Wednesday, 22 December 2010





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The Mishra Dairy, Mumbai

Does the importance of fresh milk in the diet of Indians explain the sacredness of the cow? I came across the Mishra Dairy in a side street near my hotel in the major commercial district of Fort in South Bombay. It was the smell I noticed first. Then the man who was eating - what, paneer? His skin the very epitome of good health and abundant vitality. Is this the 'home' of the cows wandering the streets around here? People come by with their empty milk cans, get them filled from one of the large pitchers. Fresh lassi? How much fresher is it going to be anywhere else? And Chaas? A masala (spicy) buttermilk drink, tempered by being sprinkled with fried mustard seeds. Here's a recipe. Said to be a summer cooling drink that goes well with a meal. The asafetida and ginger in it aid digestion.

Taj Mahal

There was a light misty rain on the afternoon we visited the Taj Mahal. It didn't matter, in fact I loved the whiteness of the sky.

I was crouching to take one of those photos with the reflection in the water, when a man approached me and began instructing me on where to put my camera. I ignored him a while, until in a slightly offended tone he assured me OK, I guide, I just help. Once I looked in his direction I was hooked. He made me pose here, there. Just one more madam, very beautiful photo, come, come. See, you see? Very good, very lovely; you come madam, here. Here. Now one more madam, here.

Of course once I insisted on taking my camera back off him, it was, Rupees, Madam, you give rupees. I insisted I had no small change. He insisted I pay him. I began to walk off, he followed. Not good madam, rupees, very good photos I take, you give rupees. I'm sad to admit that on this occasion I continued walking. He had deliberately misled me. If there had been some sort of contract up front...but mostly I was annoyed at myself for being taken in by him in the first place.

Still, he was right, they ARE lovely photos. I should have given him something.


I vow never to buy any black clothes ever again!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Indian sweets

In Jaipur I watched these girls buying sweets. Barfi, Gulab jamun... I really wanted to try some too.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Mehrangarh Fort and Museum

The fort dominates the city of Jodpur. Now a Museum run by the family of the current Mararajah, Mehrangarh is slowly being preserved and restored. It has the only museum shop we saw on the trip, and I wish I left a bit more time to shop.

This beautiful room was the private sanctuary of the thirty-second Maharaja. He died in 1873 and was the last to actually live in Mehrangarh…
It was during Takhat Singh’s reign that the British came to dominate India. And in this bedroom, which was also used to entertain, we see Christmas balls hanging from the wooden rafters.
Unrelated images cover every inch of the walls. Paintings of European women mingle with traditional love stories, Hindu Gods and Goddesses… Even the floor is painted… On hot breezeless nights an attendant, the ubiquitous ‘Punkah-Wallah’ pulled the hand-drawn fan above the bed…

Friday, 10 December 2010

Delhi walli

When I say I feel like a real Delhi Walla, Uttam corrects me. Walla is for men, what I should have said is, I'm becoming a Delhi walli.

I visited Uttam's flat in a Delhi suburb for afternoon tea. I took the subway, met him at Dilli Haat where we walked around and looked at some of the handicrafts, and then we went by auto rickshaw to his place. Later he put me into a rickshaw to get back to the metro. That experience was a glimpse into the way people live in this city. Earlier I had walked around Connaught Place and found an "opticals" shop where I ordered three pairs of glasses which would be ready for me to collect the next day.

How many times was I approached with a polite "ma'am, you are coming from which country?" Invariably that led to me being told India had won the test match here in Delhi.

On the Metro, the first two carriages are reserved for women only. A great system, especially when the carriages were so crowded that I had to carry my handbag under my neck for lack of space to keep it under my arm.

Now I'm going to go backwards and do some posts about some of the things I saw on the Intrepid trip through Rajastahn. Most places we stayed lacked internet access, and anyway, I had better things to be doing anyway.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Victoria Terminus

Headed out after breakfast to take photos of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus Station. After about an hour I'm back in the hotel lobby, dripping wet and exhausted.

Bought a coconut juice along the way. Twenty rupees, and yesterday I sat in the Intercontinental Hotel on Marine Parade and had one cup of tea and it cost 200 rupees. I had to be frisked to get into the hotel building, previously targeted by bombing terrorists. The views over the bay and some cool and quiet were well worth the price. It would be nice to be that sort of tourist once in a while I have to admit. Later in the day I went to a shopping mall and again we all had to have bags searched at the entrance, like in the UK in the 70s.

So, the train station. Picked up two little boys along the way. Where you from? You speak Hindi? You click many pictures. You have pictures your country?

I said how do I say hello in Hindi, and they said Hello. So I said, I know hari om. Much giggling that one casused. I left them still nudging each other and saying Hari om! Hari om!

Best photo is of the Mishra Dairy. From the smells, there are cows in the darkness in behind, but at the front a semi-naked substantial man and several boys with lots of metal churns and some glasses with milk in them too. Chains of fresh marigolds looped over the front of the stall and incense burning. Can't say I got that one.

At a corner there were two cows tied up, with women hand feeding them stalks of fresh green from large woven baskets. I stood watching for a while, not sure about taking a photo. A passing man in a turban, the ever-helpful bystander, said to me solemnly, Cow.

The train station was remarkably orderly. Long long queues outside for the beat-up double-decker buses moved quickly. Inside more queues. Still, at this point I'm relieved I don't have to work out how to buy a ticket or actually travel by train.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


Internet access from the hotel in Hanoi was not great so there has been a bit of a gap. I'll try to describe arriving in India. At just after midnight it was 34 degrees in Mumbai. For some reason I'd spent about 6 hours at the airport in Hong Kong. The cabin of the Cathay Pacfic plane to Mumbai was a cacophany of noise - that was the first feeling of being in India. Big family groups with lots of well-dressed children and a bun-fight to get luggages into the overhead lockers. One old man shouting out something that sounded like "Bugger! Bugger!" over and over. Maybe that's the name of his wife?

Collecting baggage was the next indoctrination. I was determined not to just up my spot by the conveyor belt, and as more and more people crowded in behind and beside me I hung on to my spot - only problem being it was impossible to see what was coming along. I was bumped and jostled and held fast against the shouting in my ears and face... Lots of officials directing people through Customs "Madam you stand behind the yellow line at number 32". Outside the terminal a sea of signs being held up but my name was nowhere to be seem. A tall curly-haired handsome man simply held a sign saying "Babe". I'd have gladly gone with him, but I don't think he meant me. I did find someone from the right Hotel who used his mobile phone and told me to take taxi.

Off I went bouncing about in the back of some beat-up vehicle with a man who seemed not speak english. We hurtled through miles of grungy poorly-lit back streets and I lost count of how many bundles of rags we passed. People sleeping on footpaths, against walls, in the centre strip of the road even. Some with scraps of laundry hung out. We stopped twice presumably asking directions. There was a lively market with gas lights and boys running around dragging goats on leads. I saw several large cows wandering about. Total urban decay, everywhere.

I made it down to breakfast this morning but had to make a quick retreat from the food smells. Spent the morning back in bed. I have been on a walk around the block and bought a copy of Indian Vogue for the equivalant of about $3 Aust dollars. It is hot out there and I'm feeling very weak today. That's OK. Enough for now.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

The Phnom Pehn Post

The Phnom Pehn Post is not bad. A little Monday edition last week gave a better picture of what's going on the world than you'd get in one of the provincial NZ dailies. Must be quite a challenge.

I liked the ads for Melbourne Cup at the Elephant Bar. With a picture of a jockey swatting an elephant. At the Foreign Correspondents Club at about 9.00 in the morning. You can imagine it.

How 'bout this:
EIGHT intrepid canoe explorers set off for the adventure of a lifetime through Cambodia yesterday.

Accompanied by a translator and local guide, these American explorers will be travelling for 20 days, from O’Svay on the Cambodia-Laos border, along a 400-kilometre stretch of the Mekong River to Phnom Penh.

They plan to arrive in the capital just in time for the start of the Water Festival on November 20.

Their boats will be no ordinary boats. Instead they will be the first group to journey down the Mekong on paddle boards.

Look out for them!

Tomb Raider

So, Two blue metal lockers in the foyer of the River Village Hotel looked incongruous, and I had noticed that one was stencilled 'Lara Croft' and the other, 'Indiana Jones'.

Turned out they contain a full set of props for dressing up. Lara's shorts, belt, boots, holsters, guns - the lot.

I can only imagine what this is about. Can you sneak into the temples at night? Anyway, I bet these hotel rooms have seen some sights!

Cost of books

I just bought a new paperback, not a photocopy, in a shop in Siem Reap. The UK price on the back is 8 quid. In NZ you'd be up for close to $20 I imagine. Here it cost US$9. I don't understand how this works.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Siem Reap

I'm in Cambodia for a week. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, inspired by seeing Mi Son in Central Vietnam, which fed a great desire to see the wonderous Angkor Watt. I had no idea of how long I'd need here for a good experience, but arranged with a very efficient Vietnames girl in Hoi An to fly in two days time via Ho Chi Minh City into Siem Reap, and then back to Hanoi after 7 days. A quick search on Trip Advisor for a hotel turned up this wonderful place, the 9-room River Village manor run by Matt, an Australian from the Gold Coast. He is a bit of a Basil. He loves to regale his guests with tales about the decadence of the 5-star hotel industry and the general lack of happiness in western countries. "What do we have to show for all our efforts? Gadgets. Just more gadgets. Walk around the vllage here and you'll see people living in the most basic conditions, whole families living in these these tiny shacks without floors or windows, but they are HAPPY. These people are happy." Indeed they are hovels along the banks of the brown, rubbish-strewn streak that is the river. Scrawny chickens scratching in the dirt beside little plastic chairs around a cooking pot over a small fire, skinny dogs lying in the dust, an endless stream of motorbikes and cycles stirring up that dust, and from anyone you care to greet, the biggest and most welcoming smiles you'd get anywhere.

The deal is, you get a 3-day pass to visit temples in the area. It can be used on any three days in the week. If you go to get the ticket after 5.00 pm, you can experience the sunset that night for free. Matt has a family of staff, and I have Mr Lai assigned to me. He was there to meet me at the airport the first night with his tuk tuk. So Mr Lai took me out past Angkor Watt that first night and pointed to a dusty track. I fell into line with hundreds of other tourists speaking all languages you can imagine and we proceeded to stroll up the hill. You watch the sun go down, the last rays lighting the towers of Angkor Watt far in the distance. The evening was hazy and I know quickly it gets dark here and I wasn't hanging about to find my way back down the track after the sun had gone, so after climbing up the steep steps to the top of the temple and admiring the view I was heading back. I had to stand to the side of the track to make way for the elephants that were still heading up, carrying straggling tourists, as I walked down.

Mr Lai was ready at 5.00am next morning to take me to Angkor Watt for the sunrise. The road out of town was a steady parade of tuk tuks. "I wait here" promised Mr Lai, who is a shy lad of 26, not yet married, with little English and a lovely smile. Off I went in the dark, wishing I had thought to pack a small torch, stumbling on the flagstones, heading towards the East where the sky was just beginning to show light. I left those with their serious cameras and tripods waiting to catch an ultimate image of the towers reflected in the lake, and headed off to explore the inner temple ahead of the crowds.

Three days later, having visited many more temples, it is those first views of Angkor Watt that stay in my mind. I know I want to come back again, to explore more.

My favorite temple was the second I visited this morning, Preah Khan. It is so intricately designed in the overall plan, such a complex arrangement of avenues and gates and terraces. Ta Phrom I saw twice, to appreciate the different light in morning to that of the afternoon - this is the place made famous by Tomb Raider.

The town of Siem Reap is totally charming. It feels very safe. There is an endless choice of places to eat and drink. The markets are packed with cheap silks and local crafts. Come soon though - there are shopping centres being built all over the place, and there is already a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. Why, why? There is a charity called White Bikes, for $2 a day I have had a bicycle to get around town. I feel better that Mr Lai is not sitting waiting for me outside the shop/museum/cafe I'm hanging out in, and enjoy riding around; but on the other hand Mr Lai doesn't have any work that day so is not getting any income...

Friday, 29 October 2010

Hoi An Photo Tour

Today another very early start. I was picked up in a mini-bus at 5.00am. Me, a retired guy from Florida who takes photographs professionally, and young UK couple living in Sydney. And our charming guide and host, Etienne. He has lived here for about 5 years and has been running the tour for 6 months. This is the Hoi An Photo Tour.

