I recently spent some time with my parents on Madeira. It is seriously a plant-lover’s paradise! Here are 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!
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 to track down a bottle (or the luggage room) to bring home. So, once home, I decided to have a go for myself.
I added the contents of 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?
While lilacs (syringa) can survive in California, they need attention to really thrive. Lilac in England is a completely different proposition. Given the minimum of care, it typically runs a little wild in a garden hedge or the back of a border.
But when the results look (and smell!), so good, why not?
Bowood House, near Calne in Wiltshire, is a fine example of an English Country House. The gardens and part of the house are open April-November and are well worth a visit. Every spring the owners open their justly famous Rhododendron Walk to the public, and this year I was able to go. But though the rhododendrons are spectacular, my interest was elsewhere…
I never need to make the resolution to read more; reading is one of my main pleasures in life.
And travel is for me a good opportunity to catch up on some different reading, so my packing for trips back to Europe aways includes a variety of books I might not get round to reading otherwise. This trip I’m (re)reading “Howard’s End is on the Landing” by Susan Hill, in which the author spends a year reading – and writing about – books she already owns. It has started two trains of thought…
The first is that, like Ms Hill, I have books on my shelves that I have either not yet read, or which warrant re-reading. I’m going to set aside a bookcase for these so that they are always on hand when I’m in need of literary inspiration. There are probably enough that I won’t need to buy a new book for six months if not more! Not that it will stop me…
And the second is to actually write down the titles of the interesting books Ms Hill mentions that I haven’t got, so that I can read them too. It’s going to be quite a list!
Which leads me to more lists:
A friend posted this
on Facebook and I’m trying it for a different approach to book selections. I’m working on my first line and so far I’ve read or am reading: “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert – over 500 pages; “The Black Moth” by Georgette Heyer – author under 30; “Paprika” by Yasutaka Tsutsui – one-word title; “The Killing Floor” by Lee Child – first book by a favourite author; “Black Cherry Blues” by James Lee Burke – book a friend loves. Only 150 pages of the first to go…another book that’s in my packing!
More of a challenge is this list. And this is well-nigh impossible! So far I’m up to 31 and 110 respectively. I don’t expect to finish…
What do you like to read. How do you make your selections?
Yes, I know it’s late, and I have no excuse. But here are my first photos of 2012:
Looking through some old photos today and feeling nostalgic for a European Christmas. Here are some of my favourite shots from The Marché aux Fleurs in Nice: