September 2008

Another lack-of-progress report, with pics

Last week was hectic, since my company exhibited at the African Aerospace and Defence Expo. I had to be in Cape Town early to pick up some foreign visitors, and evenings got late too.

The mountain does make a nice backdrop for pictures.

This is Harvard #7293, used by the SA Air Force from 1942 to 1961. In another life, I want one.

Nice colour scheme.

This is the only flying Shackleton in the world, since they crashed the other one in the Sahara.

After finding some currywurst for breakfast, I managed to tear myself away from our exhibit at around 12:00 on Saturday, and went to the office to print a contract, since my brother found a buyer for my Fox. Went to Bellville, found other paperwork, buyer came around, I managed to still catch the liquor store open (16:55, they close at 5 on a Saturday) and then rushed back to Tanya’s place, because I had to pick her up and go back to Bellville for a braai… after which we went back to Kommetjie again. Covered about 250 km the day :-)

View from the N1.

Somewhere in the early hours of Sunday I woke to a dripping noise. Tanya’s geyser was leaking. Bear in mind that we’ve only just sold the place.

So Sunday I investigated, drained the geyser, removed the element, and came to the conclusion that it was probably the geyser itself that was at fault. Drove to the house, got the Land-Rover, and the electric gate wouldn’t close. Fscked played with that until it started working, drove to the hardware store. Got into a traffic jam because some unfortunate individual got under the train, and everyone wanted to rubberneck. Bought a new geyser, battled the same traffic jam going back, picked up the ladder from the house, removed the crud from the gutters at Tanya’s place, waited for Tanya to come home to help me with the geyser, fitted the geyser, hosed out the gutters, loaded the b0rken geyser into the Land-Rover, and had a well-deserved beer.

But no progress on the house side of things.

Meanwhile, Crystal continues to crack me up. I need a support group.

I hate Marko

I hate Marko*.

He blogrolled Crystal, and I liked her writing so much that I’m now wasting a considerable amount of time reading her blog from the bottom up.

Start with the Crazy Chronicles, or at some random point.

Oh, and they also did some home renovation (note — if you’re on the prude-ish side or easily shocked you might want to not read Crystal’s blog).

* Note that this is just the manly way to say “I love Marko to bits and will read everything he writes and everybody he blogrolls, because he so just rocks”.

A date has been set

We received an offer for Tanya’s place. It’s only 5 1/2 % lower than the offer we had in April/May, which, given the current real estate slump, is pretty good IMO.

So we need to be out by the end of next month (31st October).

A month and a bit should be enough to finish the kitchen counters and upper cabinetry, a few cupboards, and carpets, no?

Big update

As mentioned in the previous post, I found a tiler, Glynn Maree, he advertises on Gumtree. I’m very happy with his work.

The border tiles were cheap, and we quite liked them at the time. But Tanya took one look at this, and said that they didn’t look right. So I quickly removed them before the cement hardened. The problem of course is that we now have a strip the width of this specific border tile (80mm) and we need to find something else that fits.

At the time I built the bath surround, I didn’t know what kind of tiles we’d be using, so the gap I left down the middle of the surround (to be able to connect the plumbing) was determined randomly by the board size. Last week, Glynn tiled to a point, and this morning I cut the hole bigger at the bottom and filled the top in. Glynn will stick two tiles to the loose plank, and I’ll fit magnetic catches to keep it in.

I’ve been building this unit out of my favourite material, shutterboard. Tanya and I carried it from the garage to the house (it’s heavy) and wrestled it into position. So what is it, you ask? Well, it’s part of my one built-in cupboard, the one with drawers and shelves that I’m still designing. It’s also a space to store towels, all neatly rolled up.

This is the view from the living room. A bit of cretestone and paint and it will blend right in.

On a totally unrelated topic. I’m around the house on Saturday morning, and my cell phone rings. It’s Tanya, she’s stuck in the toilet.

Now, there’s a story here. When we got the house, the toilet door had no mechanism, and I don’t know what they did to it to damage the door like they did…

I fitted a mechanism, cut a plank sort-of to size, nailed it into place…

… and liberally applied (automotive) body putty (bondo in the USA).

I still have to drill the hole for the square rod… but this explains why Tanya couldn’t get out. I had to unscrew the handle on the outside and use a pair of pliers to open the lock.

Bloody good thing this didn’t happen to me one morning while working alone at the house. Especially since I don’t generally carry my cellphone with me when working.

And yet another unrelated topic — I’m still looking for a wok, so I went to Taste of Asia in Plumstead. Found a mortar & pestle, and umeboshi. The umeboshi is quite expensive, the package above costs about the same as a flat (24 cans) of beer. Havn’t tried it yet.

I also made Cheezy-Lime White Chili with tofu, mostly for Jessica, but I ended up eating most of it. Gooood. Not that I’d call it a chili, it’s more of a (mild) curry. I’ll make it again.

I bet the car’s a writeoff.

Evidence that it hailed in Fish Hoek this morning. Just a bit, but man oh man was it loud on the tin roof of the garage.

So, I haven’t blogged for a while.

There’s a reason. I haven’t done anything to blog about.

With the kitchen base units in, I could measure and order the postform tops, which I did last week. ETA is Friday or so.

I found a tiler to do the master bathroom. He might be starting today.

I need a hall cupboard/bookshelf, some bookshelves for the living room, and two units for our bedroom. Julian at Lansdowne boards is supposed to quote me on these (procedure is he quotes, I pay, he manufactures, and then I audit and spend a week or three sorting things out :-) but so far no quotes.

And once that is done the carpets can go in.

So on Saturday I took the day off (from house stuff), drove out to Somerset West to help a friend with his PC (upgrade from Windows 98 to Windows 2000, and if this sounds terribly archaic please have a look at the URL for this page). Turns out he had a rather nasty virus (Win32:Virut) and after spending Sunday trying to get rid of the damn thing I copied his data off and reformatted the disk. That worked, of course :-) BTW if you have spare copies of Windows 2000 lying around, I’ll even pay for them.

And there you have it — a lack-of-progress report.

Barbara’s gone and done it

She posted her Vegetarian 100. While I’m still trying to catch up to the Omnivore 100. *sigh*

The Vegetarian Hundred :

Strikeout : What I won’t eat
Bold : What I have had
Bold and Strikeout : Have had, never again

