About Me

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Hello! Welcome to my online travel-food-life journal/virtual scrapbook. I am a poet, playwright, journalist, editor and basic jack-of-all-trades writer. I was born in El Salvador and raised in Minnesota. I have just returned home from a year and a half in South Africa.

30 September 2011

Living with Less: DIY Pop-Top Earrings


So, I made these earrings before I left the U.S., but I thought they went with the theme of making do and are very much in the South African vein of making beautiful things out of stuff that most of us would throw away.

They are among my very favorite earrings (and I have a HUGE collection, lemme tell ya) and I always get lots of compliments when I wear them.  People ask, “What are those made of?” and they’re always surprised to find out that they’re just made out of pop tops.  (That would be soda tabs if you’re not a Midwesterner!)

They are much lighter than you’d think for such fabulous, bold earrings:


Each individual pop top can shift around, which contributes to their strong, sculptural quality:


They really make quite a statement – for next to no money!


They’ve got great “swish”

 And I love the fact that they look totally different, depending on the angle or light:


I don’t have any pictures of when I made them.  But never fear – these are incredibly easy to make.  Just stack them to the height you want (mine are 29 tabs high), bind them together, and attach an earring hook.

In fact there are really only 2 things to keep in mind:
  1. Keep all the tabs either face up or face down (rough side down is how I did mine), and
  2. Flip the direction of the tabs as you stack them, otherwise they go lopsided.  In other words, the first tab will have the smaller hole towards the left, then the 2nd tab will have the smaller hole towards the right, the 3rd will be towards the left, and so on and so on …
Here’s how I bound mine together:

Do you see the thin jewelry wire?  It’s just looped through one side of the tabs and out through the other.

And even though I used jewelry wire to bind mine together, I think they’d be super cute if they were bound by a colorful ribbon, yarn, etc.
Experiment with what you have around the house – and enjoy them!

PS:  If you don’t drink a lot of soda, or don’t want to wait to collect all those pop tops, go on eBay.  You can find huge bags of them for $5 or so …

28 September 2011

Recipe: Budín (Delish Clean-Out Your Cupboards Bread Pudding)

Hey kids!

Here is a recipe for Budín, which we ate for breakfasts and snacks on our trip to De Hoop.  I love this recipe – it is delicious and easy and uses up stuff that I might otherwise throw out.  Because – and I am loath to admit it – Aaron and I hate bread butts.

I mean we’ll eat them if we have to, but we really don’t like to.  I know, I know, we're First-World Brats!

But fear not, Lorenita does not throw out her bread butts, she saves them to make Budín. 

Budín is Spanish for Bread Pudding.  It is the only dessert-ish kind of thing I ever remember being made in my home (in El Salvador – and most of Latin America I think – you go to the corner bakery for your baked goods).

It is great way to use up odds and ends in your cupboards and can turn things like black bananas, that last half cup of raisins, and wrinkly bread butts into fantastically spiced, moist treats!

The recipe varies with whatever you’ve got in the cupboard, so think of this as a base recipe.  You can add all kinds of dried fruit, substitute the nutmeg for cinnamon, add nuts – or chocolate chips – whatever you'd like!

Here’s what I used:

- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can evaporated milk (low-fat OK)
- 500ml/appx. 2 cups low-fat milk
- 2 ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 4 egg whites (or 2 whole eggs), beaten
- Nutmeg - approximately ¼ of a whole nutmeg – really, you have to do fresh-grated with nutmeg, the pre-ground stuff is always terrible and the fresh stuff is always amazing.  (You can also do cinnamon instead of the nutmeg.)
- Dried mango (chopped into small cubes) and raisins (To taste, or whatever you’re trying to get rid of … here is where you get creative – shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, etc, etc…)
- 1 loaf of bread, torn up and crumbled (Again, I use bread butts for this, I just freeze them and then make the recipe once I’ve amassed one loaf’s worth.)

Mix all the ingredients together and pour it over the bread.  Then mix it together REALLY well –  I mean squelch it with your hands.  Leave it to soak together for at least an hour (or up to overnight in the fridge) – this is an important step to avoid dry bits of bread with no flavor.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350F/175C for 30-40 minutes in a 9X13” pan until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let it cool and cut into squares. 

This budín is not dessert-sweet, it’s more like a mildly sweet breakfast bread or tea snack.  You could frost/ice it as you wish, but I DETEST frosting (along with parboiled rice – which turns rice into rubbery tasteless pips – I think it is the devil’s handiwork, but I digress.)  I prefer to have my budín with a little unsalted butter or topped with cream cheese, like so:


Buen Provecho!

26 September 2011

Bottom of the World to Ya!

You know, like the Irish, “top of the morning to ya!”?  Except that, well, on our way back from our recent trip to the De Hoop Nature Reserve we stopped off at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa:

I can now proudly put a pin on the map at the very tip of Africa – cool, no?

It’s going to take me a while to go through the over 500 pictures -- yes 500 -- we took on the way to, at, and on our way back from De Hoop, so in the meantime I’m gonna write some shorter posts and hope to get the De Hoop posts up in a week ... or two …

In the meantime:

Happy Monday to ya!

19 September 2011

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned

This post has no redeeming value to it whatsoever, except that it's Monday, and I figure many of you could use a laugh to start your week, and what I'm about to show you made me laugh till my stomach cramped and I cried.

Look at this poster that I saw the other day taped to bus stops, light posts and benches:

Here's the close up:

The lesson here?  Don't mess with women in Cape Town.  They will call your ass out all over town -- literally. 

Heheeeeee heee heee ... Oh, lord, I'm snorting again ... ENJOY!

PS:  Aaron and I are off to the De Hoop Nature Reserve for a few days, so I might not be able to post too much this week ... so, everyone have a lovely week and don't be no thief or liar to anyone!

