a B&B life...
Our children were all three still in primary school when we moved into Fairview. Within months I received my first paying guest and our children had to learn a new set of rules: ask before you take fruit out of the fruit bowl, tell me when you finish the juice or milk, no sport equipment lying around, no loud music, no loud shouting and the one that drove them to distraction - no telephone calls on my dedicated guest house telephone number! This was prior mobile telephones and even though we had a private number too, their friends would phone on the guest house number and that would not be tolerated as their teenage calls could go on for hours.
Apart from the frustrations we also had funny incidents - once my son ran into the breakfast room, changed the Gregorian Chant music that happened to be playing as 'soothing' background music and ran off to school with blazer tails dangling in the wind. When he came home I asked him why did he change my music? His answer: "Mom, I walked by, heard that freaky music and thought to myself - these poor people will never get their breakfast down listening to that".
We did learn that it was absolutely necessary for us to close down over Decembers (our summer holidays) so that the children could enjoy their home and yard without having to share it with outside guests. Now that they are married and we are grandparents it is still just as important to keep Fairview to ourselves for the period from mid-December to 5 January.
I believe that growing up in a guest house taught Eckart, Alex, and Nelleke very important life lessons: to be considerate, mind their manners, be hospitable, not to shy away from house chores, It also opened their minds to the big world out there where people have different accents, speak different languages, come from different cultural backgrounds. All three love traveling, cooking and are excellent hosts.
When our daughter moved into her first flat the two of us went to the factory shop in York Street to find a few basic items in their little 'reject' room. She was sitting flat on the floor, sorting the Wonki Ware into little piles of four. Di Marshall happened to walk in and gave her an amused smile at which the 18 year old, not knowing she was speaking to THE Di Marshall, started telling her what amazing crockery this was - pointing out the artistic designs, beautiful colours and delicate, yet durable quality of the items.
One of their bestsellers is called the lace design. They make this plate by pressing real lace into the soft clay before the plate is fired in the oven. Then, as it is placed in the oven, the lace design burns off, leaving behind a ghostly pattern. They are manufactured from non porous clay and the glazes are non toxic and lead free ; chip proof, oven, microwave and dishwasher friendly.
Her tableware is also used by the Swedish and British Royal families. The business also have outlets in UK, Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and Ireland . So there you are all the South Africans in London - go and look at the Wonki Ware in Harrods when you get homesick! You can also go to their website and order your items prior to coming to George. Address: 42 York St, George South, George, 6530.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 8.30 am to 5 pm.
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | Tel: +27 (0)44 884 1883
9 people sharing, 8 people asking, 7 agents phoning, 6 guests a-parking, 5 children swimming, 4 telephones ringing, 3 drop-ins knocking, 2 couples asking, 1 call for multitasking - and no golden eggs.
Yes, it's that time of the year again...
You have to understand - as much as I hate the start of blaring 'Jingle Bells, jingle bells,jingle bells' rocking in my ears while I'm shopping for our daily bread, eggs, bacon, mushrooms... IN OCTOBER! As much, do I love the advent of Christmas.
I light my 4 candles in anticipation of the last candle - one on each Sunday and the last candle we light on Christmas eve. I hang an advent wreath on our front door, I use my navy blue cloth napkins with the golden stars that my children helped me to stencil on when they were small. There is always a small Christmas tree - often one concocted with thorn tree branches. In Namibia (where we lived for 13 years) this is quite a traditional Christmas tree - the thorns are perfect to hang the tree decorations from and I also find the thorn tree symbolic of the thorn wreath that was put on Christ's head during the crucifixion.
Our friends in the northern hemisphere probably find it incomprehensible that we can have Christmas without snow, but yes that is our reality: Christmas day temperatures average about 27 degrees Celsius. Some people do the whole hot meal with turkey and gammon, others prefer to go the more sensible route of salads and cold meat or salads accompanied by meat grilled over the coals (a braai).
This year we will be spending Christmas on the Namibian coast, leaving Fairview in the capable hands of Thereasa. We will be accompanied by our two Namibian born children and their small families. Most of the time will be spent on the coast - a week in Walvis Bay where Desmond can windsurf to his heart's content and a week in Swakopmund where the children can play in the rock pools and the parents can laze under umbrellas.
And on that note we would like to wish all our guests (and potential new guests) a blessed Christmas season.
George is renowned as the Western Cape's Golf Capitol, with over 9 different golf courses within a 60 km radius of George.
