29 August 2009

Anniversary Giveaway!

Ahem, Tia here - I've an announcement to make! My Mum has been blogging for one whole year today!

She's made me put on a party hat again - you can see how pleased I am!

Anyway, I'm glad she's been blogging as it means that I have ample opportunity to control the desk and keyboard and generally be obstructive, as a cat does (after all, there's just so much open portfolio sitting and modeling for her illustrations one can do) . Well, enough of that - She Who Blogs tells me that she'd like to thank each and every one of you lovely people for taking the time to visit her blog and leave us such encouraging comments! I've enjoyed meeting so many different people - all with so much talent - your blogs are so entertaining and inspirational - that includes you doggies out there (you know who you are Cloud)!

So ... drumroll .. to celebrate our anniversary she's made a cherry cheese cake (yum, my favourite) which she's taking over to Blogland Lane later today. In the meantime, I've taken care of that pesky mouse AND she's decided to have her first giveaway.. see below.

A print (sized 21 cm x 14.75 cm [more or less], printed on archival art paper on my (I like to keep it warm) Epson R1900 printer) of her 'Cherries' watercolour. So, anyone who'd like a chance to win this has just to leave me (or her, if you really must) a comment (deadline next Friday 4th September) and I'll pop your name into the draw when I get down from the tree. Thank you, Tia (and her) xx

P.S. She asked what I'd like to contribute, but having already consumed the rodent (quite delicious, by the way!) I could probably manage to dig up half a juicy gekko from yesterday evening's pillaging, or maybe a fat cockroach if you prefer more crunch .. let me know?

25 August 2009


Weekword this week was my choice - 'AROMA'.

Well, I knew it would probably be a difficult one, for if you've never smelt this particular aroma, you simply just can't do it justice digitally. So, what is aroma anyway? Generally considered a pleasant smell - right? Well, I've chosen to illustrate something which some consider pleasant but others consider downright revolting! If you've never had the opportunity to come close enough to one of these then you'll have to take my word for it for the time being!

Now, breathe normally, but a word of CAUTION - you should be aware that what wafts by now may not be to your liking!

Pictured here is - the DURIAN - the King of Fruits -

and its AROMA is S T R O N G !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Even with its thick, spiky suit of armour you can smell this fruit from afar!

Some people simply adore it and look forward to 'the season', relishing every whiff and taste they can manage! Others have described it as being akin to over ripe cheese or smelly socks and many more would say it is distinctly disgusting, unpleasant, unbearable, pungent, putrid and it has even been likened to the smell of a civet cat .... I think you may get the gist!
Love it or loathe it, one thing is for sure - its smell lingers and because so many people object to it, the fruit is banned by law in public transport, hotels and public places in many south east asian cities!

My first experience of Durian was in Singapore some 20 years ago and whilst I understand that some people (strangely, in my opinion) can't get enough of this aroma, I'm not one of them, have never forgotten it and recognise it as something one should give a wide berth too! In the '80s, before 4 lane highways were commonplace in Malaysia, we ended a lovely trip to Malacca on a sour note by having to drive the long single carriageway (with no possibility of overtaking) back to Singapore behind a truck full of the offending fruits.

Free Emoticons

If you can get past the smell, however, then you may well become a fan of the fruit and wax lyrical about its rich creamy flavour! You could head straight for a large bite of the fresh-peeled fruit, but best perhaps to begin with something milder where the odour is less conspicuous. Durian is frequently used in cookery and transformed into all kinds of sweet treats.

In Singapore recently we stayed in the Goodwood Park Hotel, famed for its high teas and, when in season, tantalizing Durian confections. We indulged in a little Durian tartlet topped with hazelnuts and drizzled with chocolate. Looks delicious, wouldn't you agree? The aroma was unusual - really fragrant and mingled with other ingredients - exotic! So washed down with a cup of green tea it tasted pretty good. It passed the test, we awarded it 7 out of 10, but, it was really creamy and way too rich for my liking, so one was enough and I'm not sure that I'd want another, thanks!