16 September 2011

Recipe: Salvadoran Meatballs, Ostrich-Style (Albóndigas Guanacas de Avestruz)

Meatballs (albóndigas in Spanish) are a very common meal in Latin America.  Except we don’t have them with pasta all that much – more often we have them with rice, in stews or in soups (or at least that was the case in my house.) 

They’ve always been a favorite meal of mine, and the other day, I was all, let me make some Albóndigas Guanacas (Guanaca/Guanaco is a common nickname for Salvadorans).  So off I went to the store ready to buy my ingredients … onion, mint, beef … and then I was all, hey … why not put a South African twist on them and make them with ostrich meat?

Ostrich is very common here in SA.  It is not like poultry at all, it’s really much more like beef.  Plus it’s much lower in fat and beautifully free-range here in SA.  So why not right?

And I gotta tell you, they were awesome!  

Of course you could make them with lean ground beef or ground bison as well, but if you’ve got some ground ostrich available, give it a try.

Here’s the recipe:          

500 grams (1lb.) ground ostrich (or beef or bison)
1 slice bread, crumbed  ( I use wheat/brown bread [this is a good use for the bread butts])
1 Large onion, finely chopped – divided in half
4 Garlic cloves, finely chopped – divided in half
2 Teaspoons coarse salt (1 tsp. fine/table salt) – divided in half
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce – divided in half
1 Egg white
1 Big handful of mint leaves, chopped
1 Big handful parsley leaves, chopped
1 Small can chopped tomatoes (or fresh if you have them!)
1 Teaspoon olive oil
Fresh black pepper to taste
As many olives as you’d like! (I prefer Kalamata olives)

Preheat your oven to 350F/175C.

Mix together the meat, bread, half the onion, garlic, salt, and Worcestershire sauce as well as the egg white, mint and parsley.  Get in there with your hands and squelch it all together.  Form medium-sized meatballs and place on baking sheet.  Throw in oven for appx. 10 minutes till the meatballs are brown on one side, then turn them to the other side and bake another 7 or 8 minutes till brown.

In the meantime, sauté the remaining onion and garlic in the olive oil till soft.  Add the tomatoes, olives and remaining Worcestershire sauce and salt as well as pepper to taste.  Simmer while the meatballs cook.  When they come out of the oven, throw them into the sauce and cook another 10-15 minutes so the flavors meld.  Taste for salt and pepper, correct as necessary.  Enjoy with rice or mashed potatoes or pasta or as we did, with couscous:

PS:  The little yellow things in the salad are not yellow tomatoes, they are actually gooseberries!  As I said before, South Africans love fruit in their salad, and this combo is something that Dawn (Norman's wife) served us -- I loved it and promptly put gooseberries in my next salad.  They are sweet yet tart, and lovely on a salad -- give it a try!  BTW, this is a true globe-trotting kind of a meal, no?

PPS:  I'm pretty positive that this is the first time in the history of forever that the following words were ever combined: "Salvadoran Meatballs, Ostrich-Style (Albóndigas Guanacas de Avestruz)"  HEE!

14 September 2011

Spring Flowers Bright in Cape Town!

It’s springtime in Cape Town and the flowers are running colorful riot all over Company Gardens.  

No words necessary here folks, just enjoy!


PS:  "Alice in Wonderland" has always been my favorite Disney cartoon (who needs simpering princesses, give me hallucinogenic-using caterpillars, I say!) and as I was taking these pictures, all I could think of was this little diddy:

12 September 2011

Book Recommendation: Peter Allison

Hi beautiful people!

So, I just finished a book, and it screams for a recommendation. 

Actually, I’m recommending 2 books, “Don’t Run, Whatever You Do,” and “Don’t Look Behind You!” both by Peter Allison

I had actually read “Don’t Run, Whatever You Do,” a couple of months ago.  I found it for less than $6 on my Kindle whilst searching for African travel literature – and loved it!

So imagine how happy I was when Gill said, “have you read Peter Allison?” and promptly put his second book onto the stack of books she was lending me

Both books are about his adventures as a safari guide in South Africa and Botswana.  The first thing I have to say about these books are that they are HILARIOUS!  Seriously, if you are a shy person, don’t read these books in public, because you WILL laugh out loud – often – and are likely to snort and behave in a most undignified manner.

Allison is completely self-deprecating and brilliant at finding humor in even the strangest circumstances.  Like when he finds himself stuck in the middle of a Mozambican minefield while fruit-picking.  Doesn’t sound like a funny situation, but let me tell you, it was pee-your-pants kind of hilarity.

The other thing that struck me was his unabashed love and reverence for wildlife and nature.  Much like Kobie Kruger, Allison’s passion is infectious and I really can’t wait to go on safari.  His descriptions are so vivid and alluring – from lion charges to the landscape of the Okavango Delta (desert right next to swamp) to finding chameleons at night – it’s great writing.

Lastly, I really appreciated his honesty as a writer, how open he is – from the silly (his clumsiness and amazing ability to drown Land Rovers) to the revealing and raw (being estranged from his parents, periods of deep depression.)

In all, they are great books – both very quick reads – and you really feel as if you are sitting around a campfire with Allison spinning his tales.

09 September 2011

Lord of the Horses

So, I didn't mention when talking about seeing the zebra at !Khwa Ttu that the herd was guarded by 2 horses. 

Most appropriately one was black, one was white:


So as we began creeping towards the zebra, both of these guys came to check us out.  

First, the black one came up to me:

Handsome isn't he?

But then -- and dudes, I know I keep making "Lord of the Rings" references  -- but, well, just take a look:

So apparently Aaron was Gandalf the White in a past life and Shadowfax here recognized him ...

Am I wrong?