The George Golf course is a beautifully manicured, 72 pars, 18-hole course, with bent greens
The Kingswood Golf Course consists of 18 holes over rolling fairways with undulating green
Originally designed by Gary Player, Fancourt’s Montagu course has developed into one of the finest 18-hole parkland layouts
Designed by Gary Player and named after the mountain range that forms its breath-taking backdrop, the course is pristinely conditioned to accommodate a large volume of players
Private membership to the Links Club affords the course and its facilities with a sense of exclusivity that befits a world-class golfing destination
Ernie Ells course designed 18-hole championship golf course and driving range.
VARIOUS GOLF COURSES BETWEEN 60 & 90 MINUTES’ DRIVE FROM GEORGE
Designed by Bob Grimsdell that was built over a period of two years.
Mosselbay is an 18-hole, par 72, links-style golf course with a 71 rating. Length: 5940m
Copyright © Philda Benkenstein All Rights Reserved
The peppadews growing at Fairview self-seeds and we find ourselves in a constant supply of these deliciously piquant little peppers. The green shaped ones will all turn red at some stage - I quite like the look of a combination of green and red in one jar. I use it in omelets, pasta dishes, in salad and stuffed with cream cheese it makes a lovely snack served with an ice-cold beer. When we lived in Shoal Lake in Canada, I had a Ukranian neighbour (Baba Stech) who taught me a thing or two about pickling, but a word of special thanks have to go to David Elston who got the plants from us, but took the pickling process to the next level. I gladly share my recipe with you:
Preparation: (Done the night before)
1kg red-ripe but firm little peppers
100g coarse salt
1. Dissolve the salt in the water. If you leave it overnight in a brine mixture, it will prevent the chilies from becoming soft over time once bottled. Do not use table salt as this could make them go cloudy, but make a simple soaking solution of about 100gram pickling salt or coarse sea salt on 1-liter water.
2. Like any chili/pepper the burn lies in the pips, so you can make it less sharp by cutting off the stem and scraping out the pips with a small spoon. You have to cut off the stem anyway to allow the pickling solution to get in. When pickling the Peppadews I use surgical gloves to protect my gentle hands :) but I've also heard that it helps to rub sunflower oil, or olive oil if you want to be wasteful, all over your hands as it forms a protective layer
3. Soak the prepared peppers overnight in the brine at room temperature. Make sure they're all in the brine by putting a plate on top.
4. The next morning you drain them, give a rinse with freshwater and now you're in business:
To Pickle I use my big stainless steel pot and add:
750ml white grape vinegar
600ml white granulated sugar
8 pieces (cherry-size) fresh ginger, peeled
8 cloves garlic, fresh, peeled
8 bay leaves
Method:5. Measure out all the pickling ingredients (except the little green chilies) into a large cooking pot, stir well over low heat until ALL the sugar has dissolved then bring to a rolling, foamy boil.
6. Add peppers and chilies, bring back to the boil and boil them for only about 1 minute.
7. First, fill the STERILE bottles with peppers and then fill to about 1.5cm from the top with the boiling liquid and seal while hot.
This you bring to the boil while stirring for the sugar to dissolve. When it is bubbling you add the Peppadews for about a minute and then start bottling:
You fill the jars with Peppadews, then ladle the pickling solution into about 1cm from the top, (push the peppers down to allow the solution to fill their cavities)
Re. the bottles/jars: your mother will heat the oven to 180°C and put the washed jars and lids in there for at least 10 minutes prior to bottling. I just pour boiling water over the lids and pop the glass jars 3 at a time into the microwave oven for a minute...
As a Guest House, I joined an accommodation bartering site called Swop and Stay. I love their website - the swops work on a point system (you do not have to stay with the establishment that you host) The automated swop process, once you have accepted the swop request, makes the process of gaining or losing points so much easier.
Swapping accommodation with fellow accommodation providers makes so much sense. Not only do we get to stay for free, but we also get to establish network opportunities and we get to learn from each other.
Which brings me to the topic of my blog post - why are we so averse to bartering ? If there is one thing that gets me hot under the collar it is when a prospective guest wants to bargain me down. Is it even fair to lower my price and in that way take the business away from another establishment and forcing them to lower their rates to the point where it is actually costing them to fill their rooms? I'm not exaggerating - I know of one B&B that cut her prices to the point where she was actually subsidizing the guests sleeping over - how crazy is that?)
Yet, I have just exchanged 3 boxes of wine from a well-known wine estate in exchange for a weekend's accommodation. Sitting down with a glass of excellent Pinotage, which we would otherwise never have sampled, as it falls into a price range we consider above our limit, I just realized what a clever concept this really is. It's a win-win situation Being a strictly a one-glass-girl already half a glass above my limit, I drew my laptop closer to research this bartering story further. That left Desmond obliged to sample the Pinotage further and his nods of encouragement at my excitement over the bartering system just became more encouraging as the level of the bottle dropped. Understand, this is a man who is cheeky enough to walk down to the corner deli with a bag of homegrown peppadews and come to an agreement to exchange it for our daily bread and milk! According to him, he was just desperate because I was too lazy to bottle his abundant harvest of peppadews, but that's a story for another day...
The definition for bartering reads: Bartering is a trading system in which you offer products in return for credits to purchase other products and services in your barter group. An American girl innocently required: "i'm doing a travel project for school and i need to know if you have to barter in South Africa? " (At least she had the good sense to use capital letters for South Africa...)
To this naive question she received two rather indignant replies: "NO, we do not barter! South Africa has a very well developed economic system, while the country was very socialist during Apartheid, the country is now far more free market. We have our own currency, the Rand. We also have one of the best banking systems in the world."
"We aren't a group of uneducated idiots who live in huts and hunt lions... We actually have a currency, its called the Rand." And then from someone calling himself Bob Mugabe: "I do not barter. I take." Well, it's certainly true that we have a well developed financial system here in South Africa and we rarely barter, but perhaps we should not be so quick to turn up our noses at the time-honored tradition of bartering. I have come to the conclusion that a good barter system must have the following:
I'm sold on the idea of bartering! But not on bargaining my rates down. I have recently been asked to quote for a one-night booking for the 1st of January - giving my 'best price'. Why would I give a discounted rate for a one-night booking on a public holiday when I have to pay double time to my staff -surely that should make no sense even to the person requesting a 'best price'?
In the winter it actually costs me more to run my guest house - the rooms need heaters, electric blankets, and the linen have to be tumble dried- so why should I lower my rates in the off-season?
Bargain, no. Barter, YES!
Does the world really need another pancake recipe, is a good question to ask at this stage... I thought I'd share my story of how I became known as the 'pancake-asaurus' in our family. Yes, that was one of those little family words that we took the liberty of making up based on the amount of fluffy Canadian pancakes I could pack away, leaving my bigger brothers in the dust at age three. As I've mentioned on my blog before, my childhood was filled with vibrant adventures with my family that took us from living in a desert country on the West Coast of Africa to a small village in Canada where my father worked as a doctor. If there's one thing that the Canadians added to our quirky array of culinary favourites it is breakfast pancakes with maple syrup and bacon. To this day when we have family gatherings it usually involves my father (who's specialties include this, and cooking fish to absolute perfection) to don my mother's apron and get his hands dirty
[caption id="attachment_16201" align="aligncenter" width="756"] Delicious pancakes with bacon, blueberries and maple syrup flowing down the sides on vintage floral plate, delicious indulgent breakfast[/caption]So, living back in Southern Africa today we take it upon ourselves to educate our friends and family about the absolute wonder that is pure, imported maple syrup combined with salty bacon and a knob of melted butter. Even my husband has had to resolve himself to the fact that this is one bit of Canada he can't get out of me and he's embraced it to become part of our repertoire. I must say, my husband and I have added fresh berries and Bulgarian yoghurt to the mix. Yes, that's Bulgarian yoghurt with bacon, I know what you are thinking... So on that note, if you haven't tried this combination, I'd strongly recommend it. Here's a delicious recipe for buttermilk pancakes I love to make:
Canadian Buttermilk Pancakes (Makes 14 portions) Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp (45 ml) granulated sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
1 tsp (5 ml) baking soda
1/4 tsp (1 ml) salt
1 3/4 cups (425 ml) buttermilk
2 tbsp (30 ml) butter, melted
2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla
1 tbsp (15 ml) canola oil
Method: In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, butter and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and whisk until combined and smooth. Lightly brush large nonstick pan with some of the oil. Heat the pan over medium-high heat. Using a 1/4 cup per pancake, pour the batter into the pan and allow it to spread slightly to form pancakes. Cook until bubbles appear on top, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 1 minute. Transfer to a platter, cover and keep warm at 120°C in the oven.
Both Desmond and I grew up with mothers who made Ginger beer and Grenadilla cordial as a summer cool drink. The drink was only allowed to brew to make it fizzy and non-alcoholic (although I do remember becoming quite tipsy once because I scoffed down the delicious swollen raisins that I was supposed to discard!)