Then, this weekend, having had the sugared taster, we really took the bull by the horns and bought some virgin peeled fruit.

Sheesh, the smell (note I use the word smell, not aroma!) in the supermarket was enough to turn your stomach Free Emoticons, but having got it home, unwrapped it at arms' length and photographed it for the album (outside - no way it was allowed in the house!), we set about tasting.....

Hmmm, well, let's just say that we won't be rushing out to buy it again. You definitely have to get over that pungent smell. So, place peg on nose and pop slice in mouth .. grimace.. First impression? Sweet, but strange - tastes a bit like it smells, so starting to feel a little uncomfortable about eating this! Then, yes, it does taste quite creamy; perhaps a little fibrous there, but a generally smooth texture. Oh, all of a sudden it's becoming rather cloying. Chew briefly, swallow quickly, grimace again. Hmm, I'm not convinced, are you? Nope, don't think I really like it at all, actually .. what do you reckon then? Head shake.. an emphatic No! Sorry, but Durian has been voted out with a resounding YUK.

We'll never be Durian Devotees and just for the record - in my humble opinion it does not have AROMA - it STINKS!!

Photo - Bangkok post

P.S. I just read that in a small village in Northern Thailand farmers are now cultivating Durians with no smell! Could this be the way forward to attracting more fans?

To see more WEEKWORD entries please visit Linda Sue,
Yoon See, Nicky, Remistuff, Anairam, Veja cecilia, Alexandra Hedberg, Sandra Dieckmann, Theresa, Aimee, Fruenswerk, L'Atelier, Asphalt and Air

I've asked Linda Sue to pick the weekword next - visit her blog All I ever wanted
to get the next word on Monday.

24 August 2009

Illustration Friday - Caution

keep scrolling down!



I couldn't decide which of these images to choose for the theme this week - so I've used them all! One large and loose watercolour from a couple of years ago, one tiny ATC- sized chili portrait from yesterday and the last is another plastic wrap/ink print (see last week's IF for description of the process) with added coloured pencil - wierd, I know! Make of it what you will...

22 August 2009


I was asked by Nicky to select the 'Weekword' this week! I've chosen Aroma! Get creative and use the word prompt to post your drawings, photos, stories, poems, paintings or whatever you choose, to your blog. If you'd like to take part, please leave me a comment here to let me know that you'll be participating, then post your offering on Friday and I'll link back to you! Hope you have fun with this!

20 August 2009

Weekword - Camping


I have never been a great camper - certainly not in Europe anyway. The mere thought of canvas and campsites sends a shiver down my spine! Add drizzle and damp to that too and you've got a mix for misery in my opinion! I wasn't a girl guide and fortunately my parents didn't rate camping holidays in Europe either, so my first real experience of 'proper' camping was much later, when I was married and living in Oman. We spent warm, dry weekend nights by the Arabian sea on silvery sand under twinkling stars ... magical!

Camping out in the garden on a sunny day however, is wonderful fun when you're very young! My children loved afternoons camping on the lawn in a rickety Indian Teepee made with garden canes draped with old sheets! And these photos from half a century ago show me clearly enjoying camping out in our garden with my big brother David and his friends (he's the one on his back in the top pic). This sort of camping is at its best with plenty of custard cream biccies (cookies) and your favourite story book or latest Beano comic!

This is my entry for 'Camping', the word chosen this week by Nicky Linzey for 'Weekword'. Each week a new word prompt encourages you to get creative and post drawings, photos, stories, poems, paintings or whatever you choose, to your blog. Definitely hop over to visit Nicky's blog which she fills with her lovely illustrations and photographs!

Have a nice weekend - hope the sun shines for you if you're camping!

19 August 2009

Trinkets from Oman Part II

Some time back I wrote about my Omani silver collection. You can find it here if you'd like to read that post. At the time, I promised more installments, but got waylaid with other stuff - as one does! Anyway, I'm finally catching up with myself, so here for your enjoyment (hopefully!) is part II.

