Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Spring bllms into Action

Gardenia blooms.... my favourite flower!

Yes it is Spring here in the subtropics. Well to tell you the absolute truth, it has been for quite a while. Spring comes early, disguised as late winter and does not leave till Advent. But I can tell that the friendship between me and Spring is fading.... as the humidity levels rise. At first the temperatures are wonderful, moderately warm, no ice cold toes at nighttime. Spring usually is predictable fine weather but this year it has been different. Rain, or at least many overcast days interspersed with sunshine.... I am in my element.

Flowers in my garden!

You see I have energy level that are infintely correlated with the temperature and humidity levels.... I have much more energy in winter and with temperatures below 25 degrees. Once the mercury rises, so does my temper and the energy levels accordingly decline....

Therefore, I try to make the very most of the wonderful Spring days, with all the flowers. Unfortunately, the weather gets too hot for many plants to continue flowering past xmas.... they simply wilt and wither from lack of water and a constant thirst. Rather like me, and now I must go quench my thirst... humidity is up past 71percent....

Does everyone feel like this? The people from the colder climes and temperate areas of the world seem to crave hot weather but not me....is this something to ponder about...?
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Banana Honey Almond Smoothie - guilt free and good for you. How to make Almond milk

Banana and Honey Almond Smoothie
3/4 cup prepared almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract 
I whole egg
1 ripe banana
1 tsp cinnamon
freshly grated nutmeg from the nut to garnish.
Blend together and sprinkle the nutmeg on top.... So delicious you will want to have another

Guilt free Banana Smoothie with Almond Milk
 The Almond milk was a great success. No cholesterol, No lactose, and no cow' s milk stomach cramps.
Almonds and almond oils have many nutritional and theraupeutic benefits.
Wiki tells us:
The sweet almond contains about 26% carbohydrates (12% dietary fiber, 6.3% sugars, 0.7% starch and the rest miscellaneous carbohydrates), and may therefore be made into flour for cakes and cookies (biscuits) for low-carbohydrate diets or for patients suffering from diabetes mellitus or any other form of glycosuria

Almond flour is gluten-free and therefore a popular ingredient in place of wheat flour for gluten-sensitive people and people with wheat allergies and coeliac disease. A standard serving of almond flour, 1 cup, contains 20 grams of carbohydrates, of which 10 g is dietary fibre, for a net of 10 g of carbohydrate per cup. This makes almond flour very desirable for use in cake and bread recipes by people on carbohydrate-restricted diets.
Almonds are a rich source of vitamin E, containing 24 mg per 100 g.[19] They are also rich in monounsaturated fat, one of the two "good" fats responsible for lowering LDL cholesterol.
Claimed health benefits of almonds include improved complexion, improved movement of food through the colon (feces) and the prevention of cancer
Further information about the health benefits from
is precised here:
"In addition to healthy fats and vitamin E, a quarter-cup of almonds contains almost 99 mg of magnesiumpotassium. (that's 24.7% of the daily value for this important mineral), plus 257 mg of
Magnesium is Nature's own calcium channel blocker. When there is enough magnesium around, veins and arteries breathe a sigh of relief and relax, which lessens resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Studies show that a deficiency of magnesium is not only associated with heart attack but that immediately following a heart attack, lack of sufficient magnesium promotes free radical injury to the heart.
Potassium, an important electrolyte involved in nerve transmission and the contraction of all muscles including the heart, is another mineral that is essential for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function. Almonds promote your cardiovascular health by providing 257 mg of potassium and only 0.3 mg of sodium, making almonds an especially good choice to in protecting against high blood pressure and atherosclerosis"

To make Almond milk:
1. You need a bag of organic almonds, add water to cover and soak for at least 8 hours. **Do not use bitter almonds as the milk could, like apple seeds contain cyanide!!***

2. Drain and rinse the almonds till water runs clear. Then add the soaked almonds to a blender or food processer, with water to cover. You may like to adjust the volume of water added for personal taste. If you use a blender you add water to the maximum level.

