Thursday, 29 December 2016

ChrIstmas, family and end of year wrap up.

Christmas came around far to quickly this year and soon it will be the end of 2016. I am looking forward to 2017 as this will be a big year for travel. 
This Is the year that I will indulge my every whim and travel when ever my little heart desires. Retirement will be well and truly underway.
On the lead up to Christmas we have a few annual Celebrations, and this year was no different as we continued on with our traditions.

My eclectic decorations around the house, I went all out, as we have a house full of guests this year

We love to have a Christmas dinner with our great friends and neighbours, we exchange gifts, wine, dine and chew the fat..

Always a great evening.

On the Sunday before Christmas we attended an event in Concord West, another excellent evening with friends and even Santa paid a visit.

Donna's Christmas decorations were amazing as always,

Our Christmas was spent celebrating with family, who travelled from Melbourne, Queensland and New Zealand. This time last of year is very special and a great time for families to come together to reminisce and reflect on how the years have flown by and our children who are now adults and are having families of their own.

On the menu was chilli crab, a favourite dish of ours, and as I have had to work the last few years, it has been missed so this year it is back on the menu.

Friday, DH, my sister, son, Nigel and Steven, travelled over to Cabramatta to do yumcha and seafood and fruit shopping, quite a successful shop with 3 mud crabs purchased as well as prawns.

Esme, my sister who is a wonderful help and a chef in her past life, helped me do the prep on Christmas Eve and everything came together nicely on Christmas Day.
Christmas lunch
On the menu, glazed ham, turducken, (fondly called swine turducken by my son, because it was wrapped in bacon) pork, chilli crab, salads, roasted vegetables, fruit platter and four desserts, so much food and enjoyed by all.
Our breakfast
Table set nicely by Nicholle.
Unwrapping the presents is always met with excitement, our little grandson "Logan" was only interested in standing on the box, so much fun to watch.

The rest of the day was spent eating, drinking, swimming and game playing with cards and Tri-ominos.
My youngest son Alex handcrafted a table for his brother, Nigel, a great undertaking and very well made, well done son !.

Another successful family gathering, now for the new year.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

New Zealand and countdown to Christmas.

Four days after arriving home from India and Western Australia, I travelled to New Zealand with my son and daughter Inlaw. My daughter Inlaw has taken up a position as a senior lecturer at Canterbury University in Christchurch. This was a perfect opportunity for me to have a few days visiting Marg and Mark whom we had met in 2015, whilst travelling through Soain, Portugal and Morrocco.
I also made a couple of cushions for Marg to enjoy with an Aussie and kiwi symbol.

I had a wonderful three days chatting, sightseeing, drinking and reminiscing about our travels.
Marg has a lovely garden with the best peonies growing.

I also got to meet a lot of their friends, who were all delightful. We also went on a road trip to Geraldine and Ashburton with a visit to Annie's Quilt store and a few shops on the way. On the way home we stopped at a book barn, what an amazing store, books galore, I managed to get some of my Outlander series books.
On the Sunday we travelled to Ashburton to go to a Christmas craft fair, a nice collection of crafts.
After lunch with my son and daughter Inlaw, it was time to go back to Christchurch to travel home late afternoon Thank you Marg and Marc for an awesome few days, see you in Oz next year.

On the return home it was time to start finishing up the year with completion of quilts and Kris Kringle gifts. As this is the first year I will be home for Christmas after retiring in July. We will have a house full of visitors. My youngest sister will travel from Toowoomba with her husband and their daughters will travel from Melbourne and Brisbane, also  my daughter Inlaw will travel from Christchurch.

My Kris Kringle was my brother Inlaw Steven who is amilitary buff,so why not make a quilt, depicting war times. The war of I denounce, WW1, WW2, civil war and modern day, this quilt was a challenge to do as fabrics with a war theme was difficult to obtain.
The result below.

My oldest son commissioned me to make his Kris Kringle gift for his cousin, Rhiannon, she is a "Frida"
Admirer like her aunt, so happy to oblige.

End of year wrap up with our quilting group was a luncheon at my place, everyone contributed to the meal and a great lunch was had by all.

My little grandson is such a delight and he commence daycare one day a week, first visit was not a success due to him getting quite sick which required a visit to the hospital, thankfully he is recovered and no illness since.
Where does the time go, already 15months old.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Perth, Broome, Margaret River and Gourmet Escape

After flying from Dehli to Perth via Singapore, which took, nine hours in total. We arrived in Perth at midday and drove  to South Perth to stay with our friend Terri who we met in Europe in 2006 and have remained friends for over 10 years.
We spent 3 days, in Perth as well as attending a family reunion in Mandurah with Terri, a fun day had by all.

On Monday we flew up to Broome, which took 1 1/2hrs, where we were to spend 4 days, my god how hot and humid is Broome even after the heat in India we were not prepared for this type of heat.
We stayed at the gorgeous cable beach resort, in a very nice suite, we were set for the next four days. 

We ventured into town on our second day and did the town tour as well as look around the shops, always great to start with the local op shop, where I bought a book. 

Looked at the famous Broome pearls but I was not interested in buying, much to DH delight.  We tossed up whether we would do a couple of tours, but as it was the wet season's timetable there was not a lot on offer, so we both made the decision to enjoy the resort and recover from our hectic sixteen days in India.
On our first night we went into town to enjoy "staircase to the moon, what an awesome sight.

A couple of days in the pool, relaxing and reading, this was a challenge for me, to sit still.....

