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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Safari

I’ve been wanting to do a safari for over 20 years and it didn’t disappoint in the least. Our lodge, Simbambili, in the Sabi Sands area was so beautiful. We arrived at 3:30 and by 4:00 were off on our first game drive. Each morning we wake up at 5:30 throw on some clothes, have a sip of coffee and by 6am as the sun is coming up you are off for a 3 hour drive. Back for breakfast then a well earned lounge on our amazing, private veranda. Took some great naps on a huge comfortable bed on a shady part as the occasional impala wanders by. Lunch and by 4:00 you are back out for another 3 hour ride this one including sunsets and a sky full of stars. 
Dinner is different each night. One night just us two, another we sat with our Jeep group and guide, a 3rd out in the bush under the stars. 

A portion of a perfect safari is luck. You are with the same  ranger\guide and tracker for the whole visit. Ours, Justin and Willis, were incredible. Our first 2 rides we were alone but were then joined by 2 other couples. Luckily, the 6 of us adored each other, and had a fantastic time together. Our weather was also great. Cool in the mornings, perfect for a coat and blanket, mid day we layer out in shorts and tea shirts and cool again after sunset. 
The landscape is breathtaking. The trees unlike anything I’ve seen and the light, especially at sunset and sunrise, has to be seen. I kept wishing I could scoop up all my artist friends and bring them here to see it. And the stars! They have different constellations than at home. I saw the Southern Cross! And Venus. 

And the animals...I’m sure you’ve all seen the pictures but it’s hard to comprehend how majestic they are and how close you get. Again, luck. We were the only ones in our Jeep who saw elephants; a huge herd that walked right in front of us. Plus giraffes, zebras, a pack of wild dogs, and so many leopards and lions including 3 males. We saw a pride of females with cubs take down and tear apart a warthog.  And a leopard rip open a newly killed gazelle. The sounds and smells are unforgettable. 
It’s easy to see why people fall in love with Africa and want to return.

cindy-follow on twitter@css1222 or cindy-randomthinking.blogspot.com

Friday, April 27, 2018

Cape Town

Here’s my days in Cape Town. Check out my Twitter or Facebook for pics 

Arrived in Johannesburg  after a long flight which thanks to a combo of leaving during the day rather than late at night and 2 babies who took turns screaming non stop for 14 hours, involved little to no sleep. Then an easy flight to Cape Town. Loved our hotel, the Queen Victoria. Amazing large beautiful room with a view of Table Mt. Great location very close, 3 min walk, to Waterfront but not directly in it. Wandered the Waterfront and had dinner in one of the tourist seafood restaurants overlooking the water which was actually delicious. 
The dollar is strong here so everything seems relatively inexpensive, especially after London! Uber’s are abundant and so cheap. $3-$5 to get anywhere.  

The next day took a great historic walking tour, then as the clouds cleared and the sun came up went off to Table Mt. While it was busy the ticket buying and cable car process was easy and quite efficient. It was lovely though I of course stayed in center while Ken wandered around!

That night was Test Kitchen which is one of the more difficult reservations to ever get. It’s very small, about 24 people and the Chef has gotten quite famous. We were very excited to get the reservation. Lots of hype which makes it hard as your expectations are so high. We ate at the chefs counter which we like doing. Set price, multiple courses, and we got the wine paring which was just 3 glasses.  We have eaten 2 of theses types of meals in Spain and they were magical. Here everything was quite good but over all we were underwhelmed. Nothing blew us away. Also, weirdly the wine pouring was so insanely small I thought I was just being given a taste! They did add a little more when I asked but it felt a it odd to have to ask for more. Still nice night. 

The next day we had a private Peninsula tour where you drive down one coast and up the other. As with our other days the weather was beautiful, sunny but mid to high 60s. Perfect for touring. Awesome guide and the great thing about it just being the 3 of us was that we got to spend hours leaning about life in South Africa both pre and post apartheid and how the different generations have coped with such a changing society. And we saw the Cape of Good Hope and penguins!  
The next day was our wine day. We got picked up ( private guide-just us) at 9am and by 10:30 were drinking champagne. Completely different experience than Napa where we took tours of the wine making process and then had tastings at counters. Here each vineyard had a breathtaking beautiful lodge or dining room where you sat at a table and were brought wines. While our guide does many types of tours in this area his passion is wine and is quite friendly with all the winemakers. Attempted to learn a lot while drinking many glasses of wine. He grew up in Zimbabwe and is married with 2 daughters so got another fascinating perspective on life there and here. 

Our last day we took a walking tour focused on Apartheid, what it was like living under it and through it’s end. Our young tour guide, 29, gave us a different ,wonderful and personal perspective. For me learning so much about this country thru so many different eyes was one of the highlights. 

We then went to the Jewish museum which was really 3 buildings in one area. We saw the existing synagogue which is quite active with many young families. It’s Orthodox with a woman’s balcony. But since most members live outside Cape Town they do drive on Shabbat! 
Almost all Cape Town Jews came from Lithuania. Despite being a small percentage of the population there have been 13 Jewish mayors including a father and son named Bloomberg. Yes direct relation to nyc Mayor Bloomberg. 
There is also a museum explaining the history of the Cape Town Jewish community. Some things are the same everywhere. They began as poor peddlers with pushcarts and went on to open department stores! 
Also a Holocaust museum where 2 school groups were visiting. All schools in Cape Town visit this museum which was wonderful to see. 

Incredible meal that night. The Belmond Nelson hotel, an old elegant hotel sets up 2-3 tables in the kitchen and also has 3 seats at a counter. We sat at the counter. There were 5 courses in the menu plus 3 surprise courses. A different chef brings you each course and explains how he made it and also his inspiration for creating it. Plus they all chat with you while cooking. This wine paring was full glasses of wonderful wine. We ate way too much food. 


Left the next morning for safari which I’ll save for later on in the week.

cindy-follow on twitter@css1222 or cindy-randomthinking.blogspot.com

Saturday, December 30, 2017

On the wrong side of #metoo


Once upon a time, many years ago, in college, I had 3 roommates; 2 guys and another girl. I had known the guys for several years and the girl more recently. They didn’t know each other at all. All was well until the guys sense of humor and teasing became too much /not funny for her. She moved out. That seemed OK. We got another roommate.
Then she filed a restraining order and everything went beyond insane. 
My best friend, one of the guys’ girlfriends, and I became labeled as supporters of the enemy, the evil male harassers.  The female roommate was labeled a feminist hero or a crazy bitch depending on your crowd. It was confusing. And horrible. Nothing made sense. I loved my friends. They were just being silly guys. Or was I blind to the pain of another woman?

Eventually it all ended. And life went on. 

Until a few weeks ago. A politician I had admired for many years was accused of sexual harassment. I was stunned. And again, confused. This guy’s credentials were impeccable. He was a huge supporter of women’s and gay rights. He had dedicated his career to fighting for those in need; the poor, the sick, animals, and the environment.
And I had more than admired him from afar. I had volunteered on 2 of his campaigns, one quite recently. I had spent several hours in his company and never heard or saw anything that seemed inappropriate. The more time I spent with him the more I liked and admired him.

Yes, he had a wickedly funny sense of humor but nothing those of us with funny friends or coworkers or family members haven’t experienced. Maybe just funnier.

And I started to wonder...was it wrong to think there is a difference between physical touching, exposure, or having ones’ job threatened and hearing jokes we don’t think are funny?  I hadn’t heard any inappropriate humor from him but it doesn’t seem unreasonable that it might have occurred. I can’t think of one job I ever had in which off color humor didn’t occur. Hasn’t every adult who has worked? Sometimes you laughed and sometimes you groaned. Is that so terrible?

And does even thinking that, much less saying it out loud, put me on the wrong side of this issue? Does questioning what I read, does feeling confused make me insensitive to the pain of others? If I didn’t know this person, if I didn’t like his politics, would I ever question the statements of another woman? Have I thrown away all my feminist ideals because once again the accused is someone I know and like?

Is there even an answer?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Easy ways to speak out & be heard...


A friend fell in Philadelphia on the day of the GOP visit. Three sparkly unicorns rushed over to help her up. This week I, and I suspect many of us, has felt like laying down on the sidewalk and just waiting for a sparkly unicorn to help us back up. 

So, while we are waiting here’s some concrete things you can do. Hopefully, like me, you will feel better doing something positive. Most of this was ‘borrowed’ from Daylin Leach. So major thanks to him. 

The Indivisible Guide was written by former Congressional staffers to help you understand how Congress works and how you can affect it. You can use their website’s “Local Groups” feature to find local groups close to home. (https://www.indivisibleguide.com/)

Pick a site to get daily or weekly action alerts about how you can affect what’s happening in Washington D.C.  I’m using  Countable (https://www.countable.us/) , but Daily Action, re:act, and The 65 are all equally good. 