This link below has some handy information on how long to process/blend the almonds and water.
 "It may take a bit of trial and error to gauge how smooth the pulp should be. If the almonds process for too long, the pulp will be superfine and require more time and effort to strain. However, if the almonds don’t process long enough, the milk could end up watery instead of creamy. After you’ve made almond milk a few times, you’ll get the hang of it."

3. I use a teatowel to strain the milk from the pulp, but if you wish, you can buy a commercial nut milk bag to separate or strain the pulverised almond and water solution. A teatowel or pair of nylon stockings will work just fine. the milke should be mildly sweet unless you have added too much water in the first place of the nuts have not soaked for long enough.
4. You can sweeten the milk by adding Vanilla essence, dates, or bananas, but I tend to do this at a later stage when preparing a drink/smoothie.

Once again the link above gives us some useful information at this stage of the process

 [Add] "1 very large date (or 2 medium "dates), pitted. One very large date is equal to about one tablespoon, as are two medium dates.If your dates are not soft and pliable, you can soak them in a small amount fresh water, just enough to cover the dates, for fifteen minutes or longer until they plump up enough for ease in blending. If you store your dates in the refrigerator, they will become stiff from the cold but will usually soften up somewhat after being left out at room temperature for a while. If they still seem hard, then definitely utilize the soak method.

You may notice the nut fat and water separate. That is completely normal. Just give the almond milk a gentle shake before you use it. No worries.
The leftover almond milk pulp can be either used immediately or reserved for later. If you are not able to utilize the almond milk pulp right away, you have a few choices as to how to store it for future use. It can be stored in an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator for one to two days, or it can be kept in the freezer and thawed when needed. For long-term storage, it can be dehydrated until completely dry, ground into a fine flour, stored in an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator.
Use the left over almond milk pulp for making breads, crackers, cakes, cookies, burgers, wrap fillings, salad croutons, cereal, and just about anything else you can imagine. Using the pulp instead of ground whole nuts gives a wonderfully light texture to your creations."

I will add a couple of recipes in the next few days in which I use almond meal. ( nice desserts)
But now, for the smoothie...

A guilt free smoothie is something to ponder about....

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rosemaling plate Oils/acrylics Rules and Telemark Technique

Rosemaling - the traditional painting of Norway!

Ah, the joy of painting. So little time and so many pieces of wood to paint.... the folk artist's lament! Determined to get something painted this week, I traced a pattern on a base painted plate. I will share a few of the secrets to successful painting here.

For more on the history of Rosemaling, click on this link:

For the uninitiated, oils are quicker to paint because they blend so easily and beautifully, but take up to six weeks to dry....

On the other hand acrylic paint dries fast, does not give so much coverage and as for blending colours and shading/highlighting in acrylics.... well that has developed into an art form all by itself. It can be difficult to get a gradual blend of acrylic colour, even with chemical assistance such as retarders and various mediums that assist you to work the paint while keeping it open... that is slowing the drying process down. This can be an advantage and a disadvantage. Acrylics can be varnished several days after completion, but can easily develop holes or harsh shading lines. Even using wet -on-wet, you sometimes end up with a muddy mess that is much easier to avoid with oil paints.

I had the pleasure of guidance and tuition in Telemark techniques, from a great Norwegian friend, Mr Bjoern Pettersen, a master Telemark Rosemaler from Drammen, Norway. In painting this plate, I have followed his technique and palette. You can see some of his work here:

My palette is set out according to colour family, each in the centre row, with respective shades above and highlights below, and of course, the Basic colours on the left.

Rule No. 1
Colour Harmony Choose your palette wisely and don't be confined by the cool/warm colours of contemporary painting.
Bjoerns Telemark Colour families consist of green, red, blue and yellow family colours. He has developed this palette himself and it works wonderfully well in the traditional sense.

Painting Technique
First I laid in the scrolls, with their respective shade and highlight. It is none too balanced here, but I promise you that will come later. Scrolls are painted with a long handled flat brush in a Pettersen technique.

Rule No.2
Always paint for balance, so that if you divide your piece into quarters, each colour family will be represented in each sector.

Next step involves the application of paint on the flower and leaf shapes.
This requires the painter to paint hearts or half hearts, scrolls and c strokes to form flower shapes. I also like to paint the two shapes at the base of the flowers green, as they symbolise a flower calyx, (or small petals located at the base of the flower in nature, for those botanically challenged readers!)