Desmond's mother often made Grenadilla Cordial and looking at our harvest this year the guests will be treated to Grenadilla cordial in a big way:
For every 2 cups of Grenadilla pulp, you add the juice of 3 oranges and 1 lemon. Heat 3 cups of water and dissolve 2 cups of sugar to make a thin syrup. You then add the fruit to the syrup and bottle it. It is very good diluted with soda water and ice. And a shot of Vodka and a mint leave will turn it into a summer Cocktail!
My mother made delicious Pineapple beer. She only used the rind and core, but you can use one whole small pineapple :
You will need 1 small pineapple, 2-liter water and sugar to taste.
Wash the pineapple and cut it chunks before you crush the whole lot, skin and all, in a blender or food processor (my mother used an old fashioned hand operated meat grinder) Pour the water over it and allow to stand for 12 to 16 hours at room temperature. At this stage it will smell like Pineapple beer and small bubbles will form. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Pour it through a very fine sieve (I still use 'cheese-cloth') and pour it in bottles, being careful not to fill the bottle to the top - leave about 5 cm gap to allow for the natural fermentation that will take place. Seal the bottles and leave in a cool pantry or similar spot for about 24 hours before you put it in the fridge to cool for the most refreshing summer drink you can imagine.
You will need 250-gram raisins (with pips), 750 ml water, 1 kg sugar, 40 gram crushed ginger, 7-liter cold water, and 12,5 ml tartaric acid (wynsteensuur in Afrikaans).
Keep a handful of raisins aside, then boil the rest of raisins in 750 ml water for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and squash the raisins. Pour into a glass jug, cover with a clean cloth and leave in a warm place until the raisins move to the top. Remove the raisins, set the starter fluid (called 'mos') aside and start the next phase:
Heat 1 kg sugar, the ginger and 7 liters of water to boiling point and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Allow it to cool down (it must still be warm though) Add the handful of raisins that you initially kept aside, add the 12,5 ml wine acid and the starter fluid/'mos' to the sugar water. Leave it overnight.
When it starts to form bubbles you pour it through a fine sieve or 'cheesecloth' to remove the grapes and ginger. Pour into bottles (allowing about 3 cm below the cork or bottle cap) It will keep for a few days in the fridge.
One year Desmond and I traveled to the west coast to look at veld flowers and we bought the most delicious iced tea from the local VLV ladies. To our surprise we found the "recipe" to be quite simple: they merely cooled off strong Rooibos tea which they mixed to taste with apple juice! Add a few slices of lemon juice and you'll be drinking summer!
Guests at Fairview are treated to my homemade grape juice in summer. I harvest the Catawba grapes from the vine above our front stoep, simply putting it in my blender with some Rooibos tea added after I've given it a good wash (Desmond doesn't spray the grapes, we, therefore, have little spiders and other goggos on it) This is then poured onto a muslin lined strainer and left to run through (helped along by pressing down with the back of a wooden spoon every now and then) At the beginning of the season the grapes are not all that sweet yet and I have to add sugar to taste. I also add about 5 ml of grenadine to enhance the colour. Two years ago Desmond tried his hand at making home-made wine from the grapes. Unfortunately, that ended as a good vinegar, but as Desmond philosophically commented: rather a good vinegar than a bad wine!
In the Western Cape, we eat kerrievis during Easter. If you are not as lucky as I am to be married to a fisherman and to have two sons and a son-in-law not too shabby with a fishing rod either, then hake from your fishmonger will have to do. Over the years I have tried many traditional recipes, but I promise you that we have now honed it down to the best.
For the sauce you will need: 6 to 8 onions, 375 ml sugar , 2 tablespoons curry powder , 2 tablespoons turmeric , 2 teaspoons salt , half teaspoon coriander seeds , 4 star anise , 4 cumin seeds(crushed), 2 pieces of cassia , 2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger , 3 cups of brown grape vinegar , 1 cup of apple vinegar , 1 cup of water , 5 bay leaves.
Put all the ingredients in a pot and boil for 20 minutes. I like to thicken the sauce slightly by stirring in a paste made with 2 flat tablespoons of flour mixed with an extra 125 ml water.
In the meantime coat your fish fillet in flour and seasoning to taste. Then fry in oil and set aside.
Layer the fried fish with onion in sterilized bottles, cover the top with cling wrap to prevent the vinegar from reacting with lids, screw on and keep for at least 3 days
before the bottled fish will be ready. I sometimes just layer it in a flat glass dish, cover the whole lot with cling wrap and leave in the fridge for 3 days before eating.
About the blog
This is the story of our house, lovingly restored and shared with guests and family since 1995.