Tag Archives: family

Kruger

Last night, I got back from a wonderful weekend trip to Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers over 7,500 square miles. Parts of the park have been protected by the South African government since 1898 and it became a national park in 1926. Because of its long history of conservation, the park is home to an incredible variety of flora and fauna, including, according to the official website, 336 species of trees, 49 of fish, 34 of amphibians, 114 of reptiles, 507 of birds, and 147 of mammals. Wow.

I went with Al’s mom and step-dad on Thursday afternoon and Al met us late on Friday night. Over the course of four days, we saw a dazzling number of animals, some of which are quite rare in the park (including a leopard – there are only 1000 of them in the whole place). I’m not sure if we just had amazing luck or whether the park is always like this – filthy with animals, I tell you! – but it was awesome. I kept a list of the animals we saw and here it is: hyena, rhino, elephant, lion, leopard, wildebeest, kudu, impala, giraffe, baboon, hippo, many birds (incl. vulture, African fish eagle, various starling, European roller and Guinea fowl), rabbit, leopard tortoise, zebra, Vervet monkey, bush pig, warthog, white mongoose, ground squirrel (we think), and water buffalo. And probably others, but those were the big ones.

Here are just a few of the photos I took this weekend:

Warthog

Warthog

Sunset on safari

Sunset on safari

Wildebeest

Wildebeest

Starling

Starling

Baby zebra and mother

Baby zebra and mother

Giraffe

Giraffe

Elephants in a row

Elephants in a row

Male impalas play fighting

Male impalas play fighting

Mini croc

Mini croc

Baboon mother and baby

Baboon mother and baby

Elephant eating

Elephant eating

Lioness RIGHT next to our truck

Lioness RIGHT next to our truck

Shy leopard

Shy leopard

 

Buon Natale

We are spending Christmas in Italy this year with my parents and it’s been fantastic. We’ve been in Sorrento since Christmas eve and this is the first time I’ve had internet access, so please excuse the radio silence! Things will probably be quiet until we’re back in civilization (i.e., Africa) again, so for now, please allow me to placate you all with some pretty pictures of Sorrento.

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Vacation

I want to apologize to all of my faithful readers who’ve been expecting more frequent posts from California. I’ve let you all down.  But the thing is, I’m on vacation.  And between visiting with friends and family and finishing a manuscript, I’ve been busy and blogging has not been a top priority.  Instead, I’ve been doing things like cooking for my parents, going to my dear friend Karen’s company party (MC Hammer was there!), celebrating my cousin Emily’s graduation from San Francisco firefighter academy, going to dinner with my cousin Amanda, seeing family at my grandmother’s house, catching up on reading (including some juicy true crime), and, of course, watching a healthy amount of Law & Order SVU (did y’all know it plays continuously on USA on weekdays?).  Among other things.

So, to tide you over, here are some pictures I’ve taken since I’ve been here.

Union Square Christmas decorations

Union Square Christmas decorations

Karen and me before her Christmas party

Karen and me before her Christmas party

Dougal on a car ride

Dougal on a car ride

The Sunset - view from my walk home from the gym

The Sunset – view from my walk home from the gym

Home

Home

So, stay tuned. Vacation’s almost over!

Hockey game

Since there’s an NHL lockout, hockey fans have to get their fix where they can — and thank goodness for minor league hockey!  My cousin Emily’s husband Greg is a big hockey fan, so last night, they organized a cousin excursion to a minor league game at the Cow Palace.  The game was between the local team, the San Francisco Bulls, and the Colorado Eagles.

Go Bulls

The Bulls, bless them, got trounced by the Eagles, but the game was fun to watch anyway.  Hockey’s so fun, you guys!  It moves fast, it’s easy to follow, and there are fights.  Man, I love me a good hockey fight.  I think I must be part Barbarian.

Me and cousins Emily and Amanda at the game

I used to follow NHL hockey closely because growing up in Detroit, one really doesn’t have a choice.  Hockey’s a big deal in Detroit.  Like, a BIG deal.  Songs like this happen somewhat organically.

Yep, people in Detroit really geek out over the Red Wings, especially when the team does well in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  There are Red Wings Stanley Cup songs and cheers — for instance, who else from Detroit remembers this gem?  (Thank you, YouTube, for preserving these songs in the internet amber.)