Rule No. 3

Aim to not have the same colour family next to each other in painting each petal.... calyx excepted! You can see in the above photo, that I broke this rule, (the rebel that I am inherently am) beacause I was a little stuck and have 3 greens next to one another, but it looked ok and was necessary to qualify Rule No. 2 "Balance".

Posted by PicasaFlowers and scrolls completed

Now is the fun and most individualised part of Rosemaling... you can add your embellishments.... you can be as busy or as quiet in applying these as you like. This is what makes each piece your own! When I first started painting Telemark Rosemaling in oils, I tended to overdo the embellishments.... and the design can then become overwhelming and too busy. Bjoern helped me to know when to stop when painting embellishments and extra touches...

Individual embellishments on scrolls and flowers

Rule No. 4
Know when to stop with embellishments

Now all one has to do, is sign your work, wait for the oil paint to dry and then varnish....!!! Your project is complete.

Feel free to contact me with any questions on the comments box below....

I hope this blog post has provided some insight into this little known art form, which for me is mesmering in its dynamic impact on the eye. Something for painters to ponder about.

Happy painting,

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Raw foods and Almond milk

A good site for raw food and information on such... I am exploring the making of Almond milk at home using almonds water and a blender.
Can be flavoured with bananas, dates or honey, or of course vanilla if you wish...
very healthy and no cholesterol or lactose to worrry about...

see more here:

Contact Amanda at rawfoods-livingfoods.com

also another great Australian site on raw foods and their importance to health...


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sir Edmund Hillary Biography -- Academy of Achievement

Sir Edmund Hillary Biography -- Academy of Achievement: "At last, Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a native Nepalese climber who had participated in five previous Everest trips, were the only members of the party able to make the final assault on the summit. At 11:30 on the morning of May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit, 29,028 feet above sea level, the highest spot on earth. As remarkable as the feat of reaching the summit was the treacherous climb back down the peak."

Sir Edmund Hillary turned to Antarctic exploration and led the New Zealand section of the Trans-Antarctic expedition from 1955 to 1958. In 1958 he participated in the first mechanized expedition to the South Pole. Hillary went on to organize further mountain-climbing expeditions but, as the years passed, he became more and more concerned with the welfare of the Nepalese people. In the 1960s, he returned to Nepal, to aid in the development of the society, building clinics, hospitals and 17 schools.

Sir Edmund Hillary Biography Photo
To facilitate these projects, two airstrips were built. These airstrips had the unforeseen consequence of bringing more tourists and would-be mountain climbers to the remote region. The Nepalese cut down ever more of their forests to provide fuel for the mountaineers. Edmund Hillary became concerned about the degradation of the environment of the Himalayas and persuaded the Nepalese government to pass laws protecting the forest and to declare the area around Everest a National Park. The Nepalese could not afford to fund this project themselves and had no experience in park management. Hillary used his great prestige to persuade the governmenSir Edmund Hillary Biography Photot of New Zealand to provide the necessary aid.

Lunch with Edmund Hilary at 760 metres at MT Cook /Aoraki

Mt Cook Aoraki... The Hermitage Hotel..... South Island New Zealand... our spectacular lunch stop.

And so we arrived at the Hermitage hotel Mt Cook, or Aoraki as it was known in Maori tongue. We had to be quick as the weather was closing in, but we ate our lunch looking out through the

magnificient full length glass windows. I really should have got some shots when we arrived as they would have shown more of the majestic Mt cook peak. But we were on a time limit, and the bus driver suggested we eat first, as we had to leave at 2pm.

The food in the restuarant was hearty and wholesome, ( as in home cooked spaghetti bolognaise) and tasted really delicious. What's more, the prices were very reasonable. Perhaps because there were quite a few guests staying at the Hermitage and they kind of have the monopoly on places to eat, as there is only one place to eat and they are IT. But oh! I would pay more for such a meal when one can take advantage of that very special view. You can get an idea in the reflection of the windows below....

A million dollar view... and a meal for only $6.00 NZ! What a bargain.

The snow in the immediate perimeter had arrived shortly before us, so we took advantage of it. Making snowmen, throwing snowballs, and renting a tobaggan. I explained to the lady at reception that we were only staying for a short time, and asked if we would be able to rent a toboggan for a short while. She was so kind, and it seemed from a bygone era, when you do things for free, with no expectation of returning the favour, because she told us just to help ourselves to the tobaggan and return it when we were finished, no charge. These days in Australia, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Everyone is out to make a buck..... times have changed since I was a child.

It is claimed that New Zealand is a conservative place by some, and that they are still a bit stuck in the past at the end of the world. Well if that is the case, it is not a bad way to be, is it? And certainly not a bad place to be ... either.

Sir Edmund Hillary was certainly an imposing figure, even in Bronze. The man was apparently very tall, and perhaps this is what gave him an edge over other mountaineers, when climbing with crampirons on his feet up vertical ice cliffs....???? The first man to conquer Everest, started out earning his living in the honourable profession of beekeeping in New Zealand.

Up to 1953, seven separate climbing expeditions had thus failed to reach the summit of Everest, but on May 29th, Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a native Nepalese climber who had participated in five previous Everest trips, were the only members of the party able to make the final assault on the summit. At 11:30 in the morning, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit, 29,028 feet above sea level, the highest spot on earth. As remarkabSir Edmund Hillary Biography Photole as the feat of reaching the summit was the treacherous climb back down the peak.

Throughout the rest of his life, he worked tirelessly on humanitarian and fund raising projects, building schools, health clinics, and many aid projects for his beloved country of Nepal, (a country dear to my heart), until his death from heart failure in 2008.

As a child in year 3, at primary school, in 1968, Edmund Hillary came to visit my school, and addressed a somewhat bewildered audience of young kids, unsure of the exact significance of who this stranger was.....although I have no memory of what his words were, I do remember his imposing presence at the microphone as we stood at attention on the parade ground. For him to visit our school, must have meant that he spent many many hours, visiting school children, not only in New Zealand but all throughout Australia as well.

Read about the Amazing Beekeeper turned Mountaineer here....

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Finest Fleece, Mt Cook's Traffic Jam"

Sheep blockade... Glenntaner Aoraki road "OPEN" ?????

This part of the south island of New Zealand is dotted with lakes. Snow and Glacial fed lakes, some of which contribute to the hydro and irrigation schemes for the east coast.

Lake Pukaki is part of this network of canals and lakes, and is one of the prettiest in the area around Mt Cook, which has its Moari name of Aoraki.

A hour long drive off the main highway to Queenstown will head you in the direction of the South Island's highest peak.

Lake Pukaki with a view to Mt Cook.

As we closed in on Mt Cook, so did the weather, unfortunately, so the summit was hidden from view. But there was plenty of snowy vistas to keep me happy. Note the braided nature of the river that drains into Lake Pukaki.

Guess what woolly, off white four-hoofed friends were to launch a blockade at the bridge impeding our access to the Cloud Mountain... well it is New Zealand after all!!!

Merino sheep were completely blocking a bridge as we approached so the farmers got their sheep dogs, and Huntingdons to ride the 'sheeps back' to the delight of the Japanese tourists and herd them slowly over the bridge... but as they were going in the same direction as us our bus driver Andrew, had to "split" the mob. That is drive very slowly through the mob of sheep without hitting any of the silly animals which stubbornly refused to move out of the way. These sheep were so valuable he could not afford to give any of them the slighteset bump.

Mt Cook sheep station is an expansive property presided over by a 91 year old bachelor ( who recently passed away without an heir and is now held in trust)... The wool from the merino sheep from this and surrounding properties is purported to be the best in the world. It is so fine, that one bale of wool fetched a million dollar record price in Italy. Read more here:


Glentanner Station is 45,000 acres and carries 9,000 Merino sheep, 200 Hereford cattle and 230 Red deer.

Our bus in a Glenntanner " traffic jam"

Merino fleece of 12.6 microns fetched the record price of $1800 per kilo clean. ... first offered in 2000, by Donald Burnett of Mount Cook Station

From the above link...