We bumped over tracks to the riverside and boarded a little ferry boat just as the sun was starting to rise - except it was cloudy today so no actual sun, but a moody light with a sky that looked full of rain. The jetty on the other side was packed with motorbikes and bicycles waiting for the trip across to the town side where many of the villagers work in construction at this time of year. On the way Etienne reviewed our cameras, our style of photographing and gave some basics of the art. For me, it was so exciting to be shown how to use my lovely little camera by manually setting aperture etc. A whole new world has opened up.

Etienne told us that to take photos of people in Viet Nam, all you have to do is smile a lot, say hello, have some little exchange. Tell them where you come from. He said they get a buzz from talking with the foreigners. He knows many of the village characters and they are not shy about being the target of the lens. The little children were a little shy, though the boys on bikes were like cheeky boys everywhere and made a bit of a pest of themselves. We wandered around, seeing the fish processing area, the communal ancestor pagoda, a fish sauce factory, stopping for coffee with a local family, visiting a woman who bakes small cakes and has done this every day for 25 years (we sampled her cakes too). Etienne joked with the local drunk, a man he says smells of rice wine every morning but always has a laugh about something. I managed to take some portraits I am really happy with. I'm usually shy about taking pics of people but this was different, the people so open and friendly and so happy to be shown their photos. The guys with the fancy cameras and lenses took some amazing portraits I think.

Have a look at Etienne's Gallery here. Today was not a fishing day as it is the wrong time of year, but there was lots to see just strolling around this unspoilt village.

The trip ended with us picking up bicycles and riding for about 20 min back into the Old Town. That was great for me - I had been feeling slightly nervous about getting on a bike, and it was such a joy cruising along the tracks with little traffic. We rode past padi fields with geese and water buffalo and then alongside of the market, finishing up at an art gallery in town for tea.

And after all that, I was back at my hotel in time to enjoy my breakfast - those banana pancakes I have been looking forward to. Whoo hoo.

Me and Julia

I hired a bike and rode out to the beach with one and half million dong in my pocket. Big wind, choppy brown ocean. Some foreigners swimming anyway. Not much to see but on the way back there was an unassuming restaurant hanging out over the river, looking very inviting. Good enough for a wind-swept and dusty millionaire, I thought.

I sat on the rickety deck and ordered steamed squid. The name of the place is Son: A song of natur. I was presented with one plate of artfully arranged vegetables, steamed rice and chopped tender squid with a bowl of tasty dipping sauce. In the river a man and a wife were throwing their net from a small boat. I sipped ginger tea, read my book, took some photos. The man came to talk to me, the usual "Where you from?". He asked me to sign a small visitors book.

Here's the thing. An entry from the page before me "My partner and I dined here and very much enjoyed the experience. I hope that this visit will help to bring our two countries closer together. Julia Juillard."

I said to the man, you had the Prime Minister here? He shrugged, seemed to think I was some sort of crazy foreigner. Do I take it she didn't have a troop of body guards and press jockeys with her? Our Julia sat here in this spot just yesterday? - I checked online, sure enough, she is here for her first summit with Asian leaders. Get that!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Why no pics?

I have been taking lots of photos using the new camera. It came with instruction books in Chinese (which I dumped) and a CD containing the English manual (which I have not accessed). So I'm using it on AUTO setting, true point-and-shoot, although I know the camera offers much more. That said, I'm delighted with the images, especially the night time shots. Hoi An is wonderful at night with gorgeous colorful silk lanterns everywhere. I read that each month there is a lantern night in the Old Town with traditional music and so on, but to me every night is lantern night. It is magic. So I hope I can work out how to get some photos onto the blog for you.

I do have a USB card reader but the computers here in the hotel have blocked USB drives. I had a CD burned the other day with the first lot of pics, so I'll try later to upload that to Picasa online. The wifi network here is excellent, and I'd love to have my laptop. But it is good to travel light.

The lovely ladies at the hotel made me a bowl of pho for breakfast this morning. I didn't say that I had been looking forward to trying the banana pancake - but that can wait for tomorrow. Pho is a beef noodle soup that is the usual local breakfast I gather. I enjoyed it, but still had to have one of those crispy baguettes as well. (I skipped dinner, so I figure it's OK to have two breakfasts.)

My old shoes broke in the rain. I found a shop here with German Rieker shoes for under US$50. So I have new shoes now. There are many shops here that make shoes to order - I hear the American girls here in the hotel talking about having dresses made and then going next door to get matching shoes. ("I like went wild, I'm having this totally awesome red dress made, and the sweetest red shoes") I'm not so sure about the quality. These shoes have to get me a long ways!

