleepover before hitting the road again early the following morning for the 6 hour drive to the border.
My folks xo

Love my mommy and daddy SO much xo

Another day spent in the rain and mist although, the drive was still very pretty.
Maputo 9

Not quite the long and winding road

Not sure why I was worried about all the horror stories I heard about the border post,  especially seeing as I had quadruple checked all our papers were correct beforehand, turns out all we needed were the papers for our car – must have been our lucky day.  Getting through the 2 border posts was a walk in the park.  Getting Pete’s local sim card took longer than both crossings.  Our return into South Africa at the end of out trip was equally as easy, all African style harry casual.

Maputo 370

En route to the border post

The drive through to Maputo from the border was a bit of an eye opener. I thought living in Mauritius seasoned me to the wild driving of Africa but alas. When I say there are no rules, I really mean there are NO rules. When Pete stopped at a red traffic light he very quickly had to pull to the side as a local coming up behind us would have smashed into us as he sped through the red light along with others.  My nerves! What is wrong with these people!  Why can’t people obey the rules of the road and why are there never any traffic officials in sight!  All I hear is Pete echoing in my ears, “Welcome to Africa.”  There is no respect on our roads anywhere in Africa.

Maputo 34

The quality of public transport is clearly not an issue – maybe they should seat everyone on the right hand side to try and balance the shot suspension

It is incredibly sad to see how people are living on a rubbish dump on the side of the road, sifting through the rubbish for anything of value and the thought of breathing in the  toxic fumes every day as they burn everything is frightening!  I wish I could say there was no rubbish anywhere else but the streets and beaches are riddled with non biodegradable items.  Makes me so angry.  If everyone could just pick up one piece of rubbish every day, it would make a huge difference.
Maputo 27

Rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish

Driving through  Maputo to the hotel reminded me a lot of the Port Louis, Mauritius, just dirtier and the buildings made me think of what the derelict buildings look like in Beirut.

Maputo 37

Beirut possibly…

If driving in the traffic isn’t bad enough, there are television screens at the traffic lights!  Where is there any logic in that?  There is definitely better and safer ways of advertising.

Maputo 45

Wonder if my favourite sitcom will come on while at the red traffic light…

There are strange contraptions on the side of the road, again more traffic hazards but anyhoo, enough about the negatives, there are vendors making sugar cane juice by squeezing lengths of sugar cane through rollers and into a bucket with ice.  It is very popular as there are a number of vendors dotted every few hundred meters.  Must be most refreshing with the all year around summer weather.

Maputo 49

Juice on the run

Then step into the hotel. Hello first world and to be spoilt with an ocean view room. Woohoo!  What a treat.  Looking out onto the beach and ocean stretching as far as the eye can see took all the stresses away from the drive.

Pete and I enjoyed room service for our first evening, eating our dinner on the bed no less in front of the telly. I felt like a kid apart from the fabulous glass of wine. What fun!
Maputo 313

Perfect sunset and or sunrise :-)

The extent of my Portuguese learnt while in Mozambique…
Hello – bom dias
Please – por favor
Thank you – obrigado
Although for some strange reason I kept wanting to use my French words

Maputo Hotel room

What a magical view to wake up to

I’m so pleased calories don’t count when you are on holiday otherwise I would have put on a truck load of weight (cough, cough) with all the calorie laden meals.  After all it is perfectly normal to have 5 rashers of bacon every morning with waffles and a croissant – not forgetting the healthy intake of fried eggs on brown bread toast after all it wouldn’t be right to have white bread as that would upset the healthy well balanced carb intake all this while enjoying the wonderful “as far as the eye can see” ocean view. One naturally also makes a gluttonous attempt to ingest as much smoked salmon and tropical fruit as possible especially as it is all peeled and sliced waiting for you.  I have never seen honey being served on the comb before – it was beautifully light and runny, normally I can’t eat raw honey but this was fabulous.  I forgot to ask if the hotel keeps its own hives.

Maputo 103

Sweets for my sweet, sugar for my honey

We ate a few local dishes which were all great but Mozambique is known for its prawns and I was not disappointed. We enjoyed the most wonderful prawns I have ever eaten in a local restaurant, a 2 minute walk from the hotel.  It is worth a visit just for the prawns alone!  Sadly I did not have camera or phone with me that evening to take a photo to share with you.  Sorry.

It was so nice to see the beach being cleaned every morning although sadly it doesn’t stay that way.  As with the streets, the beach is full of rubbish in the blink of an eye.

Maputo 121

To quote Barney, “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere, clean up, clean up, everybody do your share”

It was lovely swimming in the rim flow pool while watching various ships passing into or out of the harbour, although I wasn’t expecting to see a construction vehicle come past.  You can see in the background of the photo they are construction breakwater barriers of sorts or something like that.

Maputo 181

It broke my heart to see local women with babies on their backs for hours on end digging for clams, their only source of income.  It seems all other locals won’t swim in the ocean as it is very brown and if you want blue water, you need to drive 5 hours further north.
Maputo 264

Something that stood out to me is how many people smoke. Thought it was out of fashion and forbidden in public places but it was definitely very popular throughout every corner of Maputo.

Had we stayed longer, we could have enjoyed a number of tours to see more of Maputo, most of which left at dawn including a trip across the border to Swaziland and Kruger Park.  Maybe next time.