The winning bale had an average of only 10.9 micron (µ), eclipsing Australia's finest bale by 0.5µ.

This must mean NZ has the finest natural fibres on the planet - finer than silk, vicuna or cashmere.

To collect the top global prize Anna travelled to Paris courtesy of Loro Piana for their award function at the headquarters of the Italian Embassy on May 20.

"It was an amazing experience," she says. "As well as receiving the World Wool Record Challenge Cup for producing the world's finest bale of Merino wool I was also presented with a sterling silver plate engraved with my name, farm details and wool fibre specifications for producing NZ's finest bale."

Emmerson also visited one of Loro Piana's luxury clothing and accessories stores. They have 135 stores worldwide selling their exclusive range of luxury products.

She says Loro Piana has bought most of the finest bales from NZ and Australia since the 1980s - bales classified with the Australian top line 1PP (1 plus/plus for fineness and style). Fewer than 50 bales of more than three million sold annually achieve the 1PP certification.

As part of Loro Piana's commitment to promote quality and support Merino breeders in their quest for excellence they introduced the World Wool Record Challenge Cup in 2000. The cup is awarded to the finest bale weighing at least 90kg net greasy weight.

Emmerson says it is the first time in a decade that a NZ Merino farmer has won the trophy. The late Donald Burnett, from Mt Cook Station, won the title in 2000 with a 13.1µ bale produced in 1999.

Emmerson's winning wool was sold for a privately negotiated price.... She would not disclose the sale price but says the bale will be woven into Loro Piana's world bale record fabric collection and will eventually be made into about 50 made-to-measure men's suits with price tags of about €15,000 Euro (NZ $28,000) each.

Emmerson says the key to producing the finest bale in the world is having access to sheep with the right genetics. Forest Range sheep are naturally fine so they will always grow fine woo, but a good eye for stock is needed as well.

Merinos are creatures of habit and like to have a routine with a timetable planned to the last minute. Above all else they need to be happy and healthy to produce high-quality, ultra-fine wool.There is no room for error. The sheep require a constant diet to produce fibre 24 hours/day, 365 days a year.Their fleeces are so fine it takes only a minor setback to cause a loss in body condition which affects fibre growth and fleece quality.Emmerson farms 1000 Merinos on her Canterbury Plains farm.

Country-Wide believes the record price paid for a bale of 13.8µ wool was set 15 years ago. Ian and Kaye Appledore from Brim, Wimmera , Victoria, Australia sold a bale for AU$1.194 million ($10,300c/kg). Without knowing the price paid for the latest record bales, one has to assume the 1995 record price still stands.

From then on, it was only a matter of minutes before we were at Mt Cook... World Heritage area...

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Lake TekapoNew Zealand Christchurch to Queenstown cont'd

Day 7 continued... On the bus through Fairlie, Burke's Pass, and on to Lake Tekapo.

And off we go again, travelling by the wonderful Kiwi bus services with our entertaining bus driver come tour commentator, Dave..... and no we could see snow. Dave guaranteed that in a few short minutes we were able to see touch smell and play with the snow. Courtesy of a heavy dump of snow several days before.

Traversing Burkes' pass, the snow got thicker

and thicker,

and thicker,


Wait just a minute... that blinding white in all directions, the lack of any other significant landmarks except fencing and power lines, that fragile eggshell colour onthe horizon, am I back in Iceland...????

or... no.. it is still New Zealand... bit of a time warp back a few years for a minute or two, methinks.

On the southern side of Burke's pass, we dropped altitude and again encountered first trees, then grass again and sheep near Twizel... and Omarama... defintely Southern Hemisphere... yep... we were still in New Zealand..no question about that.Phew... thought I was going crazy for a sec....

McKenzie country... named after a crazy Scottish shepherd who was accused of not herding but sheep napping ( stealing ) a thousand sheep in the high country. Pleading innocent when finally tracked down, McKenzie was imprisoned but claimed no jail could hold him, and promptly escaped several times from custody, with his trusted Border collie dog, who only understand instructions in Gaelic. ( or so the legend says ) Eventually pardoned, he returned to his native country sometime later. see more abou this at the link below for Tekapo.

