Saturday, 31 January 2009

Illustration Friday - Flawed

A flawless beauty?

It all rather depends on who is looking, don't you think?

As the marvellously eccentric writer and critic Marguerite Young said, "All creatures are flawed, but out of the flaw may come the universe."

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

One World ~ One Heart 2009


Lifting my petticoats high, I raced down the track and leapt up onto the OWOH Gypsy Caravan today to join in with hundreds of other bloggers from all over the world who are participating in the One World, One Heart Giveaway. This is an annual event hosted by Lisa at A Whimsical Bohemian who started the party back in 2007 with just a handful of bloggy friends. It has grown immeasurably since then, and Lisa’s initial premise still holds true. She says, "The blogging world is vast with more created all the time....and through blogging we can learn new things, read about other countries, learn of new ways to promote those vital issues, support causes as well as learn about new artists, writers, photographers, et al. By having a list of those with a giveaway it is like a home tour with a map......going from place to place to see how others "live" and perhaps along the way make fabulous new connections and maybe win a door prize in the process."

If you’d like to know more, click
here – you have until February 3 if you want to sign up and join in the fun.

Kano Market, Northern Nigeria - Mama Imani & Aunt Tamu (Thanks, Lori!)

The event runs from January 19th to February 11th, and winner will be announced on the February 12th. I am offering this little acrylic painting (it'll be matted, so you just need to pop it into a frame of your choice) of a market scene in Kano, Nigeria to the winner of my draw. In order to participate, you should leave a comment after THIS post. The comments will close at 9 o'clock UK time on February 11th when I’ll do a random draw and then post the winner’s name the following day.

That basket of red and green chilli peppers in my painting reminds me of a recipe I’d like to share with you. I made it for sups on Sunday night for a gaggle of Bean’s girlfriends before they caught the train to head back to the Big Smoke. It went down a treat, judging by the momentary lull in conversation and the speed at which they devoured it! So easy – and it looks pretty, too.

Thai Fish Broth

1 tablespoon olive oil
25g (1oz) fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
1 green chilli, choppped
1 stem of lemongrass, chopped
1.2 litres (2 pints) chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime
4 spring onions, finely shredded
175 - 225g (6 - 8 oz) salmon fillet, cut into cubes
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the ginger, garlic, chilli and lemongrass. Cook over a low heat until softened.

Add the stock and splash in the Thai fish sauce, soy sauce and lime juice. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the spring onions and cook for a further 3 minutes.

Add the fish with the coriander and simmer for 2 minutes or until the fish is cooked. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Ladle into warm bowls and serve with crusty French bread.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Shine On - An Award

'Light in the Soul'

I’m overwhelmed with delight – and happy surprise – that Zurama at Amanecer en la Habana decided that I should be amongst the bloggers she chose to give this award. Muchas gracias, Zuri, me siento verdaderamente honrado.

I must now pass on this award to those bloggers who I feel have light in their souls. It’s a terribly difficult task because so many of the blogs I follow are, in so many ways, inspiring and deeply enriching. Many of the wonderful people I’ve come across out there in the Blogosphere make me bellow with raucous laughter, or have me nodding in recognition. There are those artists, writers and poets who leave me gasping with admiration. Each day I can share sweet memories or read beautifully told, brave stories of heartbreak and healing. I can gaze at evocative photographs or find a new book to add to my list, discover a great recipe or learn a little more about life in far-off places. It is a wondrous place, this world we share.

I’d like to pass on the Luz en el alma Premio to just a few of the amazing people I’ve ‘met’ and whose blogs hold so much resonance for me. All of you truly have light in your souls.

Karen at Border Town Notes
Lori at Lori times five
Nicky at AbsoluteVanilla…(andAtyllah)
Renee at Circling My Head
Tam at Fleeing Muses
Sandi at Holding Patterns
Mama Shujaa at Mama Shujaa
Barb at A Cowboy’s Wife
Miranda at The Times of Miranda
David at Authorblog
Angela at Letters from Usedom
Val at Monkeys on the Roof
Janelle at Ngorobob House
Maithri at The Soaring Impulse

**Just right click on the award, select 'copy' and, voila, you can post it on your blog**

Monday, 26 January 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday - Ou Phrontis....or do you?

"The little things creep out to patch themselves hovels/in the marred shadow/Of your gift."

Clouds Hill is the tiny cottage in Dorset to which T.E. Lawrence escaped to after his adventures in Arabia to revise his manuscript for Seven Pillars of Wisdom. When we visited last summer, I felt no sense of this austere little house being a home, despite the pretty blue door, the sun-washed walls and the gentle coo of wood-pigeons in the surrounding wood. Over the door are the Greek words Ou Phrontis which mean “Don’t care”. I left Clouds Hill wondering what was really meant by that meticulously chiselled phrase. Lawrence never really lived anywhere. His was a restless soul, which seemed to demand a contradictory desire to lock itself away. The cottage is essentially a man’s den, owned by a man who in a way never grew beyond his solitary childhood, although he saw and experienced much more than most men ever do.