1. Real macaroni and cheese, made from scratch and baked – Tanya makes great mac&cheese — Oh dear, I hope you don’t mean I need to make the macaroni and / or the cheese from scratch?
2. Tabouleh
3. Freshly baked bread, straight from the oven (preferably with homemade strawberry jam) — Sure, in a black pot on a campfire, many times.
4. Fresh figs — had a tree at my parents’ home.
5. Fresh pomegranate — at Tannie Lizzie’s place (Esterheim) in Montagu, many moons ago.
6. Indian dal of any sort
7. Imam bayildi
8. Pressed spiced Chinese tofu
9. Freshly made hummus
10. Tahini
11. Kimchi
12. Miso
13. Falafel — takeaway only.
14. Potato and pea filled samosas
15. Homemade yogurt
16. Muhammara
17. Brie en croute
18. Spanikopita — Aaah yes, the ex used to make these. Took up the whole kitchen and the whole day, but my oh my.
19. Fresh, vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes
20. Insalata caprese
21. Stir-fried greens (gai lan, bok choi, pea shoots, kale, chard or collards)
22. Freshly made salsa
23. Freshly made guacamole
24. Creme brulee — I like the Marie Claire Flavours recipe (Recipezaar link)
25. Fava beans
26. Chinese cold sesame peanut noodles
27. Fattoush
28. New potatoes
29. Coleslaw
30. Ratatouille
31. Baba ganoush
32. Winter squash — Butternuts cooked, in foil in the coals, in soup (better than straight pumpkin soup), gems cooked, gems in foil on the fire…
33. Roasted beets
34. Baked sweet potatoes — in tinfoil in the coals, oooh yes.
35. Plantains
36. Chocolate truffles — there’s a nice chocolaterie outside Tulbagh
37. Garlic mashed potatoes
38. Fresh water chestnuts
39. Steel cut oats — rolled, yes. Steel cut, no.
40. Quinoa — I’ve only recently heard about this, but it seems the rage on the USA side of the ocean.
41. Grilled portabello mushrooms
42. Chipotle en adobo
43. Stone ground whole grain cornmeal
44. Freshly made corn or wheat tortillas
45. Frittata — my ex used to make these often.
46. Basil pesto — and this, when the basil bushes reached the level of the wall.
47. Roasted garlic — what’s a roast without garlic?
48. Raita of any type
49. Mango lassi
50. Jasmine rice (white or brown)
51. Thai vegetarian coconut milk curry
52. Pumpkin in any form other than pie — in SA we know every form except pie :-)
53. Fresh apple pear or plum gallette
54. Quince in any form — had a tree in the garden at Amperbo.
55. Escarole, endive or arugula
56. Sprouts other than mung bean — all kinds available here.
57. Naturally brewed soy sauce
58. Dried shiitake mushrooms — to give body to veg stews.
59. Unusually colored vegetables (purple cauliflower, blue potatoes, chocolate bell peppers…)
60. Fresh peach ice cream
61. Chevre — locavore delight.
62. Medjool dates
63. Kheer
64. Flourless chocolate cake
65. Grilled corn on the cob — often. We’re South African. We braai!
66. Black bean (or any other bean) vegetarian chili
67. Tempeh
68. Seitan or wheat gluten
69. Gorgonzola or any other blue veined cheese
70. Sweet potato fries
71. Homemade au gratin potatoes
72. Cream of asparagus soup
73. Artichoke-Parmesan dip
74. Mushroom risotto
75. Fermented black beans
76. Garlic scapes
77. Fresh new baby peas
78. Kalamata olives
79. Preserved lemons
80. Fried green tomatoes
81. Chinese scallion pancakes
82. Cheese souffle
83. Fried apples
84. Homemade frijoles refritos
85. Pasta fagiole
86. Macadamia nuts in any form
87. Paw paw in any form — don’t like it much.
88. Grilled cheese sandwich of any kind — with Marmite! Yeah!
89. Paneer cheese
90. Ma Po Tofu (vegetarian style–no pork!)
91. Fresh pasta in any form — made lasagna once. I’ll get better if I practiced.
92. Grilled leeks, scallions or ramps
93. Green papaya salad
94. Baked grain and vegetable stuffed tomatoes
95. Pickled ginger
96. Methi greens
97. Aloo paratha
98. Kedgeree — Tanya’s daughter is vegetarian but eats fish. So… yeah. I quite like the stuff. Edit : Barbara meant the vegetarian version, never heard of it. will hafta research & try.
99. Okra
100. Roasted brussels sprouts — Tried it the other night, maybe I need to practice, but I prefer boiled.

It’s starting to look like a kitchen…

Not only because the cabinets are coming together nicely…

… but also because the cupboards are being filled with all kinds of exotic goodies I’m picking up in anticipation.

I went shopping in the Waterfront the other night, saw that they had juniper berries and star aniseed, and that sort of started it. The star aniseed is for making creme brulee, from the Marie Claire Flavours book. I’ve seen exactly the same recipe online, will find and post a link.

Then came yesterday’s shopping trip. The cover story is that I need a wok. The folks-in-law have a cast iron wok that really works well. I can get something similar from Le Creuset in Cavendish, but it’s rather expensive, as Le Creuset tends to be. So I said that at some stage I’ll go to the Chinese/Japanese/Oriental shops and have a look-see.

The second story comes from a conversation I had with a friend (CH) a few months ago, which went something like this :

<me> I want to make Barbara’s Sichuan Shredded Chicken.
<CH> And you are going to get black vinegar where?

But the real reason I went Chinese shopping yesterday is all Barbara’s fault. In particular, #76, baijiu. I couldn’t believe it’s as horrible as the wiki indicates. To quote, “There are a number of accounts in English which comment unfavorably on the taste of baijiu, comparing it with rubbing alcohol or diesel fuel“.

So I went to Mainland China near Cavendish in Claremont, found 500ml of Er Gou Tou for R18.75 (note : this is less than the cost of a sixpack of beer). I also got the black vinegar, some Tom Yum paste, and an intriguing bottle of “Confucious Family Liquor” which was the most expensive of the lot, R43.80 the bottle (note : R40 is what a relatively decent everyday drinking red sets me back most of the time. Just to put things into context for non-local readers).

So now, I feel that I’m qualified to speak. And I can tell you that baijiu tastes nothing like rubbing alcohol or diesel fuel. No, it’s closer to acetone, although I must admit there’s a slight diesel fuel aroma to it — but on the nose only, not the palate.

