Oh, what a night!!!…Thanksgiving nirvana…See our menu at the end of the post…

From left to right around the table:  Kathy, Janet, Steve, Don, Louise, Danie, Leon, Dawn, Uschi, Evan while Tom and I shared the end of the table.  Total in attendance: 12.

 “Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Good-sized turtle crossing the road at quite a pace.

It was definitely a night to remember.  Marloth Park friends, all who love the bush and its wildlife, enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal for the first time, except for Americans Kathy and Don.

Thanksgiving dinner on the veranda with friends.

Tom and I worked hard in the heat for two full days to get it all pulled together.  No doubt, I did the bulk of the cooking but he washes the cooking dishes; peeled two types of potatoes; helped with the pies; the veranda setup and so much more.  We’re quite a team at times like this.

The wine and cocktails flowed along with the lively conversation.

I can’t recall the last time we did a dinner for 12.  Surely, it was in our old lives sometime in 2012 before we left Minnesota on October 31st.  I’d forgotten how much work it is but the joy of sharing food, wine and conversation with great friends made it all worth it.

On the right, Evan, Uschi, Dawn and Leon.

Fortunately, everything came out well, although, at the last minute with a few items to reheat in the new microwave, we couldn’t get it to work.  With time running out to meet the 1930 hrs (7:30 pm) goal of sitting down to eat, I improvised and reheated the items on the stove and all was fine.


We were only off the dining time by 10 minutes.  It was wonderful to finally sit down and enjoy the enthusiasm of our guests over the unique flavors of the foods.

Each couple got their own roast stuffed chicken.

We’d given each couple an entire stuffed chicken with the many side dishes. After dinner, with all the leftovers still on the countertop, we handed each couple two takeaway containers to fill with their leftover chicken and any sides they wanted to take home for Sunday’s lunch or dinner.


It was fun and playful to see everyone partake in filling their takeaway containers (brought to us from Jabula by Dawn and Leon).  It reminded us of the many years we did the same with our family…take home leftovers and a pie.

Homemade cranberry sauce.

The full-sized pumpkin pies were lined up on the pool table ready for them to load up to take home along with their containers.  We served a separate larger pie after the meal so each couple could take home a complete full-sized pie.  We served whipped cream in the can with the pies.


It was hard for me not to take a taste of everything not only to ensure it all tasted good but, let’s face it, my resolve faded for the night and I actually ate a few items I’d never eat under normal circumstances.  At the end of the evening, I even went as far as having a small piece of the regular pumpkin pie.

On the left, a pan of extra stuffing, in the center, sweet potatoes (they are light colored here, not orange).

Today, with no leftover chicken but plenty of all the other sides, we’ll be roasting a “flattie” chicken, chicken livers and a couple of bone-in chicken breasts.  This will allow us to have full meals for the next few night’s dinners.  I don’t feel like cooking for a few days.


Of course, today, I’m back to my healthy way of eating and will only have chicken, lettuce salad and steamed spinach for tonight’s dinner while Tom will tackle the stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole and the homemade dinner rolls (he sure loves these!).  He’ll have pie for dessert and I’ve promised myself I will abstain.  

More stuffing.

Oh my gosh, there were so many dishes.  But, leave it to Louise to have arranged for Vusi to come this morning to do the dishes, clean the house and the veranda, putting everything back to its usual tidy and clean state.  


Tom had a hard time leaving the dishes overnight.  We always totally clean up after dinner.  But, after the two days of 40C (102F) temps and how busy we’d been, he loaded the dishwasher twice after awakening at 5:30 am this morning, lightening the work for Vusi.

Low carb mashed cauliflower.

This morning, I washed all the linen napkins, cleaned the countertops, did two loads of laundry and organized the refrigerator.   All we have to do for the rest of today is to make a salad and vegetables, cook the new chicken and have another excellent evening on the veranda.  A nap may be on the agenda since we didn’t get to bed until 1:30 am and both were awake before 5:00 am.


Last night, we had several visitors in the garden but were so preoccupied with our guests we didn’t pay as much attention to them as usual.  Tusker made an appearance along with our favorite warthog pair, two males, glued at the hip, Sigfreid and Roy.  We can’t tell them apart since they look identical (must be brothers) so we call each of them “Sigfreid and Roy.”  They both respond and did so last night during the party. 

Traditional green bean casserole.  Kathy brought the fried onions back from the US!  Thanks, Kathy!

On Friday night when we returned from Jabula, they were both cuddled up in the garden fast asleep.  They perked up when we arrived but waited patiently to see if we’d offer some pellets.  Of course, we did as we will again tonight.


As promised, here’s last night’s Thanksgiving dinner menu which we’d decorated and printed a copy of the menu for each couple to review in order to pace themselves:

Menu

Thanksgiving Dinner in the Bush

Sundowners with Light Snacks

Roasted chickens
Stuffing with Sausage, Mushrooms, Onions
Mashed Potatoes with Creamy Gravy
Buttery Mashed Cauliflower
Sweet Potatoes with Fresh Pineapple and Cinnamon
Broccoli Salad with Crunchy Almonds and Sultanas
Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onion Rings
Cranberry Sauce
Homemade dinner rolls
Pumpkin Pies

Whipped Cream Topping, if desired

Have a superb day!