Even his dedication in Seven Pillars of Wisdom remains a mystery. Who, or what, is “S.A”?

To S.A.

I loved you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands
and wrote my will across the sky in stars
To earn you Freedom, the seven pillared worthy house,
that your eyes might be shining for me
When we came.

Death seemed my servant on the road, till we were near
and saw you waiting:
When you smiled, and in sorrowful envy he outran me
and took you apart:
Into his quietness.

Love, the way-weary, groped to your body, our brief wage
ours for the moment
Before earth's soft hand explored your shape, and the blind
worms grew fat upon
Your substance.

Men prayed me that I set our work, the inviolate house,
as a memory of you.
But for fit monument I shattered it, unfinished: and now
The little things creep out to patch themselves hovels
in the marred shadow
Of your gift.
~ T.E. Lawrence

** To see a veritable wealth of fantastic shadow shots form every corner of the globe, pop on over to HeyHarriet and indulge! **

Friday, 23 January 2009

Illustration Friday - Climbing

Marie - Homage to Modigliani III

She felt positively exhausted after all that arduous social climbing.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Hurricanes Hardly Happen

Hello, Blog Around The World visitors!

My tour is going to fall way short of the fantastic trips I’ve taken with many of you since I joined the
group. I could happily whizz with you around Africa and the other places we’ve lived, but I hardly qualify as a tour guide to Hamsphire! Although my husband’s family have lived in the area for generations, and we’ve visited often during the years, I don’t know Hampshire like a native. However, here is a little taster and I hope you enjoy the ride!

It was Professor Higgins who melodiously informed Elisa that, “In Hertford, Hereford and Hamsphire, hurricanes hardly happen.” He was right.

In fact, nothing outlandish or dramatic happens in Hampshire. Bucolic and peaceful, it is a pretty county in the South of England where diminutive thatched-roofed cottages bump shoulders with grandiose stately homes and where crystal clear chalk streams wind their mild-mannered way through quaint villages.

Dove Cottage


The River Test near Stockbridge

Hampshire is where the post-mistress calls you ‘Dearie’ and the milk is still delivered to your doorstep, no matter how far down a narrow country lane you may live.

Our lane

The seasons come and go without fuss or great calamity. In spring, daffodils nod on cue and bluebells carpet the woodland floor in hazy glory.

Woods near Romsey

The roses bloom bountifully in the summer and bees buzz gently in swathes of sweet-smelling lavender.

Rose in our herb garden.

Autumn brings its misty vistas and the burnished beeches whisper in a cooler breeze.

View from South Down

Badger’s Wood near Buckholt

In winter patchwork pastures are iced in white, the north wind blows and darkness creeps in early.

Our weathervane reveals the cold to come

Sunset at South Down

That's when it’s time to light the fire, curl up in the den with a steaming mug of tea and a good book and hibernate for a while.>

When The Music Changes....

I thought I would never again feel quite the same levels of elation and excitment as I did when Nelson Mandala was inaugurated as President of South Africa in 1994.

Yesterday, I did.

“When the music changes, so does the dance”
African proverb

January 20th 2009

“For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.”

May 10th 1994

"I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.

"Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another... The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement. Let freedom reign. God bless Africa!"

Two great men - one aim.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Chasing The Blues

The weather may be cold and just a little dreary right now, but it doesn’t mean we have to be grey and grumpy as well. So to beat the gloom, let’s try to evoke those hazy, lazy days of summer by laying the table with brilliant blues, dazzling whites and the colours of those smooth, sea-glistening pebbles on the coast. Then draw the curtains against the weather outside, dress in something floaty and put on Jimmy Buffett’s “Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude” to set the mood. Light a myriad of candles to enhance the glow and invite a bevy of friends and family to join the fun. All you need is a favourite recipe – one that sings to you of summer, warms the soul and doesn’t keep you in the kitchen. Here is one of my favourites for you to share, if you’d like.

(A quick and easy bouillabaisse)

800g white fish fillets, cut into rough chunks
400g cooked and peeled prawns
200ml olive oil
2 tbsp Pernod
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 can of chopped Italian tomatoes w/garlic and olive oil
400ml fish stock
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2-inch thick slices of French bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted for 15 minutes in a 350°F oven, until golden.

Remove any skin or bones from the fish.