Who's for spring rolls?

The Red Bridge Cooking School is a great experience. We started with a visit to the local markets to learn about all the ingredients common in local cooking. Quite an experience in torrential rain. Everyone, locals and tourists both, was wearing plastic condom-raincoats in lurid colours. Then a boat trip down the river to an unassuming garden pavillion and a highly professional performance. The chef demonstrated each dish and then we each made it ourselves. A team of roving assistants made sure we got it right.

So now I can not only make spring rolls, but I can make my own rice paper wrappers too.

And the clay pot eggplant dish is a winner. The recipe is on the website, give it a go.

We finished with a bit of a feast before the boat trip back to town. I slept all afternoon.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Mi Son

It was a 5.00 am pick-up at the hotel for the tour to Mi Son, here known as Mi Son Holy Land or Mi Son World Culture Heritage. Pre-dawn I'm standing in front of some house in the suburbs of Hoi An with a bunch of young French, Scottish and Germans, eating a fresh bread roll torn open by hand with a fried egg inside. Then about an hour's drive into increasingly rural areas. The advantage of that early start is we are the only group at Mi Son. There is the sound of the birds and the chatter and laughter of unseen people working on the restoration of G complex, currently closed.

Mi Son was the centre of the Cham Kingdom from the 4th to 11th centuries. In places there is brickwork that was restored by UNESCO in 1999 and you can recognise the original bricks as the ones that look more recent. The craftsmanship is mind-boggling. Most of the significant stone relics are in the Cham museum in Hue which I visited the other day. The tour guide pointed out the headless Shiva statues and told us that one theory is that the Americans beheaded them to terrorise the VC. She pointed out bomb craters, and asked the group who knew about Mi Lai. I think only a couple of us nodded. Someone asked, why did the US bomb Mi Son? The VC were hiding here, she explained.

We were delivered back to the hotel in time to have a second breakfast - yay!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Old Houses of Hoi An

This morning I visited 5 historic sites in Hoi An Ancient Town. One is a family tomb for worshipping ancestors, the others are traditional homes, some 200 years old. The guides at each house profess to be part of the family that has lived in the house for 6 or even 8 generations. The families still live in these houses but conservation and restoration work is supported by the Government. Architecturally they manage to be both beautiful and functional with a balance seldom achieved in our modern buildings. Flood marks on the walls of those closest to the river show that there have been 3 metre floods, but it is more common that each year there is up to one metre of water in the lower areas. I saw trapdoors and pulley systems, for pulling the furniture and possessions up to the loft at these times.

The ticket for five historic sites says "Please dress decently, Sleeveless blouse, drawers and over the knee skirts or dress are not welcome inside the show places."

Lucky I wasn't wearing my over-the-knee drawers today.

After two visits I stopped for coffee and croissant. After the fifth I had steamed seafood spring rolls. The boy on his bike going around the cafes selling the English-language daily newspaper says "hello again". And again...

As I sit here in the foyer of the hotel, sweat is running off me - well maybe you didn't need to know that but I share it for atmospheric purposes. The middle of the day is resting time, shops close their doors and the kids are back from morning school (two shifts per day).

One small treasure - Yes, this is a communist country but I didn't realise there was a curfew. Last night at about 11.00 pm there was a vehicle going down the street with a megaphone, and a tinny official voice intoning "Off de-lay-aits. Off de-lay-aits." It took me a little time to realise the message was to turn off the lights. Had my light been on I'd have offed it immediately.

Every corner has the motorbike drivers calling Hello, madame, you take motorbike. I was rather insulted by one this afternoon who added, We go very slow madame.

Someone called today "Motorbike Madame? We go Easy Rider. Very good enjoy Viet Nam easy rider!" Exactly, but not for me thanks.

Thien Thanh Hotel

In Hoi An I am staying at the Thien Thanh Hotel. The name means Blue something - Blue butterfly or blue sky, I can't remember. Anyway I love it here! There are rooms at the back with balcomies overlooking a field of water-cabbage, but I have a room overlooking the street. Double-glazing is very effective. The room is lovely, simple and stylish - there are fresh flowers on the bed each day and the wall-hangings are ethnic embroideries.