__________________________________________



Photo from one year ago today, November 18, 2017:

A fluffed up version on an unknown bird Tom captured in Costa Rica.  For more details, please click here.

Yesterday’s pumpkin pie hell!….Thanksgiving celebration today…Pie photo below…

There is nothing that makes me laugh more…”Little” swimming in the cement pond!

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Bottlebrush flowers, along with others have begun to bloom in the park.

To name yesterday’s making and baking of eight pumpkin pies, “pumpkin pie hell” is putting it lightly.  The temp was as high as 40C (102F) for most of the day and one thing after another went wrong in making the pies.

Egyptian goose standing in shallow water at the river.

First, I must preface, I haven’t made a pumpkin pie since 2011, for our last Thanksgiving dinner in the US (except for last week’s “test pie”).  I didn’t have the proper kitchen equipment to make the beautiful looking pies I’d always made in the past.


In our old lives, we had 14 deep dish Pyrex glass pie pans which I’d collected over a number of years.  But, when sending family and friends home with their individual pie, I warned them if they didn’t return the glass pie pan, there’d be no “pie for them” in the future.  This worked.

Big Daddies, sharing pellets with each other and the zebras.

Since it makes no sense for us to invest in bakeware, instead we purchased the only pie pans we could find, the tin foil disposable variety.  I’d never made a pumpkin pie in one of these except for a few low carb cheesecakes a few months ago which didn’t present a problem.

The other issue was the Spar market ran out of the frozen pumpkin, the only source available.  We’d purchased all they had the prior week and they promised more would arrive this past week.  Didn’t happen.  This is Africa, after all.  We get it.  

A very muddy cape buffalo.

We tried a few other markets to no avail.  Pumpkin isn’t readily available in South Africa.  Why would it be?  Pumpkin pie is a US thing and it’s not as if there are lots of Americans around here, making Thanksgiving dinner.  

As a matter of fact, the only Americans we know or even talked to in the past nine months are friends Kathy and Don and long-term US residents Rita and Gerhard.

A big male lion a few days ago.

I decided to cook all the frozen pumpkin we had, measure the number of cups, figuring .41 liters (14 oz) per pie.  Fortunately, I had a one cup measure on hand and calculated I could make a total of eight pies.  We needed one for each of the other couples (four pies), two to serve after the meal and a two left over for Tom.  Whew!  That part worked out.

But, what a messy operation measuring from a big plastic container filled with mashed pumpkin. Next was the making of the pies.  Having no experience with tin foil pie pans, I made all the pie crusts from scratch, eight of them, one at a time, rolled the dough with a giant rolling pin Louise loaned me and prepared each of the crusts in the tin foil pans.

I believe this is an orange-breasted bush shrike.  Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Well, let’s get back to the weather for a moment.  It was a hot 40C (102F) and the pie crust dough was tricky to handle and get into each of the pie tins.  Plus, the usually easy part of neatly crimping the edges of the pie crust became nearly impossible.  I did the best I could.

Cape buffalo faces.

Once the crusts were prepared I lined them all on the counter and carefully and evenly filled each of the prepared pie crusts with the typically runny pumpkin pie filling I’d made.  The problem was when we attempted to lift the filled pies off the countertop to put them into the oven, the flimsy pie tins caused the liquid the spill out.

Mom and baby at the river’s edge.

With Tom helping, with his frustration level as high as the temperature, he devised a transfer system where we could add extras tins to the bottom of the pies, to increase the stability of the pan.  From there, it was a slow and laborious and in the process, I spilled several cups of the filling as a result of my usual clumsiness.


The oven cooks unevenly and without the metal crust edge protectors I usually used, the pie crust edges are uneven and overcooked in parts. But, that’s the way it is in this life, a lack of perfection but an abundance of joyfulness.  Not a bad trade-off, eh?

Here are my eight less-than-perfect pumpkin pies for tonight’s Thanksgiving dinner.  The pit in the bottom wight is low carb with an almond flour crust for Louise and Danie. They also loaned us the collection of serving pieces which will surely come to good use tonight.

Here is the photo of my pies, less than pretty, but hopefully will taste as good as the test pie a few days ago.  We’ll be back tomorrow with more food photos from our “Thanksgiving Dinner in the Bush.”

Here is the giant rolling pin I borrowed from Louise and Danie, previously used for rolling pizza crusts.  It’s weighted and very heavy, ideal for rolling pie crusts.  Also, in this photo are the takeaway containers Dawn and Leon provided, who’ll join us tonight, from Jabula Lodge & Restaurant where we had another fantastic dinner last night.

Have a a fabulous weekend!