After the first few sips (yes, I’m brave) one becomes used to the taste. Maybe because by then, my taste buds had decamped and moved south for the duration. It also has a not-so-nice aftertaste, courtesy no doubt of overly brave taste buds who make the return journey too soon.

I’m sure my Land-Rover will run on it though.

One has to admire the packaging. This is the Confucius Family Liquor, and I have no idea what it is or what it tastes like. Time will tell, I’m sure :-)

OK, back to the kitchen. As you can see from the very first picture, I eventually got the right size panel to close the front of the cabinet that goes up against the wall in the corner.

Julian originally designed the unit with a standard (left-opening) door, but I figured that the cupboard would be more accessible if the door opened the other way, so I picked up two “blind corner” hinges and used that to hang the door. The gas bottle is going into the corner, so I need the access.

With this unit now bolted to the wall, I could measure the exact size of the countertops I need. Aluta Continua.

The Omnivore’s Hundred

Barbara Fischer linked to Andrew’s list and instructions :

Here’s a chance for a little interactivity for all the bloggers out there. Below is a list of 100 things that I think every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food – but a good omnivore should really try it all. Don’t worry if you haven’t, mind you; neither have I, though I’ll be sure to work on it. Don’t worry if you don’t recognise everything in the hundred, either; Wikipedia has the answers.

