AMARULA BALLS

My different take on rum balls to celebrate the festive season using Amarula Gold, a liquor of African origin. Enjoy, take care and I look forward to posting lots of interesting items in the new year. Cheers !

Amarula balls served in beautifully designed bowl by Ardmore Ceramics - more on Ardmore next year www.ardmore-ceramics.com.au
Amarula balls served in beautifully designed bowl by Ardmore Ceramics – will be featuring  Ardmore on my blog  next year  www.ardmore-ceramics.com.au

250g packet arrowroot biscuits; 3 tbspn’s cocoa powder;1/2 cup desiccated coconut;1 tspn vanilla essence ; 395g can sweetened  condensed milk

3/4 cup sultanas which have been marinated with amarula gold for 2 weeks (I just cover the sultanas with the liquor and then shake the jar every second day until sultanas become nice and plump)

3/4 cup extra coconut for coating

Place biscuits and cocoa in food processor and crush until fine

Pour into large bowl and stir in remaining ingredients except for extra coconut for coating

Roll mixture into balls (small makes 40  or larger balls will make 30)

Sprinkle coconut for coating onto a plate and roll balls in coconut.

Refrigerate in an airtight container in the fridge.

Absolutely delicious to enjoy at any time of the day!

Lapland’s Christmas Magic

As the Christmas season is here in full force I am going to depart from writing about Africa for a moment  and introduce a post about my experience in Santa’s home of Rovaniemi, right on the Arctic Circle in the heart of northern Finland. This region  known as Lapland  is populated largely by the indigenous Sami people .

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Growing up in Sydney I always believed in Santa Clause as what’s life without a little magic and imagination? I wanted my child to experience some Christmas Magic so  in December 2011 we set off for Santa’s Village  situated almost at the top of the world.

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Our journey took us from Sydney via Tokyo where we spent a few days checking out Disney, admiring temples and eating  delicious Japanese food .

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Next stop was Helsinki – a low rise city of stunning architecture set on the Baltic Sea. We explored every nook and cranny for a week taking opportunities to travel to the delightful town of Porvoo and crossed the Baltic to Tallin in  Estonia for 2 nights. Tallin’s  old  town is where the Christmas markets are held which are stunning to photograph and experience. Loved it all and would go again in a heartbeat.

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Porvoo is finland’s second oldest town 50km’s east of Helsinki
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Beautiful pastel coloured buildings line the river
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One of the streets leading to Tallins Christmas market

Next stop was Rovaniemi where we arrived at eleven just as the sun was rising! We stayed at Santa Claus Village which was not far from the airport  in a well equipped cabin complete with Finnish sauna on the edge of the forest for the next 4 magical nights.

Our cabin complete with Christmas tree and sled
Our cabin complete with Christmas tree and sled

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The following days were a mixture of reindeer sleigh rides in the  forest where if you stopped for a moment you could hear a pin drop, manoevering snowmobiles thru the  unfamiliar terrain, mushing huskies, visiting with santa’s elves and generally just having an all round great time singing carols and posting letters from Santa’s official post office. The Finnish cuisine was  delicious – robust flavours with lots of berries, fish and of course reindeer (personally I gave Rudolph’s friends a miss). Having sun for only 3 hours a day was novel – no wonder the Sami have glowing complexions. The Northern Lights eluded us but thats ok – well have to visit again. 

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Took a lengthy reindeer sleigh ride deep into the woods
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One of the beautiful Sami ladies we met in Rovaniemi
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Taking a lengthy husky sleigh ride on Christmas Day – Magic!
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The dogs don’t seem to tire and love running fast as they can

Visiting Santa, his reindeers and elves was an epic journey made totally worthwhile by a visit from Santa on Christmas Eve where he arrived on his sleigh at our cabin, enjoyed a glass of Bollinger with us and enthralled us all with tales of his home and Christmas Magic. When it was time for him to go I  embraced him, snuggled against his beard and cried  – for he was everything I had always imagined. I did not want the dream to end and the great thing is this experience will be in our memory banks for ever. Cheers   SONY DSCSONY DSC

Santa comes to visit us Christmas Eve

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A Face Full Of Citrus Cake

Spending 4 nights in Kenya’s famous Masai Mara game reserve during the annual wildebeest migration was a dream come true with every manner of animal on parade whilst we enjoyed our luxurious surroundings. The entire experience was amazing but capped off by spending a night   under canvas at  & Beyond’s Bateleur Camp.