Few things are more effective than calls to your legislators to advocate for issues you care about.  I signed up for Five Calls. (https://5calls.org/)
The website lists current issues, displays your legislators’ contact information, and provides you with a sample script for each issue. Give it a try.

Volunteer or donate to prominent groups that will put up a fight: American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, are a few good ones. 

Help the press hold leaders accountable by subscribing to media outlets that do investigative journalism: ProPublica, New York Times, and Washington Post are reliable.

Over five million people around the world participated in the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st. Help continue their good efforts by signing up for their fist 100 days of action. (https://www.womensmarch.com/100). See what they’re doing and join in.

Perhaps we can be our own sparkly unicorn. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Daylin's Resistance Forum...


I had the pleasure of attending Pa. State Senator Daylin Leach’s Resistance Forum last Wednesday and thought I’d share some of what I heard and thought.

First, so wonderful that over 800 people showed up. It’s attendance like that along with watching the tens of thousands of people marching in cities all over the world today that give me hope and reassure me that this country is still a wonderful place. The last eight years have been so moving we just forgot that progress is almost always two steps forward and one (sometimes big) step back.

If you have never had the pleasure of hearing Daylin Leach speak I highly suggest remedying that as soon as possible. In addition to hearing him speak on a few occasions I was also privileged to volunteer for him when he ran for Alyson Schwartz’s Congressional seat in 2014.   He is smart, funny, dedicated, authentic and determined; attributes all too rare in today’s politics.

Some major take aways…

Should I panic?

While it’s important to not lose hope your fear isn’t unwarranted. Democracies can fail. Two current signs that our democracy is being threatened.

One.  Attempts by those in power to undermine and de-legitimize the media by calling them names and limiting their access to power.
A free press isn’t free. Investigative reporting costs money. Subscribe to a respected newspaper. If you can, subscribe to two. Do not circulate false or un-substantiated news stories even if they support your world view.  

Two. The threatening of violence against those who speak out.

 Stand up for those who need it. You can do this by volunteering for organizations who help those most threatened by the current political climate (immigrants, Muslims, women, the Earth). If you can’t give one day a week, or one day a month, then write a check. The amount matters less than the act of giving. Organizations that can show a wide level of support from their community find it easier to obtain grants.

How can I effectively make a Difference?

The government was designed with a system of checks and balances. Currently, we have a single party in control of two branches of the federal government, the majority of the governors’ offices and state legislatures. SO the only checks have to come from the people. Citizen activism works.
Facebook, tweets, online petitions are fine but the most effective method is direct contact with your Representative.

Your representatives are concerned with being re-elected. They pay attention to the voices of their constituents. So, let them know when you object to something and when you approve of something. You don’t need to be an expert on the topic. Simply call, identify yourself as a voter in their district and (briefly) tell the staffer answering the phone how you feel. They count the contacts and let the Rep know.
Even better than a phone call is a visit to their office or showing up at their town hall meeting or any public appearance.

When you speak out, in public, online, or among friends, focus on policy not on your personal feelings about a public figure. Focus on the gaps between promises made and actions being taken.  Remember that there is a difference between what offends people and what affects them. Focus on what affects them.

And as one speaker reminded us, if you don’t think one person can make a difference remember David took down a giant with only a small pebble and a sling shot.

Not sure who your Congressional Representative is or how to contact them? Use this link:

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/


Saturday, March 5, 2016

How to pick a President

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I try not to write bout the presidential election too early, or it can become a never-ending process. Oh to be English and have an election season that lasts a few months.

But here are a few early thoughts…

In some ways picking a President can be like choosing your dream date. When we are young we long for the movie star glamour of a JFK. A few years older we fall for the Southern charm with a healthy dose of the bad boy swagger of a Bill. Later we move on to the cool, intellectual hipness of Barack. Most of these relationships have turned out OK. Sure, there have been a few heartaches, and some tears, but all in all not too bad. 

But, as a country, we are now over 240 years old. We are no longer a dreamy youngster or a rebellious teen who doesn’t need to think beyond our own bedroom or lunch table. Governing this country has gotten more difficult and more complicated. And we no longer have the luxury of governing in isolation. Decisions have global impact. 