The buffet breakfast is served on a deck over that paddy field thingy. This morning there was a woman in a conical limpet hat wading through the greenery with a basket picking leaves. All that is missing is the water-buffalo, maybe he'll be there tomorrow.

There is a small swimming pool and a restaurant. There are internal atrium spaces with hanging plants and to get to the back deck you walk over a little bridge, and there are golden carp swimming in the pond. Which must be why there doesn't seem to be a mosquito problem.

Pictures to come I hope - I need somewhere I can upload photos from my camera.

Joy of foot massage

I'm walking on air! A one-hour foot reflexology session at the Hoi An Day Spa. Somehow I find I'm booked in for a manicure/pedicure and facial tomorrow. It must have gone to my head. Or something. And jsut as well I was walking on air, because a big rat came straight towards me on the road when I was walking home. Cruised on by, that rat.

I had a late lunch/early dinner at Cafe 96 on the waterfront. Vietnamese tea and
Cao Lau - noodles with pork slices (only I had the tofu version), bean sprouts and herbs, one of which is a Vietnamese basil and also something like watercress. The vegetables in Hoi An are said to be the tastiest in all Viet Nam due to a more pure environment.

Friday, 22 October 2010


It is taking me some time to get used to this. Yesterday I had a guide for the day, and at the end I gave him a tip. Working it out later I had given him less than $1. Is it more insulting to not tip at all or to do it badly? I have no idea.

The pace in Hue is far more relaxed. It is a place I would be happy to see on a hired bicycle but on this visit I am travelling in an airconditioned car with a guide. I got a 6.30 am flight from Ha Noi and the guide was waiting at the airport with a sign. The agency had booked me into the Ngoc Huong Hotel - probably my last experience of the 3-star level of accommodation, I prefer the laid-back feeling of the budget place I was at in Ha Noi, and of course I'd be happy with 5 star. When I am reborn as the wife of a wealthy expat, that is.

So today's mission was to have rice noodle soup for breakfast. I have to admit I also had plenty of baguette with pineapple jam, so perhaps it was a very small step.

In Hue the deal is, a trip on the Perfume River by dragon boat, a tour of the Imperial Palace where the Emporers lived and ruled throughout the eighteenth century, a visit to a Buddhist monastery and some tombs. Oh, and a walk through the busy market - quite good to have a guide for that. My guide has a degree in tourism from the University here in Hue. Later today we drive to Marble Mountain, and over the pass to Hoi An, stopping in Da Nang for some more sightseeing.

There is a gallery and workshop over the road where beautiful young girls in colourful Ao Dai sit in breezy comfort painstakingly embroidering the finest and most beautiful paintings. I can't help but think that the girls are only the front-line of these delicate and intricate productions. You can see some here

Monday, 18 October 2010

Business/lifestyle idea

I have this fabulous idea. I think what Hong Kong needs is a specialist yarn and wool shop. It could be a destination shop with classes and drop-in knitting and weaving sessions and could host visiting craftspeople. I'd call it Shrek-O of course.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Happy shopper

Second day in Hong Hong. I went shopping with the intention of buying a more serious camera. On the basis of research I had decided to buy a Nikon P7000, but once I had one in my hands all I could think about was the review by a professional photographer who said he had needed to read the manual 3 times. Heavier than I expected, with buttons and switches for Africa, I admit it made feel daunted.

I was lucky enough to get someone who spoke good English in a local shop here in Tsuen Wan. "You need this one" he said immediately. It didn't take him long to change my mind. Do I look that stupid? So amyway, the camera I have ended up with is a Canon Powershot S95. It was a good price to start with and they threw in an 8Gb card, a case, tripod, spare battery, and USB card reader. It is small and unobtrusive and is getting a good workout. I spent the rest of the morning wandering through the market streets until the Sunday crowds and the heat got too much.

Off to test out the night-time features of the new camera now.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Dixie Lounge

Resting up, by the lake in Rotorua.

I have been listening to talking books while knitting. Latest 'listen' is Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. I think he is wonderful. The reader on this one is an adolescent boy, fitting for this semi-autobiographical coming-of-age vignette set in Thatcher's England.