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On arrival at Bateleur you traverse an area of riverine forest where an animal I have never seen before popped its head out to greet us.

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This tree hyrax is very cute, but wow! can it and its relatives howl the night away, particularly when mating! Although a resident leopard was rumoured to patrol this area I felt really blessed to have spotted one of the little guys.

SONY DSCBateleur is the epitome of bygone Africa where the  elegance of vintage Africa marries perfectly with the panache of canvas whilst scenes of both tranquility  and  life and death are played out before your eyes. Both the communal and private areas are aesthetically very appealing  and ooze comfort.

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The communal and private areas were tastefully decorated with artefacts from the colonial era
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Our tent had an uninterrupted view of the Mara plains

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The staff was exceptional at Bateleur and lunch served under the trees with a view of the plains was superb. We could have lingered for hours watching the myriad of animals including giraffe, buffalo and elephants  sauntering past or listening to tales of Masai culture from  Masai warriors who were delighted to share many aspects of their lives with us. In fact, one of the warriors Makita  set off on a special mission for me to collect  medicine from the on call Swahili Dr. Not many people can lay claim to this service in the bush.

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As I was not feeling up to par, for the first time ever I stayed in camp whilst my family went on the afternoon game drive. I thought I would rest, however the antics  of the resident Samango monkeys were too enthralling to miss and I was drawn to the common area by the sounds of cracking branches and shouting where I came face to face with a monkey face down in citrus cake.  “Mercy Uncle!” as my son would say – who could believe it.

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Unfortunately could not get a photo but later in the afternoon when  relaxing  on my deck the monkeys decided to join me, bless them. Luckily I had not dozed off, and  just made it into the tent before they did  quickly zipping up the fastenings whilst the precious visitors hurled themselves against the mesh. Who would have thought I was that attractive to monkeys! At first it was kind of funny but then I became a bit freaked out and thought about googling “can canvas mesh hold out against renegade monkeys?!” Finally,my family returned, the monkeys dissipated and I was told I had to dress for a very special night drive.

Very special it was. Moses our ranger and Makita drove us to the most romantic setting in the bush where candlelit tables were draped in white tablecloths, candelabras and rose petals. We danced with the Masai whilst toasting the experience with vintage Verve which my husband had brought all the way from Australia accompanied by gourmet  african cuisine. To be honest the atmosphere was so amazing I could have been eating bangers and mash and been happy.

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The very special &Beyond team had made my friend Pam and I a very special  birthday cake. Overwhelming.

IMG_1435Next morning we said goodbye to all our favourite animals and to cap  things off our wonderful guide Moses was rewarded with a first for himself when on taking us to the air strip we saw a roan antelope which had been extinct in  the Mara for a decade.  This is one thing I love about the bush – no two days are ever the same.

To book an exceptional experience in the African bush contact Kirsten.Arnold@andbeyond.com                  http://www.andbeyond.com

My Heart Lives In Africa

I just wanted to thank those of you who have either subscribed to my blog or who  check in every couple of weeks to see what new material I have added to my site.

Since my return from Africa in late August, I have been unwell (nothing I picked up on the Continent, just a “woman’s problem” which caused me to operate at about 70% capacity and left me with no energy for anything extra. I also had a bout of writer’s block as I was so overwhelmed by what I experienced during our African sojourn its been hard to process it all into words.

AFRICA really does affect you body and soul

Anyway folks, I am all well now and raring to share my experiences in the Masai Mara and Samburu. Watch this space for my take on the wildebeest migration and the privilege of staying at &Beyond’s luxury camp in the Mara – Bateleur.

Reach Out and Embrace Africa