These are Khol pots. Holders for that wonderful dark smudgy stuff that is traditionally used to accentuate the eyes. Omani women, men and children all wear it. The first photo shows a small decorative pot used by women; the second is a man's khol pot which would have been worn hanging from his belt. This photo shows the applicator stick in front of the pot.

This beautiful, heavy piece is a decorative hair ornament.

Earrings in this part of the world tend to be heavy. This is a pair of 'small' earrings - quite delicate in comparison to the next...

This is a much larger earring, making quite a statement with its red bead and two long dangles attached.

Whoa, is that an earring? Could be a bit weighty in the lobe .. No, fortunately it isn't! Looks like an earring, but it is actually part of a head dress. Several of these large rings would have dangled over the ears from a strap or chain running over the top of the head from side to side. Apparently this could weigh up to 2.5 kilos - pretty heavy and only worn by the wealthy !

Still on the large side for an earring, but my absolute favourite! This is a beautiful silver and gold piece from the Sur region.

Close up of the same piece showing the intricate embossing.

Two earring hoops

which might have been worn with these dangles.

Moving on from the silver, did you know that Frankinsence trees grow in Oman? This little box contains both amber coloured Frankincense(left) and the darker Myrhh (right). These resins are burned for their heady fragrance and antiseptic qualities.

Here's an intricate piece of Omani embroidery - teeny, tiny stitches! This is the top part of an Omani man's cap.

A couple of scanned photos of the interior of Oman where old villages cling to the craggy mountain sides. High, high up in the mountains in Wakan, where the air is fresh and cool, farmers tend terraces of fruit trees and vegetables and in the springtime when their almond trees blossom it's a magnificent sight.

And last, but very definitely not least, here's a pic of a favourite Omani Jebel Dog. If you read about our hols in Provence you will have seen Kas before. Very sadly though, dear Kas passed away this weekend in France where she had lived out her last years with our friends - her people - after they left Oman. She will be very much missed, but I like to believe that she will be continuing to bark loudly at vapour trails in the sky in her Doggie Valhalla.

I will be back with the third and final installment of this series very soon!

18 August 2009

Illustration Friday - Wrapped


This piece was a complete experiment - I was a bit stumped by the prompt this week and really wanted to try something different. I eventually decided to make an ink and plastic wrap (cling film, saran wrap, whatever you like to call it) print for this week's IF prompt of 'Wrapped'. I merrily washed on watercolours and dropped ink, sprayed with water and then manipulated a sheet of plastic wrap over the pools of colour on the paper. When dry I tried looking for something in the resulting print to link to the word 'wrapped'. Oh boy ... I started doing this on Sunday morning and discarded more than 20 different prints. Nothing, no matter how hard I looked, presented itself!

Until... Eureka! This afternoon I finally spotted something. Yep, there was a little shrouded figure and then another and look one more! I then began to work into them a little with Inktense pencils and acrylic ink to make them come to life - I really hope you can see them too!

It was fun to do - quite messy - my fingers are stained a rainbow!

Here's a close-up, but to see more clearly click on the images for a larger version.

16 August 2009


Do you remember this? Its one of two glass jars full of baby orchids that I bought from the Orchid Gardens in KL back in February. You can read about them and see more of my orchids here.

Last week I thought it was time to release them!

So, I began by gently easing the plantlets out through the neck of the jar and then washed off the agar that had been their food for the last months.

Sorting. That took a while and in the end it was a case of the survival of the fittest , as there were so many babies and only 20 pots.

Ready with soft Sphagnum Moss.

All planted up

and outside in their nursery for the first time. Hope they do well!

I'm going to have quite a wait though till the plants produce anything like these beauties. It could take from two to ten years before I see any blooms! I'll keep you posted on their progress.