I could have called this post Black Swan Blue, but that doesn't work quite so well. Nice conjunction anyway.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Bizarre things you see

This is the window of a butcher's shop in a suburb in Christchurch. Whatever.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Monday, 23 August 2010

Mt Maunganui

Every few weeks I have been staying overnight by the beach at Papamoa, in Bill and Fay's driveway (they are off in Australia for 6 months). I like to drive along to the Mount to have breakfast. The harbourside is a lovely place to park the van and linger a while with the newspaper or a book.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Rolling Dixie

Have been living in Dixie the van since coming back from Australia. It is so easy and very comfortable. I have a pile of good books on board and bags of threads and wools but somehow manage to keep so busy that I never get around to stitching or reading. How easy it is to fill in whole days when you are not tied up with working.

Went to the Tauranga Embroiderers' Guild exhibition last weekend. I'd share some pictures of my favorite works but I couldn't take any because I have lost my camera. I'm trying to be philosophical about it - things come and go - but I do really miss it. I also miss having easy access to broadband. I wonder about adding a satellite dish to the van, would that work?

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Back in Rotorua

style="">I'm in the stinky place (love that smell) again, on a brief house-sitting assignment that comes with two dogs. I have just been out early, crunching across a frosty paddock with socks on my paws, so the dogs could have a run. Hopefully the puppy is not going to be successful in his mission to dig to Africa from the suburban backyard.

I made an apple pie using this recipe from Helen's Spanish cookbook.




215g / scant 2 cups plain (allpurpose) flour, plus extra for rolling

5ml /1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

75gm /4oz / half cup cold unsalted (sweet) butter, cubed

finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon

scant half cup caster (superfine) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

2 small eggs

3 eating apples, peeled, cored and cubed

ground cinnamon, for sprinkling

whipped cream, to serve

1 Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a food processor. Add the butter and grated lemon rind and process briefly to combine, then add the sugar, 1 whole egg and the yolk of the second egg to the flour mixture and process to make a soft dough.

2 Divide the dough into two pieces, one portion nearly double the size of the other. Pat the dough into two flat cakes. Wrap tightly in clear film (plastic wrap) and chill for at least 2 hours until firm.

3 Preheat the oven to 180"C/350"F/ Gas 4. Place a baking sheet in the oven and grease a 20cml8tn loose-based flan tin.

Place the larger piece of dough on lightly floured piece of plastic wrap and cover with another piece of film. Roll out to a 25cm round. Remove the top layer of film and lift up the dough on the second film. Place the dough face down in the tin and peel off the film. Press into the tin so that it stands just clear of the top.

5 Pack the tin with the apples and sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll out the second piece of dough in the same way, to exactly the same size as the tin. Lay the dough on top of the apples and fold the overlapping edges of the bottom piece of dough inward. Gently press the edges together with a fork, to seal.

6 Prick the dough a few times, brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Place on the hot baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 160"C/325"F/Gas 3 for a further 25-30 minutes until golden.

Leave the tart to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, and serve with cream/ice cream. Or, as we did last night, with custard made from the good old Edmonds custard powder.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Bat tree

On the way to Tamborine Mountain we passed a grove of trees just filled with fruit bats. Millions of bats. You smell them before you see them.

We spent a few hours doing the Gallery Walk in Mt Tamborine. There is a canopy walk in the national park which will have to wait for the next visit.
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Red tweed vest

This is the current project. It'll work as either a vest or a singlet, or so I hope. It has been growing quickly while spending time sitting and chatting with extended family.
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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Bloody good Paella

Helen cooked a couple of fabulous paella dishes for a special lunch at the weekend. The Woody Pointer excelled herself!
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Supermarket shopping at Mudgeereeba

Neil and Di live in Mudgeereeba which although is on the Gold Coast, still has a village atmosphere. Which was confirmed on Saturday when a local lad rode up, bareback, and tied up his horse outside the local Coles supermarket.

Must be a regular - the fruit and vege man came out with some carrots.
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Monday, 12 July 2010

The Woody Pointer's local

Helen (our Woody Pointer) lives in an amazing spot at Woody Point just north of Brisbane. To get there from the city you cross Australia's longest bridge. Actually, this weekend a new bridge was offically opened. Woody Point itself is surrounded by sea - the Pine River inlet to the west and Pumicestone Passage to the east. It is a lovely spot.