Here’s what I want you to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

I added Bold and Crossed to indicate stuff I’ve tried but have no intention of eating ever again, unless I’m starving.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros – on the menu at Mugg & Bean,  but as soon as my kitchen’s operational I’ll try Deb’s recipe, it sounds much nicer.
4. Steak tartareRead all about it.
5. Crocodile – yea, once, in Oudtshoorn – I was not impressed.
6. Black pudding – sounds horrible, but I’ll try almost anything once.
7. Cheese fondue – nice idea for a party, we also had The Real Thing (raclette?) in France.
8. Carp – Goldfeesh are carp, no?
9. Borscht – I want to make this sometime.
10. Baba ghanoush – first time I’ve heard of it.
11. Calamari – Tanya likes the takeaway Calamari at Muizenberg market,
12. Pho – Barbara mentioned Pho, maybe someday I’ll make it.
13. PB&J sandwich – over here, “jelly” is the stuff you mix from a powder and serve with custard or put in a trifle. I think you mean “jam”. I prefer maple syrup, but golden syrup works too. Or honey.
14. Aloo gobi – looks like something that should be on my “to try” recipe list.
15. Hot dog from a street cart – all the time. But here we call ’em “boerie rolls” and we use wors, not wieners, mostly.
16. Epoisses – maybe next time I’m in France.
17. Black truffle – my brother likes using truffle oil. For this kind of money I’d rather be buying expensive liquor.
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes – Hmmm, it’s cherry picking season in Ceres again soon…
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes – I might be missing something, but in this context, “heirloom” means “grown in your own garden” like my grandfather used to do?
22. Fresh wild berries – depends on your definition of wild, I guess.
23. Foie gras – not common here, expensive.
24. Rice and beans – Moros y Christianos, lekker.
25. Brawn, or head cheese – We call it “silt” and it sucks.
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper – does pickled Habanero count?
27. Dulce de leche – this is what you get when you heat condensed milk? Maybe I should try the real recipe.
28. OystersBloemendal has a yearly champagne and oyster festival. Oysters are overrated but the bubbly’s nice.
29. Baklava – the Ocean Basket in Long Beach Mall has a Greek owner. This makes this particular franchise… a bit different from the rest.
30. Bagna cauda – looks interesting.
31. Wasabi peas – I like wasabi with sushi, must try it with peas.
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi – and here I thought Lassy was a dog… Edit: Salted lassi (2008-09-02). I can get to like this stuff, and the sweet version should be nice too. Recipe here.
34. Sauerkraut – Oh yes, goes well with eisbein (Nag’s Head in Noordhoek. Recommended). I’ve also braised it.
35. Root beer float – Root beer is not something we get in South Africa. Have had many coke floats though.
36. Cognac with a fat cigar – Remy rocks. But I don’t smoke.
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O – Yes, if Peachtree Schnapps counts.
39. Gumbo – that I made myself, not authentic – will change if I ever visit the bayou.
40. Oxtail – many times. Popular dish in South Africa.
41. Curried goat – can’t say I’ve seen this on the menu anywhere.
42. Whole insects – You mean on purpose, not accidentally?
43. Phaal – oooh! *makes note*
44. Goat’s milk – well, Fairview makes it into quite nice cheese, if that counts.
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more – been there, done that, single malt doesn’t do it for me, I prefer Remy or even Jim Beam Black.
46. Fugu – Chances are the stuff I can afford is cut a little close to the gland.
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear – we make it into witblits which is a noble destiny.
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone – We used to eat lots back before the whole poaching problem started.
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal – had McDonalds once, when they opened their first branch in South Africa, at the insistence of the (then not) ex. Life’s too short.
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini – Martini, yes. With olive juice, no.
58. Beer above 8% ABV – Belgian beer rawks!
59. Poutine – I should like this, seeing how I really took to the Belgian mayonnaise thing.
60. Carob chips – chips as in crisps? I only know carob-erzatz-chocolate.
61. S’mores – have roasted marshmellows but that’s about it.
62. Sweetbreads – I remember trying something with a sweetbread sauce once. Can’t recall being very impressed.
63. Kaolin – they mine the stuff in Noordhoek, there was a whole controversy over it, but I havn’t felt a great need to taste the stuff.
64. Currywurst – not yet, but Marko’s convinced me I need to make a plan. Edit : currywurst, at the AAD show (2008-09-20). Recommended.
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis – I think I need to drop more hints for an invite from the Cape Town Burns Supper Club. But then I’d need to recite poetry, and that could be… scary.
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho – on the list next to Borscht.
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe – and also Pernod.
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill – Around here, this would be either a cat or a dog, or the occasional pedestrian. Maybe if someone hits a kudu hard enough I’ll change my mind.
76. Baijiu – wiki says “after drinking it, most people screw up their faces in an involuntary expression of pain and some even yell out.” – I HAVE to try this stuff! Edit: Baijiu (2008-09-03).
77. Hostess Fruit Pie – no idea what this is? Brand name in the ‘states? Probably.
78. Snail – popular starter at many restaurants.
79. Lapsang souchong – if Twinnings tea bags count.
80. Bellini – Kir Royale is as close as I’ve got.
81. Tom yum – I order hot & sour soup almost every time we eat chinese/taiwanese. Simply Asia in Lakeside and Sea Palace in the Waterfront.
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky – chocolate covered pretzel sticks, sure, but not the brand name Real Thing.
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash – I have several recipes.
88. Flowers – I always taste the garnish in lah-de-dah restaurants. Nasturtium, mostly.
89. Horse – Tanya couldn’t figure out why they put pictures of horses on the meat packages in France…
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. CatfishIn Zambia.
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox – I don’t think this travels well. I’ll have to visit New York
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta – on my “recipes to try” list.
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake – Badger, badger, badger, badger

Thanks, Andrew!

Edit : I’m regarding this list as a challenge. Starting with the stuff I can make or find locally (the Michelin restaurant will have to wait).

So nice, working with professionals for a change

So I swing past the Lumber City on my way from Lansdowne Boards. Go past the counter, ask “may I browse” (this is a big warehouse place, not your typical hardware store). Guy (Neville) sez “sure”.

Find stuff on the shelves that look like what I need, make mental note of standard sizes. Past the counter again, “dowels?” — “behind you” — “thanks”. Pick up dowel of possibly correct size for fixing toy boat project (don’t ask).

Back to counter, start waving hands “I need 12 x 96 meranti, about 1.2 meters”

N: “Stock size is 1.8 meters”
Yours Truly: “Good, one of those and 12 x 144 pine, same length, and meranti, 10mm thick, about this wide” (show with fingers)
N: “that’s 44mm”
YT: “Lekker“.

YT: “And BTW I saw you have Etimo postform tops, but I need something redder”
N: “Would that be Mahogany?”
YT: “Sounds good”
N: (grabs catalogue) “600 wide, 3.6 meter length will be R949, but we’d have to order”
YT: “Sharp sharp, do you cut to size?”
N: “Certainly”.

Picked up a sample of the mahogany. I can work with these guys.