A photographer's paradise awaited me as we rounded the corner in the bus, bound for
...Lake Tekapo.

Lake Tekapo... with a light "cake icing" coating of snow, the incredibly spectacular views of the snow clad peaks with the foreground comprising a glacial blue lake, this place could only be described as utterly magical.

Have you ever seen any lake this blue before? Wondered what causes this magnificient shade of cobalt blue in the waters of the lakes of the New Zealand Southern Alps... the answer lies in the action of the glacier grinding away the rocks to particles finer than talcum powder, Dave the bus driver explained to us, and the rest of the sleeping Japanese tourists on the bus. Because the particles are so fine, they remain suspended in the waters of the lakes.


From some angles, we could just see about 1/2 of Mount Cook/Aoraki in the distance. Its 400 feet ice cliffs are shrouded in cloud for 2/3 of the year. Sir Edmund Hilary, the famous New Zealand mountaineer, who was the first man to successfully climb Everest with his sherpa buddy, Tenzing sherpa, had in fact climbed Mt Cook twice. Reaching a height of 3,754 metres (12,316 ft), it is not as high as Everest, but is said Not to be an easy climb. 400 feet sheer ice cliffs are not a Sunday stroll in the park by any stretch of the imagination, are they?

It is also apparently, a favourite challenge for mountain climbers. Aoraki/Mount Cook consists of three summits lying slightly south and east of the main divide, the Low Peak, Middle Peak and High Peak, with the Tasman Glacier to the east and the Hooker Glacier to the west.

While the mountain was known to Māori centuries before, the first European known to see Aoraki/Mount Cook was Abel Tasman,[3] on December 13, 1642 during his first Pacific voyage. The English name of Mount Cook was given to the mountain in 1851 by Captain John Lort Stokes[1] to honour Captain James Cook who first surveyed and circumnavigated the islands of New Zealand in 1770. Captain Cook did not sight the mountain during his exploration.

But more about Mount Cook later, as that was to be our lunch stop.

Tekapo had two more major attractions... the statue to the Working sheep dog, the Border Collie. Have you seen the movie Babe?

New Zealand's sheep industry was founded on the work of these dogs. The country was so vast rugged and weather and geography so hostile, that conventional means of securing one's sheep population ie. fencing was not suitable. Other answers had to be found. A trained and specialised breed of collie, was used to keep the herds on the property. He patroled the perimeters and "borders" of the farms in the high country, thus the name. Border Collie! As a tribute to their contribution, a statue stands overlooking Lake Tekapo... something Border collie owners might ponder about.

The Japanese tourists loved this... and we could not miss out on the obligatory photo. It is a wonder a small photo booth has not yet been set up here selling photoshoped pics of Mount Cook behind you (on a rare fine day) as we encountered at other major New Zealand tourist sites.

The final Attraction in this village was the Church of the Good Shepherd. Me, the religious zealot that I am, took a few snaps. But seriously, location, location, location....

Why did I not have my wedding here and avoid all the family feuds????? Awesome...and where one can only stand in awe at the work of God ( nature )

Words to describe this area are something I frequently ponder about....

Read more about the Church and the Mckenzie country legends here...

Maori were the first to venture into the Mackenzie Country, where they hunted moas, birds and eels before returning to the coast for food and trade.

The capture of Scotsman, James McKenzie in 1855, for being “in the company of a thousand stolen sheep” as he rustled them with his dog Friday, through a remote alpine pass into “a plain of immense extent” resulted in his deeds being immortalized and his name, albeit with a spelling change, applied to these highlands ever since.

The famous sheep dog statue on the lake’s edge is in memory of the hardy mustering dogs “without the help of which the grazing of this mountainous country would be impossible.”

Nearby is The Church of the Good Shepherd built in 1935 to the glory of God as a memorial to the pioneers of the Mackenzie Country. Congregations of the three main faiths worship regularly in the Church, which offers awe inspiring views of the lake and mountains through the altar window.

High energy & passive pass-times

The waters of the lake are harnessed for electricity through the Tekapo Canal, flowing 27km to the Lake Pukaki powerhouse then onwards through the impressive Waitaki Valley hydro system.

Photos of Lake Pukaki will follow in the next post....