San Francisco hockey teams of the past

I kinda miss having that sense of community around a sports team.  These days I don’t follow any sports at all. None. Period.  I don’t care.  Booo-ring.  But I could see myself getting back into hockey.  I’m married to a Canadian, for crying out loud.  What other sport are we gonna watch?   Somehow, though, I doubt there are a lot of hockey games broadcast in South Africa. Shame. I guess cricket will have to tide us over in the meantime.  Now all we have to work on is making the term “cricket fight” a thing.

Bad dogs

I grew up with dogs. In fact, from before the time I was born to now, my parents have never not had a dog.  And every single one of our dogs was bad — loveably bad — in its own way, to the point where I’m pretty much ruined for good dogs.  I need my dogs to be just a *little* mischievous.

My parents’ history with bad dogs started — before I was born — with the infamous Fritzi, a black-and-tan dachshund that someone at my mom’s work was trying to give away.  Although this should have been a red flag (“take this dog, please”), my parents took no notice.  Nor did they heed any of the other warning signs that Fritzi may not have been the best choice for a family pet, including the fact that he came from a decidedly rough background (he was a stray dachshund on the streets of downtown Baltimore for Pete’s sake) and, inexplicably, he only ate steak.  Nonetheless, my parents adopted him.  Soon after, they also took on another bad dog, Max, a thirty pound behemoth of a dachshund.

Max thought he was smaller than he was

Max and Fritzi became fast, misbehaved friends.

Max and Fritzi celebrating their birthday(s)

Although Max was severely naughty in a number of creative ways (he would jump into strangers’ cars, he ran away frequently, he ate garbage – both ours and our neighbors’–, he enjoyed rolling in poop and worms, he got stung in the mouth by a bee because he was trying to eat it, he ate an entire wicker dog bed, etc., etc.), he wasn’t actively malevolent.  Fritzi, on the other hand, was bad to the bone.  He bit people (including the poor, hapless mailman) and attacked animals.  One terrible day, when my mother was eight months’ pregnant with yours truly, she and my dad took Max and Fritzi to a friend’s farm.  While Max happily rolled around in cow manure, Fritzi set about biting a horse on the nose (he had to jump up in order to accomplish this) and mauling a duck.  When my parents got the dogs back into the car at the end of the day, Max was happy and covered in poop, while Fritzi had an evil gleam in his eye and blood and feathers stuck to his mouth.

My mom realized Fritzi had to go.  So, with a heavy heart, they gave him away and hung onto Max, my older brother.  It worked out well.

Me and Max sharing toys

For a long time, we were a family of four: Margie, Tom, Max, and Stephanie. In that order.

Our family

Then, when I was in second grade, we adopted Towser, my baby.  Towser Ivy Early was an exception to the bad dachshund rule: she was sweet, loved everyone, and only occasionally ate rotting garbage.  She did, however, pee everywhere whenever she got excited (this happened often), despite our best efforts to train her.  She did win “Smallest Dog” in our local kids’ dog show, though, so her life was not without distinction.

Max died at the ripe old age of 17 and was bad until the end.  Towser went to the Great Doggie Beyond when I was studying abroad (and it still hurts to think about it).  For a little while, there was a lonely gap in our lives when we didn’t have a dog.

Max

Then, we got Dougal.  Oh, Dougal. What to say about Dougal?

Not a huge fan of baths

First, he’s adorable.  He looks like a little old man with a mohawk.  But is he normal?  Good God, no.  He’s as weird as they come.  He’s afraid of babies and old people and leaves.  He doesn’t like loud noises and is scared of traffic.  He’s a sensitive, artistic soul.  He may be a touch autistic.  Did I mention he sings?  Dougal sings Greensleeves

But he’s not bad.  Not really.  Not compared to dogs of our past.  We love him anyway.

Safety first

My husband and I share a predilection for bad dogs.  When Al was growing up, he had a dog named Midnight that was half-Pointer, half-black Lab, and was exceedingly naughty.  My favorite Midnight story (and I’ve heard a lot of them) is when he distracted the entire family by barking crazily at the front door until everyone got up to see what was going on, and while everyone was at the front door, he ran back into the dining room and ate the food off the table.  Pretty genius, no?

Anyway, a little bit of badness in a dog can be a good thing.  Max introduced us to some of our best family friends in Baltimore because he ran away and a family, the Erpensteins, found him and called the number on his collar.  We’re still friends with them today, over twenty years later.  We never would have met them if it weren’t for that naughty dog.  So, whenever Al and I get a dog, we’ll be in the market for a dog with a lot of personality — and a little dose of badness, for good measure.