Mix together the olive oil, onion, garlic, chilli and fennel seeds. Tip into a pan and add the tomatoes and stock. Bring to a rapid boil, add the fish and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the prawns and stir in the Pernod. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, put a big dollop of aioli on each of the French bread croutons and float them on the soup. Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley and lemon zest. Put the remaining croutons in a napkin lined basket on the table, as well as a bowl of extra, very more-ish aioli!

For the aioli:

Tiny pinch of saffron threads
1 1/2 tablespoons warm water
2 large egg yolks
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of Cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, soak the saffron threads in the warm water until disolved. In a deep bowl, combine the egg yolks, garlic, Cayenne pepper and salt, and whisk to combine. Very slowly, dribble in the olive oil, whisking all the time. You can add the oil a bit more quickly after about half has been absorbed, but go very slowly at first or the mayonnaise may separate.

Add the saffron and its soaking water, then use the lemon juice to swirl around in the bowl to catch any of the remaining saffron essence and whisk into the aioli.

In this painting, Ntombi is preparing her own special version of seafood stew. With robustly fresh vegetables from her little garden, fish caught a scant few minutes ago from just down the beach and stock which has been simmering since sunrise creating a bouquet of appetite inducing aromas, Ntombi will produce a meal that would make even the most lauded Michelin starred chef quake in his Lobbs.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Illustration Friday - Pale

When I saw the prompt for IF, my immediate reaction was Oh Yikes! I never paint anything pale. Then I thought of an article I’d read recently about Karl Lagerfeld so I flew off into lala land with brush in hand. This is my interpretation of his summer vision.

“For me, the summer will be pure gold - very pale gold, moon gold. With copper and coral, very pale coral. To me, this is the big statement for summer.”

Well, what d’you think, Karl?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Silly in a Sari

Oh, the dilemma of dressing. I once went shopping without my shoes on. In London. That’s how bad it is. (Actually, I realised my state of bare footedness before getting into the taxi so I zipped back to get shod before leaving)

It’s frizzling cold outside today so Barbour, boots and kid gloves are called for. However, I know that the restaurant I’m going to for lunch with The Merry Wives of Winchester is going to be cosy. Actually, it’ll be positively stifling. What to do? Do I wear a bikini under the Barbour? Probably not a good look at my age. A kikoi, maybe? My mind wonders over my wardrobe…….

Years ago I learned a lesson from a four year old.

“Mummy?” Bean unplugged her thumb and looked up at me from beneath those outrageously long eyelashes. “Mummy, I have to tell you somefing ‘portant.”

“Okay, tell me,” I muttered distractedly as I squinted hard at my reflection in the metallic door of the fridge. “Hmmm, quite….er…exotic.” I thought, grabbing my car keys and purse off the table. I looked down at Bean.

“What’s important, darling?” I asked, swooping in to kiss her. She stepped back, cocked her head and put her hands on her hips.

“You look silly in a sari,” she said firmly and plugged her thumb back in.

It was true. I’d been given the most glowingly beautiful sari by a friend from Sri Lanka and I loved the way the yards and yards of fabric fell in cascades of shimmering colour. Manju looked so serene and beautiful in her saris – an Asian goddess. I guess I thought that if I wore one too, I’d look just like her. Well, according to Bean, I didn’t. Not remotely.

Why is it that mazungus look weird dressed in non-occidental clothes? I long to wind a length of vibrantly coloured cloth around my head and match it with something equally vibrant wrapped around the rest of me. And to fling on a few extra scarves, lots of bangles, big chunky necklaces and daringly dangly earrings. But, sadly, if I did, I’d look a prize prat!

You want proof? Look below. A group of us mazungus at a ‘Back To Your Roots’ party in St. Thomas.

Texas, Cape Town, Massachusetts, New Mexico

Horrid, i'nnit? (No - I don't have a black eye. I just didn't open it on time!)

Monday, 12 January 2009

Triple Take

Illustration Friday ~ Contained

Tembo contained his excitement about passing his exams by feigning nonchalance until he got outside. It was only then that he danced for joy!

Saturday Shenanigans

The world had turned white when we awoke on Saturday morning which threw us all into a state of childish delight. We skated on the pond, lit a bonfire, drank spicy mulled wine and went for long walk through a winter wonderland.

Shadow Shot Sunday

2008 © Tessa Edwards

Last year we visited The Maeght Foundation near St. Paul de Vence in the south of France which houses one of the most important collections of twentieth century art in Europe. Conceived in the late 1950s by Cannes art dealer Aimé Maeght, the idea of creating a contemporary art institution was fairly audacious, indeed unheard-of in Europe. Four decades after its completion, it continues as a place to view, study and enjoy art in the most peaceful and meditative of surroundings.

2008 © Tessa Edwards

We spent hours wondering through the shady gardens marvelling at works by Braque, Chillida, Calder, Arp, Miro and Giacometti.