So it’s time to get serious.   Its time to, at least for now, put away our stilettos and lace up some solid sneakers. It’s time to throw out the mozzarella sticks and eat a healthy salad. It’s time to shelve the fairy tales and open a newspaper. Its time to turn off reality TV and turn on the news. Real, unbiased news if you can find any. 
It’s time to put away the tequila and…no scratch that, we may still need the tequila.
It’s time to elect an adult.

So lets say you are hiring someone to take charge of your third generation family business. What are you looking for? I suspect someone fun, entertaining or who just tells you what you want to hear isn’t at the top of the list. But what is?

 I’d start with someone with experience. Would you hire someone to run your factory if they had no experience in manufacturing? What else do you want? I’m guessing someone smart, articulate and calm. No one wants to trust his or her company to a hot head or someone who talks without thinking. They should have a clear, realistic and detailed plan of how they will keep your company prosperous. Not just vague promises. 

Lets assume the person running your company has to deal with employees, other business leaders and the general public. So you want someone who is comfortable with people who may not think like or look like them. 
The government isn’t a dictatorship. Perhaps your company has a board of directors or a union. You are going to need someone who is persuasive, pragmatic and understands how and when to compromise. 

You also want someone who reflects your company’s values of fairness, honesty and decency. After all, they are your face to the world. 

So when you are deciding whom you want to run the country should you look for anything less?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spain Trip: Report Part Three: Food


Food
We loved the food in Spain. Our favorite was to go to a tapas restaurant, sit at a small table and order lots of small things plus glasses of the wonderful local Spanish wine.  On other nights we would go from tapas bar to tapas bar, order one or two things and a glass of wine before moving on to another place. This was a very fun way to eat and a nice way to taste a variety of things. We found the prices in Spain, especially Seville & Madrid very inexpensive. At the best tapas place in Seville we had 5-6 items, and 5 glasses of wine. The total price was 38 Euros! At $1.08 per euro, it was quite a bargain. 
We did have two special meals, one in Madrid, one in Barcelona. Here are the details!
In Madrid we ate at DStage, owned by chef Diego Guerrero's who had previously earned 2 Michelin stars while working at Madrid's El Club Allard.
We took the smaller 10-course tasting menu option that was actually closer to 15. I'll just describe a few
You start seated on a sofa in the bar area where they bring you a wooden box filled with seaweed, and liquid nitrogen so a white steamy fog is coming out if it. Nestled in the box are 2 oyster shells each with what looks like an oyster but is really a scallop. Amazing.

Then you walk into the next room and stand at the waist high counter of the open kitchen.  We were lucky and had Diego himself rather than one of the sous chefs. spend 10 mins with us assembling our next dish. Working on top of what looks like a small slab of pink marble but is really a solid piece of pink salt he assembles (and explains) layers of fish and sauce.. Everything is one bite. And amazing. By now, I had fallen in love with the chef and was contemplating leaving my husband and running away with him. I’m not sure how he felt.
After eating that you sit down at a table extremely close to the open kitchen. In between courses you can walk up to the counter and watch or ask questions. Each dish is assembled in some way at your table. For example, if it has herbs they are cut in front of you with little scissors.!
I did learn that taking the wine pairings was a bad idea!  We had done that once or twice before and it usually involves a few glasses of wine. This pairing was a shot of rum with a special juice, several types of white and red wine, very strong and amazing sake, very strong Spanish sherry and then dessert wine. I was not feeling so well the next day!
For more details feel free to check out this article.

In Barcelona we ate at Disfrutar a restaurant opened in 2014 by three former head chefs from El Bulli, , which had closed in 2011. There we took the larger 25-course menu. This time we ordered a bottle of Spanish red! The place, like Dstage, had an open kitchen and a industrial feel. It was larger than Dstage so you were seated in a room adjacent to the kitchen rather than directly in front of it. This was a Saturday night and in Barcelona so the scene was also different. From 8:30-9:00 we were the only people in the restaurant. Around 9:00-9:30 most people came though several tables didn’t fill until after 10. The crowd was wealthy and well dressed. The food is almost impossible to describe. After course number 4 or 5 we realized we could only take a few bites of each dish or we would never make it. Many of the dishes look like one thing, but taste like something else. Two beautiful balls of meringue explode in a beet puree. A roasted red pepper turns out to be solid chocolate. A small clear plastic bag filed with pine nuts and basil gets plunged in a warm soup of Parmesan cheese and becomes a transparent ravioli. It was definitely once in a lifetime experience. If you want to see pictures check out this article.
http://www.gastroeconomy.com/2015/01/disfrutar-ex-bulli-teams-restaurant/