From the Feel Goodz cafe you look out to the Woody Point jetty -- and the coffee is great too.
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New look, old friends

On impluse I had my hair straightened, and amazingly, it worked. What is IN those chemicals?

I have started knitting a vest. In a old-fashioned shop in Redcliffe I found some Sirdar Donegal Tweed that was heavily discounted.

So there we were, the old library ladies, Janet, Helen and me, at the local Woody Point pub on Friday night. Two of us drinking cocktails and one knitting. All I'll say is, my project gained many inches.
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Saturday, 3 July 2010

Textile Arts Expo, Brisbane

The workshops were a bit patchy. Helen attended a workshop on making a felted tea cosy. Here's her creation, with it's rasta tassels. Love it! I did two workshops, one on shibori dying and one where we experimented with a free-form screen-printing technique using Procion dyes, run by Louise Snook from WA. She ran out of dyes soon into the workshop which was a bit frustrating. I was tired by the end of the afternoon and didn't get as much from the session as I had hoped. One to try later, in my own time.
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Coming to you from Malany

Sorry about the gap! Have been too distracted to update this blog. This post comes to you live from Maleny, up in the hills back of the Sunshine Coast. A little internet cafe in the main street, a pot of tea, and a piece of almond barfi from the shop over the road where I just bought indian block-printed sheets and pillow/cushion covers for the van. They are Anhoki block printed fabrics, imported from India. I do want to visit them in Jaipur, they have a textile museum. I was just looking at a very heavy (as in weight) book on Indian handcrafts - Handmade in India. I could do a road-trip following all the block printing and embroidery clusters. Meantime, just pottering around on the Sunshine Coast, staying at Coolum for a few days.
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Sunday, 13 June 2010


I'm staying with Margaret and Keith in Hamilton, in their house overlooking the Lake. Have been knitting a scarf out of some cream wool that appeared in my stash. Lovely activity for sitting by the fire in the evenings with old friends.

I bought some Tahki Rio, a merino/alpaca/silk mix, from Creative Outlet in Tauranga. The shop is always inspiring, with the yarns arranged by tone and colour, each box holding a wide variety of different types and plys. Gayle who owns the shop hand dyes yarns. She makes sure that there are examples of made-up garments in a good range of the products she stocks, so you can see how they are going to knit up. I say say 'see', but it is all in the touch - it is the feel that is more important for me.

I'm hoping the Rio will work for the sleeves of the jacket I'm making with the Rowan.

The scarf project is an accident. I set out to test a pattern from a library book, but I only have one set of needles with me in the house-on-wheels. So now I want to finish the piece so I can get back to the jacket.. .

Monday, 7 June 2010

End of autumn

Queen's Birthday weekend marks the start of winter, but signs of autumn linger.
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End of day, Lake Rotoiti

Queen's Birthday weekend.
Enjoying the last of the sun with Loretta down by the lake.

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Wednesday, 2 June 2010


FairyBaby arrived! Turns out she's a little girl after all.

She's Annie Jean, and she came home yesterday. She was born in the very early hours of 2 June 2010. Just about the time that I snuggled in beside Eva for a long chat. "There's a fly in my room!", Eva called out. I said, I'm here, because mummy has gone to the hospital.

"FairyBaby is getting born at the hospital", she said. "All the doctors will be running about, won't they? And the midwife will be there, everyone will be helping. At Kindy, I tell secrets to my friends. My teacher's name is Sue. Sometimes mummy and me go to the hairdresser. She's Jen, and Jen just cuts the all ratty bits out of my hair. Wellington is a long way isn't it? In Wellington we had a different hairdresser. His name is..." We were still talking when Tom got back from the hospital, so we looked at some photos of FairyBaby.

Sunday, 30 May 2010


The Tauranga Spinners and Weavers had their annual exhibition at the weekend.

These garments are all knitted from hand-spun and hand dyed wools. The red tunic looked wonderful when modelled - the reds glowed, and it hung beautifully.

I like the bit of embroidery on the lapel of the stripey cardigan in the last image.

Need to get going on my moasic shapes so I can start something else!
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Three Sunday cheers

Start at the Store at Okere Falls with tea to get going. Love the t-shirt with the caravan image - I want to make one for myself. Later Jenny made me this cup of Double Happiness Peony Tea. The tea ball expanded in the cup into this lovely flower which doesn't look at all like a peony but I'm sure is totally double happiness.