Just a little evil

How Stephanie got her blog back

As you’re probably aware, my blog has been offline for the past week or so.  This is because it was viciously attacked by malware. I don’t know what malware is, exactly, but it’s bad and it virus’d my poor, innocent blog.  I like to think that I was targeted by international spies for knowing too much (about — stuff), but who can say.  In any case, my husband and brother-in-law helped nearly-computer-illiterate me fix the issue and, as you can see, we’re back. Whew!

Lots of stuff has happened in this past week and could probably provide fodder for fives, if not tens, of posts, but let me summarize in bullet format:

  • Went to a champagne tasting/food pairing event in Joburg
  • Traveled from Joburg (via Frankfurt) to San Francisco: a total of 27 hours’ travel, no big deal
  • Hung out with my parents and assorted cousins for 36 hours
  • Hopped on a plane to Orange County to attend the wedding of two law school friends
  • Wore this dress – only problem was that sequins fell off every time I went to the bathroom
  • Flew back to SFO
  • Slept
  • Got my blog back

So, here I am, in San Francisco, still in my pajamas, hanging out with my dad and dog.

Dougal

I’ll be in California for three weeks, so be on the lookout for daily updates from here.  Until then, happy December, and beware malware.

Tea

I love me a good cup of tea.  I grew up drinking tea and like most tea drinkers, I have strong feelings on what makes a good cup and can be a little obnoxious about it.  It’s my tea or the high seas, I say (<– I don’t actually say this).

I’m Irish. I’m allowed to have an opinion on tea.

First, some background: my mom’s mom is from Ireland and the Irish love them some tea.  In my family, tea is served constantly – any time anyone stops by, at family gatherings, before meals, after meals, during meals.  The kettle is always on.

This Father Ted clip pretty much sums up Irish people and tea (and cake).  (And if you haven’t yet seen Father Ted, please Netflix that biz immediately.)

You’ll have a cuppa tea. Ah, you will. Ah, go on.

The Irish tea tradition, as I understand it from my own family, is different from the British tradition, where people drink tea with lemon and honey and sugar and things like that.  Irish people drink tea with milk and maybe some sugar.  No lemon slices.  No honey. Also, we like our tea strong – none of this weak tea business.

Given my upbringing, my taste in tea is rather narrow.  In my house (and in my grandparents’ house, and in my cousins’ and aunts’ and uncles’ houses) you’re probably only going to find one brand of tea: Red Rose.  Red Rose, as it turns out, is not actually an Irish tea.  It’s actually from – wait for it – Canada. Who knew?  But, like Irish tea from Ireland, it’s made up of a blend of several black teas from Kenya, Ceylon, India, and Indonesia.  So Red Rose tea tastes Irish.  Plus, in every box of Red Rose tea, there’s an adorable figurine – beat that, Barry’s Tea.

Anyway.  I like a strong cup of black tea with milk. For many years, I could handle very little else in the tea department. I’d have the occasional cup of green tea because it’s good for me and has an inoffensive flavor, and I’d always drink tea at a Japanese restaurant, but I never went in for anything exotic, flowery, or fruity.  I still don’t.  And I take active offense to herbal “tea.”  My husband was laboring under the delusion, before we met, that his beloved cup of “peppermint tea” was actually tea – it’s not. Sorry, honey. It’s an herbal infusion, which contains no tea and therefore will not pass my lips.

However, living in other countries has forced me to broaden my tea horizons a little bit.  In Argentina, I got way into yerba mate, which is actually an infusion of leaves and twigs from the yerba tree.  Sounds gross, but is actually delicious and causes pleasant heart palpitations!

And I’ve even tried rooibos, which is a tea native to the Western Cape province of South Africa and is quite popular here (although I tried it for the first time at a Starbucks in DC before I left).  Turns out, though, that rooibos is actually a tisane, which, according to Wikipedia, is “a catch-all term for any non-caffeinated beverage made from the infusion or decoction of herbs, spices, or other plant material.”   Hm.  Nonetheless, South Africans drink their rooibos with milk, which makes me think it might not be so bad.

What’s your favorite kind of tea/tisane/infusion?  Do you share my distaste for anything herbal? Are you going to run out and buy some Red Rose tea right now?  I hope so.

I’ll leave you with this odd little cocktail recipe I found online – instead of an Irish Coffee, it’s an Irish Tea:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs loose black tea, or 1 tea bag
  • 1 oz whisky
  • 1 oz milk or cream
  • 1 tsp sugar

Preparation:

Brew tea in hot water for 3-5 minutes, then strain out tea. Add whiskey and other ingredients, then serve.

Yum.