11 August 2009

The Good, The Bad And The Prickly

Ah, look, there's dear old Clint in the days before anyone had heard of Dirty Harry! Wondering what he's doing here on this post? Well, do you remember the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960's and 70's? Go on admit it, of course you do!! OK , maybe you're too a bit young to remember, but you'll no doubt have heard the term which refers to the (mostly) low budget movies made by Italian producers in Spain during that era. Admittedly a lot of the movies were pretty awful and some very BAD, but many were box office hits!! The young Clint Eastwood cut his teeth on such greats as 'A Fistful of Dollars', 'A Few Dollars More' and 'The Good, The Bad and the Ugly'. Remember the soundtrack to that?

This little Youtube has a lovely version of the theme music with composer Ennio Morricone conducting, plus a few scenes from the movie. Put on those earphones and turn up the volume - it should bring back some memories for some of you! And don't miss those eyes!! Clint was such a heartthrob in those days, wasn't he? I still remember having a huge poster of him on the wall beside my bed in my 4th form dorm at boarding school! Anyway, I digress. What has this all got to do with me now? Well, only that I've just trotted (well, driven really ) through Spaghetti Western country - our last port of call on the Spanish tour.

Tabernas - Almeria

photos: villaspain.biz

We drove from Nerja eastwards to stay with friends in Mojacar, on the Costa de Almeria. The town is actually made up of two areas a couple of kms apart, Mojacar Pueblo (town) which clings to a hillside overlooking the Mediterranean sea..

and MojacarPlaya (beach) which is right there dipping its toes in the sparkling waters. The town is favoured by locals and expats alike. The former who flock to the area to escape the cities and the latter who spend all year there soaking up over 3000 sun hours and enjoying the lowest rainfall in Spain every year! GOOD!!!

So then, that lack of rainfall and constant heat adds up to a very arid landscape. Desert in fact. Perfect for the filming of Spaghetti Westerns and the growing of PRICKLY cacti!

Take a look at the next few pics - there's a puzzle for you to solve!

Any idea? I'll let you know the answer at the end of the post!

Whilst you're trying to work that one out you can take advantage of one of the dozens of good watering holes in the area for thirsty cowboys and girls. Here's a good one up in the mountains - it's cool up here - a little oasis in the desert complete with golf course.

Hungry? How about a bowl of delicious Gazpacho soup? Have you tried this classic, cold Spanish dish? I'll leave you with my recipe! Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 6

700 g delicious ripe tomatoes
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped roughly
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 chilli
3 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
225 g fresh wholemeal bread crumbs
15 ml tomato paste
60 ml wine vinegar
90ml olive oil
salt & pepper
600 ml water

*Serve with some little bowls of garnishes if liked or, Avocado Salsa - see below.


Immerse the tomatoes in a bowl of boiling water, then drain, refresh under cold running water and peel away the skins. Roughly chop the flesh.
Halve, core and deseed the peppers and chilli, then chop roughly. Put prepared veg and garlic into a large bowl. Add breadcrumbs, tomato paste, wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Stir thoroughly.
Transfer half the soup to a blender, add about 300 mls water and process - I leave mine fairly rough in texture when I don't use the extras * below . Transfer to a large serving bowl. Puree the remaining half of the soup with another 300mls water. Add to the pureed soup and stir well. Adjust seasoning to taste. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.

*Can be served with garnishes of chopped cucumber, red and green pepper slices, chopped hard boiled egg, chopped red onion, ice cubes and croutons if desired. Or try this delicious Avocado Salsa (recipe courtesy my daughter Julie)

1 Ripe Avocado
1 tsp lemon juice
2.5 cm piece of cucumber, chopped
1/2 chilli, chopped
Basil to garnish.

Have the avocado, stone, peel and dice. Toss the avocado in the juice, then mix with cucumber and chilli.

Top with spoonful of salsa and a little torn basil.



Have you worked out the answer to that little brain teaser?

What does the Almeria desert landscape, plus Beatle John Lennon, plus a strawberry equal?

Well, apparently John began penning his famous song 'Strawberry Fields Forever' whilst filming 'How I won the War' in Almeria back in 1967! Another piece of fairly useless information! And on that note, I'll leave you - have a good weekend!


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