Come see the gifts we’ve received for Christmas…Tom’s Irish Cream Recipe…Christmas in the bush…

With no Poinsettias for us this year, we revel in the beauty of this flower that we encountered on a walk in the area.

In our old lives, Christmas was a time to celebrate life, family, friends, and the powerful message the holiday season represents for many. There was nothing spared in the preparation of this special time of the year. 

A flaming sky at sunset is a gift.

For almost 20 years Tom made his well-received over 100 bottles of Lyman’s Irish Cream (see recipe below) to give to friends and family while I spent endless hours decorating, sending cards, wrapping gifts (mostly purchased online), baking, cooking, and entertaining.

A baby duiker on wobbly legs warms our hearts.

Each year we’d receive tons of cards, which we displayed during the Christmas season, saving them until the following year. The next year, I’d cut them into shapes befitting the card’s design punching a small hole in a corner, inserting a satin ribbon for them to be used as gift tags. 

A curious baby zebra at our door.
We all have traditions that bring us comfort in their familiarity. As a family, the participants in the traditions, look forward to their implementation with little concern for their redundancy or silliness.
A mama duiker, standing watch.

Last year, we spent Christmas in Henderson, Nevada, renting a spacious vacation home, with 19 in attendance on Christmas Day. It was a memorable time, as we were only days away from leaving the US to begin our worldwide journey on January 3, 2013. 

A Giraffe we encountered on the road on a cloudy day.  Notice the three Oxpeckers (birds) on its neck eating off the insects and one flying off its head.  Seeing this was a gift.

Tom’s birthday is on December 23rd, an unconscionable time of the year for a birthday. Over the years, I made every effort to make it a special time for him as well, wrapping his gifts in birthday, not Christmas paper, planning festivities unrelated to the holidays, often not easy to do. 

A rank of impalas, very sensitive to sound and movement, kept us practically holding our breath when they appeared in our yard.

He shared the same birthday with our dearest friend and neighbor Chip whom we lost a year and a half ago.  Over the years, together with his wife Sue, the four of us celebrated birthdays, times we’ll never forget.

This is the cactus plant from which we took the above flower photo.  In our old lives, our Christmas cactus would often bloom.  This will do as an alternative.

By this time each year, all the festivities were planned, the gifts were wrapped and under the tree, the cookies were baked and placed in colorful tins and Tom had attended or was about to attend his railroad union Christmas party. My various annual “girlfriends only” Christmas luncheons had occurred and all that remained was the sharing of the meals with family and friends as Christmas edged its way in and of course, the always fun-filled gift opening.

A glimpse of the sunset from our veranda.

So, here we are, Christmas in the African bush, the South African bush to be precise, surrounded by nature, a Skype call away from contact with family and friends without a single card or gift, decorated tree, or homemade cookies. 

A joy to behold such beauty.

This is our first Christmas outside the US. How do we feel about that? We don’t feel alone. We’re surrounded by nature. If someone had told me years ago, that I had to forgo all of my usual holiday activities to sit at home without family around us, a tree, gifts, or homemade treats, I’d have gone kicking and screaming.

Certainly no “partridge in a pear tree” we delight in the simple beauty of this bird visitor.

Now, here in Marloth Park at Christmas time and for Tom’s birthday, we are at peace. The thought of all the work we used to do makes us cringe. The thought of being with our adult children and their families next year in Hawaii makes us smile. Yes, we are at peace.

Not quite, “Three French hens,” instead we have three Helmeted Guinea-fowl that visits us daily.

Living in Marloth Park is a gift, God’s creatures all around us, nature at it’s finest. We are thankful that in our senior years we are given an opportunity to engage in an entirely different Christmas season, one that isn’t about our somewhat selfish objectives to “get everything done” based on our own outrageous expectations.

The sun finally came out to reveal the moon and blue sky.  Heavenly.

Instead, we simply watch, wait and marvel as the visitors and lush vegetation surrounds us whether we’re lounging on the veranda as we’re doing at the moment, on a short drive to dinner, on a game drive, a bush dinner, or a walk in the area. For us, this is the gift that keeps giving… and giving… and giving.

Merry Christmas to all.

Tom Lyman’s Irish Cream (Bailey’s)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 pint half and half cream
3 pasteurized eggs (important for safety)
1/8 teaspoon coconut extract
1 T. chocolate syrup
1 cup whiskey
Blend in a blender for 2 minutes, then add the 1 cup whiskey. Blend for another 30 seconds. 
Pour into a clean glass bottle with tight-fitting cork. (Use your empty wine bottles after they’ve been washed in the dishwasher).
Make 1 1/2 wine bottles, enough for sipping while making. Recipe doubles for more easily.

Keeps fresh for 30 days in the refrigerator.

Jess’s Poppy Seed Strudel Recipe and Tom’s Homemade Irish Cream recipe…

We made 5 giant Poppy Seed Strudels today, rolling the dough with a tall bottle of flavored water.

With guests arriving soon for the holidays, it was time to put aside my culinary restrictions and start baking for those that do enjoy high carb, sugary, mouth-watering pastries and baked goods so appropriate this time of year.

One of our favorites is an eastern European recipe for Poppy Seed Strudel, Tom’s favorite, having missed it over the past year and a half on our restricted way of eating. 

I love this delectable pastry beyond words, a slice warmed in the microwave, covered with unsalted butter.  Unfortunately, I consumed very little in the past knowing it could cause a spike in blood sugar.  Now I will have none of it, not a taste.  My health is more important, especially now that we are only 13 days away from leaving the US.

So here is the recipe reminiscent of Tom’s childhood, found online some years ago (no creation of mine, other than pulling it all together).  It’s really not hard to make.  The prep time to make this entire recipe is less than two hours.

We have no rolling pin here.  Stubborn, I won’t buy one and will use a tall skinny bottle of chilled flavored water to roll the dough. It doesn’t have to be rolled very thin, so this will work. There was no small mixing bowl either here, either so I used a soup bowl to mix the yeast and warmed milk. Oh well.
(We also noted the lack of a potato peeler this morning.  My sister Julie is bringing one from LA!).

Poppy Seed Bread (Strudel) Recipe – Makowiec

An Eastern European dessert table would invariably include something sweet made with poppy seeds, either ground or whole. This poppy seed strudel is made with a yeast dough and is known as makowiec (mah-KOH-vyets) in Polish. Canned poppy seed paste is available in the ethnic or the baking aisle of most supermarkets. 

Makes 2 Sweet Polish Poppy Seed Breads
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours
      1 package active dry yeast
      2 cups warm milk
     8 cups all-purpose flour
     3/4 cup sugar
     1 teaspoon salt
      5 eggs
     4 ounces (1 stick) butter, melted
     3 (11-ounce) cans poppy seed filling
    4 cups powdered sugar
    1/4 cup 2% milk, starting with 1/4 cup milk until you have an easy to spread frosting
    1 tablespoon real vanilla


1.   In a small heatproof bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm milk.
2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, and eggs. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups warm milk, butter, and yeast mixture. With the paddle attachment, or by hand, beat until smooth. The dough will be sticky at this point.
3.  Scrape dough into a clean, greased bowl. Sprinkle the top with a little flour and cover. Let stand in a warm place for 1 hour or until double in size.
4.  Punch down dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a rectangle.
5.  Spread 1 can or half of the filling you made on each rectangle of dough and roll up like a jelly roll. Turn the ends under so the filling will not leak out.
6. Place on a parchment-lined or greased pan, cover, and let rise again until double in size.

 7.  Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush tops with additional melted butter. Bake 45 to 60        minutes or until strudels are golden brown.  Don’t let them get too brown.

8.  Remove from oven and cool. When totally cooled, neatly frost with the above frosting recipe, or use canned white frosting if preferred.

Over the years, Tom made dozens of bottles (over 150 wine sized bottles, one year) of this fabulous holiday treat. We’ve given them as gifts to family, friends, and co-workers nicely bottled, corked, and imprinted with a custom made Christmas labels.

Due to time constraints, we won’t be making it this year and wanted to share the recipe with our readers, many of whom have enjoyed this in the past. Here you go! Enjoy!

Tom Lyman’s Irish Cream (Equivalent to Bailey’s)

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1-pint ½ and ½ or real whipping cream

3 pasteurized eggs (important for safety)

1/8 teaspoon coconut extract

1 tablespoon chocolate syrup

1 cup Irish Whiskey or other bourbon or whiskey

Blend all ingredients in a blender for 2 minutes, then add 1 cup whiskey, measuring into the empty can of sweetened condensed milk in order to remove every last drop of the creamy sweetened condensed milk.

Blend for another 30 seconds. Pour in a glass bottle with a tight-fitting cork.

Keeps for 30 days in the refrigerator.

Should you decide to try either of these recipes or any other recipes we’ve posted, please don’t hesitate to email me with questions.  I check my inbox frequently and will get back to you quickly.

Ah, the holidays.  We love this time of year.  So much gratitude.  So much love. And of course, so much food!