2008 © Tessa Edwards

The gallery building itself, designed by the Catalan architect Josep Lluis Serp, is all about allowing the collection to be exhibited in an even, limpid, neutral and natural light. The whole is a veritable dreamscape of artistic delight.

**Shoot over to Hey Harriet to see a wealth of fantastic photographs from other Shadow Shot Sunday participants around the globe.**

Friday, 9 January 2009

Through the wardrobe - Fireworks and Fried Limpets

A glass of Madeira, m'dear?

When Columbus was asked to describe Madeira, he tore a page from his journal, crunched it up and flicked it onto the table. It was the perfect depiction of an island where tall peaks crumple into deep crevices and where tiny towns and villages full of whitewashed houses bask in the sun in deep verdant valleys and provide gentle contrast to the dramatically sheer coastal cliffs that plunge spectacularly into a sea of deep blue silk.

Mist smudged peaks and verdant valleys

Madeira is a dream of Eden; a place where fairytales surely come true. (I’m pretty certain I saw a smiling polka-dotted dragon and Eeyore looking happy, oh and Aslan, the lion from Narnia…….) The warm air, fragrant with eucalyptus and pine, is heady and pure. Wild flowers spill over every hillside and valley. Vivid blue Agapanthus and wild hydrangeas line the roads that wind dizzyingly up into mist smudged peaks. There are strelitzias, those floral birds of paradise, poised haughtily on slender stems and red hot pokers compete with waxy white camellias as tall as oaks. Wild lilies, exotic orchids and nasturtiums cascade down mountain sides and swathes of glowing orange succulents crawl over walls and roofs like a living net.


The interior is awesome – in the most literal sense of the word. As you wind higher and higher the spiraling peaks rise through ribbons of mist above the valleys, crystalline streams and cascading waterfalls. The thickly wooded slopes that gave the place its name: Ilha da Madeira (island of wood), rush to meet the darkly glowing basalt cliffs and then plunge in a dramatic dive to the diamond- glitter ocean below.

Do you believe in fairies?

Look closely.

You can climb the towering peaks and watch buzzards riding the thermals or walk a levada, the old irrigation channels that snake their way round the entire island. Cut by slaves imported by the Portuguese from their former colonies in Africa; these men were sometimes suspended by ropes from baskets to hack ledges across the steepest cliffs. The levadas are extraordinary feats of engineering, each cut at just the right gradient to allow a steady flow of water and often bored through solid rock to form long tunnels.

a one.....

a two....

a... three!
Lavada, anyone?

One of the most endearing things about Madeira, in this age of mass tourism and the resultant Disneyesque feel to ‘places of interest’, is that it is a real life, living, breathing working island. There are shops selling hardware and fishing tackle, groceries devoted to dried salt cod and olives, cafes and bars in back streets where few foreigners penetrate, and a covered fruit, flower and vegetable market where stalls are heaped with shiny peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, jewel-like berries, a dozen varieties of fruit and tropical flowers so fresh that the dew has barely dried on the petals.

Dew drop fruit and flowers, crisply cropped veggies, dried herbs and spices...

....and fish so fresh it's still swimming.

Many of the bustling little coastal towns have promenades of Edwardian prettiness, lined with old Portuguese houses: pale stucco, dark wood and decorative carved windows. Sit for a while at a pavement café and delight in the slow pace of life while sipping a frosty glass of VinoVerde, accompanied by a small pan of fried limpets cooked with oodles of garlic and drizzled with delicious, unfiltered olive oil. dat my limpets, lady?

New Year, new growth - Madeira style.

We spent New Year’s Eve having ‘lupper’ (combination lunch and supper in armadillo language) at our favourite restaurant, O Vergillo in Sao Vincente. It was a balmy evening so we sat outside on the verandah and watched the sunset surfers catching long, lugubriously rolling waves as we feasted on grilled calamari and lemony rice, delectably fresh seared tuna and a pudding of passion fruit soufflé that had quite obviously been made by an angel. Every now and again our laughter-fuelled conversation would be interrupted by an almighty BANG. We’d all levitate simultaneously and then settle back in our rattan chairs to raise our glasses as the echo rumbled down through the valley. Gradually the cicada song would swell again until someone, somewhere on that island of magic let off another gunpowder-filled firecracker.

The youngies wait for the wrinklies...and look quite pleased to see them!

The shadows lengthen....

special moments are shared.....

and, with the bronze fisherman at Paul do Mar, we look forward to a New Year.

Happy happiest 2009, dear bloggy friends around the globe!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Better Late than Never Illustration Friday - Resolve

Lola says that the only way to resolve the inevitable build up of daily stress levels is to have a postprandial power nap every afternoon.

“Preferably under a palm tree,” she adds sagely.