Category Archives: Travel
I recently spent some time with my parents on Madeira. It is seriously a plant-lover’s paradise! There will be more posts at a later date, but today I want to focus on some of the crazy-looking plants I saw…
This wonderful creature is called the Mickey-Mouse bush. The yellow flowers fall off to reveal these cute red sepals, and eventually produce black fruits which give the plant its common name. Isn’t it lovely?
And this is the kapok tree. Earlier in the year it has striking red five-lobed flowers which are apparently very attractive to bats, but its main importance is the fruit: a light fibre which is used as an alternative to down as stuffing for soft toys and upholstery. I’m told that the fibres loosen and float off, to the great annoyance to residents…but to me they are just cool!
Until quite recently, Halloween was a not big thing in England. The major Autumn celebration is Bonfire Night, which commemorates the capture of Guido (Guy) Fawkes and the foiling of his plot to blow up Parliament. Of course, the bonfire and fireworks are the main event, but it wouldn’t be England if there weren’t some kind of associated food. Here are my favourites:
Bonfire toffee. I much preferred this to toffee apples, although it can be a tooth-breaker! This recipe comes from a book belonging to my my mother:
Parkin. A delicious Yorkshire version of gingerbread. More of this at a later date …
Jacket potatoes. Pretty universal these days, but I have clear memories of eating potatoes baked in foil, with butter and cheese (sharp cheddar of course) at the Boy Scout bonfire every year.
Happy days! What autumnal food brings back memories for you?
Autumn is tiptoeing in. Shadows are lengthening and by now in England there would be fiery colors in the hedgerows and a hint of a nip in the air in the mornings… Here in SoCal we are facing another weekend of 90/30+ temperatures and I am beginning to feel nostalgic for real seasons.
So: here’s what I’m missing!
What is your favorite season?
While in Charleston this summer, Lovely Man and I stopped at the Blind Tiger Pub for a break from the heat and humidity. The stop proved to be rather longer than planned due to our discovery of a little something called “Sex on the Plantation”. It’s basically a riff on Sex on the Beach, one of my favorite summer cocktails.
The main ingredient is peach tea vodka. The Blind Tiger uses Firefly‘s version, but we didn’t have time (or the luggage room) to track down a bottle to bring home. So, once home, I decided to have a go for myself.
I added the contents of a two packs of peach tea (40 teabags) to a jar along with approximately three litres (roughly 100 fl oz) of vodka, sealed it and stored it in a cool, dark place. After about 2 weeks the vodka had taken on the color of black tea and smelled and tasted of peaches. You could add sugar at this stage (let it sit a little longer) if you like; I decided I preferred it without. I then strained off the tea and poured the resultant vodka back into bottles.
Sex on the Plantation cocktail
- 1 1/2 oz peach tea vodka
- 1/2 oz peach schnapps
- 2 oz cranberry juice
- 1 oz orange juice.
Fill a shaker with ice cubes. Add all ingredients. Shake and strain into a chilled highball glass filled with ice. Enjoy!
Click here for other recipes from Firefly. Do you have a favorite summer cocktail? What lengths would you go to to reproduce it?
I’ve written about my love of lilacs and my regrets that I don’t seem to be able to make them survive here. I’ve been looking around for an alternative and at last I think I’ve found it…the crepe myrtle. They grow in abundance here, but it was only on a recent visit to Charleston that I really came to appreciate how attractive they can be, given the right setting.
Like lilacs, they come in a variety of colours. Unlike lilacs, many have interesting bark.Some are evergreen. Others offer the possibility of autumn foliage.
Sadly, their fragrance, though sweet, is not as powerful as that of lilac. But I’ll take what I can get!