_______________________________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, November 17, 2017:

Tom Lyman, you never cease to amaze me!  What a shot of the classic “Froot Loops” cereal (per Tom) Toucan, technically known as the Rainbow-billed Toucan, aka the Keel-billed Toucan (different than the Toucan in our previous post with the Fiery-billed Aracari Toucan as shown here) taken in our yard in Atenas, Costa Rica.  For more photos, please click here.

Halfway through our Marloth Park rental….Another dinner party for six…Back to my old ways?…

From this site“Flapping the ears can express excitement and joy. In turn, the beating of the ears on the skin can be heard. This sound causes other elephants to prick up their ears and to get in contact with the first elephant.  In hot weather, elephants use their ears primarily to cool down.”  We suspect it was cooling down with temps well into 40C (90F) on the day we took this photo.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This female kudu was comfortable eating carrots out of my hand.

This evening we’re having dinner guests only a few days prior to the two couples, Janet and Steve and Lynne and Mick, each takes off for their respective homes in the UK, staying for several months.  We’ll look forward to their return!

In the interim, Kathy and Don are returning to Marloth Park in a week and we’ll certainly enjoy spending time with them while they’re staying at their lovely home in Marloth Park.  Linda and Ken will return in June or thereabouts and we look forward to seeing them soon.

This is how it goes for many homeowners in Marloth Park, primarily based in other parts of the world, returning for one, two or three-month stints a few times a year.

The first thing we look for when driving along the river is elephants.

Many South Africans have homes in other parts of the country, also returning to Marloth as their part-time holiday home.  Few rent homes, like us.  Most own two or more homes, traveling back and forth between their various properties.

That life never appealed to us.  We’ve wanted to be free to travel to wherever we may choose, at any given time.  Did we contemplate having a home here, considering how much we love it?  Perhaps for one second. 

But then, the thought wafted away when we realize we’re most fulfilled continuing on this path of life-on-the-move,  one that works magically for who we are and who’ve we’ve become over these past years.  Why change what’s working so well and for which we’re ultimately fulfilled and happy?

We spotted this elephant from the overlook shelter along the river a few days ago

In the interim, Louise informed us, if we’d like we can stay in this same house, named “Orange…More than Just a Colour” for our entire remaining year until we board a ship one year from today, March 24, 2019, leaving for the US for another family visit. 

We had a choice to stay in this house or move to another house.  But, we like the house enough to stay another year, if Louise and the owners will have us.  We’ve offered to move out for certain periods, if they find other renters willing to pay more.  We can move on a dime!  Louise assures us that’s unlikely.

How do we feel about staying in one property for such an extended period?  Surprisingly, quite good.  Many of the animals have already come to know us and will continue to do so as time marches on.  The house is comfortable (we only use the main floor) and has literally everything we can possibly need.

Could this be a courting male and female?

Then, as we plan visits to other countries in Africa over this upcoming year, we’ll have a place to leave our stuff, packing only what we’ll need for the specific trip.  This gives us peace of mind and makes these side trips considerably easier.

This morning, up and at ’em early I started chopping and dicing for tonight’s dinner party.  Yesterday afternoon, I also did a little prep, making the remainder of today low key and easy. 

Entertaining in this lifestyle is very different from our former lives.  I used to put so much pressure on myself, planning elaborate meals and setting an elaborate table, often for many guests.

We often wonder about a lone elephant.  Is it a male that has been ejected from the family who now has to make his own way in life, finding a mate, to later be off on his own once again.

In this life, I plan easy homemade meals that don’t require endless hours of standing in the kitchen.  There’s no need to make vast numbers of appetizers, side dishes, and desserts.  No one here seems interested in desserts so I don’t bake as I would have years ago.

The best part is I don’t feel bad about cooking less elaborate meals.  I’ve changed so much over these past years, no longer striving to be the consummate hostess, finding simple delicious meals is ideal in the bush, whether made in a pot or on the braai (barbecue).

The only thing I miss is linen napkins.  The paper napkins sold in the area are small and flimsy.  Nothing is nicer than a cloth napkin for guests.  I guess I have to let that go. 

Waterbucks at the Crocodile River. 

Soon, we’ll jump in the new little blue car and head to the local market to buy more paper napkins, bringing the camera with us as always, perhaps seeing “someone” special along the way.

It’s a good life here.  There’s absolutely nothing that has disappointed us during these past six weeks since our arrival.  Often, when people “return” they’re expectations are so high they cannot be fulfilled.  For us, Marloth Park is more exciting than it was four years ago.

Maybe we’re wiser, more tolerant, and with fewer expectations after what we’ve learned during these past years.  We don’t fuss over the heat, the bugs and the days when few visitors stop by.  Its all a part of living in the bush in this very special place, unlike any other, anywhere in the world.  We’re grateful.

May your day find you feeling grateful and fulfilled.

_______________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, March 24, 2017:

A rare moment of a blue sky with rainy cloudy skies day after day since we’d arrived in Fairlight almost two weeks earlier.  For more Australia photos, please click here. It was four year ago today, on March 2, 2014, that we began posting this feature, “Photo from one year ago today.”