Thursday we were again at the Broome airport, waiting to fly back to Perth where we would meet our son and daughter Inlaw (Alex and Cara) who were flying in from Bali and off we would venture to our gourmet escape in Margaret River for four days.

On arrival into Margaret River where we were to stay in an Air B & B, where we ventured into town, to collect groceries and then our tour convener.....Cara organised our next few days.

The gourmet escape weekend, we were to spend with our children was to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary, as a mum and dad and a very close knit family, both DH and I felt very privedged to be asked to be involved in their celebration and share these days with them. Thursday night we dined at The Settlers, a great meal all round.

Friday was our lunch at Leuwin estate, "Feast in the Forest" what an amazing day with great food, wine and people

Wonderful to meet Anthony Puharich, Tony Howell and Mike Bent, a fun day was had by all, wine and beer was flowing and a great start to our gourmet escape.

After such a huge lunch, we relaxed at home and played cards. Alex and I did cheat a little, much to the horror of Cara.....

Saturday we ventured into the gourmet village after visiting a few wineries and Cheeky Monkey brewery. In the gourmet village there were many stall holders, selling their produce, as well as celebrity chef's cooking or just the case of Nigella Lawson.

We opted out of that one to watch a family friend, Mitch Orr cook a quick and easy dish with asparagus, we were entertained for 20 mins and even got to sample his dish.

Over all my review of the gourmet village, I felt was overrated,  although I am not an expert, just a good home cook and enjoy good produce. Margaret River in itself has fantastic produce to purchase and cook with.

Sunday was our Audi BBQ on the Beach with guest chef Rick Stein, which was held on Eagle Rock beach, after visiting more wineries, distilleries cheese factories and chocolate factories, we arrived at midday.

The location where beach BBQ was held was very picturesque and again I felt quite blessed to live in such a magestic country, we are truely the lucky country.

Again we could not fault the food, wine, spirits and wine served under our tepees on the beach.
We even got a photo opportunity with Rick Stein.

A successful end to a great four days, spent in the gorgeous Margaret River.

Monday was back to reality and on our flight home after a month away from home, back to our gorgeous girl Xena who sustained an injury whilst we were away, so off to surgery for her on Thursday to fix her crucial ligament.
At least she loves my handwoven camel wool rug that I bought and lugged all over India, nice to know that the rug is appreciated.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Let me share with you the best and worst of India

The best of India would have to be the amazing temples, palaces and the River Ganges, the tour that we chose to do was aptly named. For in doing this tour we got to see a great deal of what North India had to offer tourists in the way of history and architecture. We were also fortunate to be in India during Diwali, Festival of Lights.
Doing the decorations for the 3 day celebration, Diwali.
One of many paintings that I admired!
Our trip left from Dehli, where you get to visit the Red Fort and Old Dehli. Dehli has a population of 23,000,000 people, the pollution is so bad that a person dies every 23seconds from pollution.
The noise and traffic is hard to handle, along with the pollution and you usually end up with a headache.

The tour group we picked was On the Go and we had a great tour guide named Samrind Singh, who we could not fault, he was excellent and dealt with the 20 people on our tour very well.

After Dehli where we spent 3 days we set of for a 6hr road trip to Jaipur, we spent 2 days in Jaipur the pink city where I managed to buy a camel wool carpet, a kantha quilt and a jacket made.
Jaipur 's population is 5,000,000, pollution is no better in Jaipur.
Thick smog in Jaipur, hard to see the floating palace

After we left Jaipur we drove another 5hrs to Bharatpur for one night so that we may visit the bird sanctuary, which holds a lot of wildlife and covers 29square miles. We all spent the afternoon being peddled about on rickshaws, a great way to travel through the park.
The next day was to drive to Agra, this would be our highlight of the trip to visit the Taj Mahal, on offer and for a fee of 650rupees you could go to a local poor family's home and get dressed in Sari's to vist the Taj, about 7 girls and 2 men got dressed, me included, a pity it was so hot, but comforted in the thought that this money will help a family in India.
Entry into the Taj Mahal

After Agra we travelled to Orchha for an overnight stay to visit the Jehanlgir Mahal palace and see the sunset over the Betwa river.

This is the narrow bridge we stood on the Betwa river
Raj Mahal
Leaving Orchha we then travelled to Khajuraho for one night, here was the option to go on a safari to see more wildlife and hopefully a tiger, a tiger was seen so money well spent by those of our group who chose to go. We then flew to Varanasi for 2 days then a train trip to Dehli and the completion of our tour.
The best of India as mentioned was the history, temples, palaces and Granges. Textiles, fabric and art is amazing as well.

Food was a great treat, we only ate in reputable hotels or restaurants and did not get sick.

The worst of India, is the pollution, rubbish, filth and the poor animals. Most Indians are vegetarians and do not eat beef or pork, they do eat goat and chicken.

The cows are supposedly sacred, but when seeing them in the streets they are eating plastic and garbage, not a pleasant sight. The cows are used for milking, and as long as they produce milk, they have value, if a calf is born and is male, it is just left to roam the streets. The cattle just sit in the middle of the roads, and on the verge, in most of the cities, there is no grass for them to eat.

Their are also pigs wandering the streets as well. The streets are littered with mounds of plastic bags and rubbish, and no one is seen cleaning the streets.

The poor beg on the streets and children are sent to beg and if they do not come back with anything, they are maltreated, 
The dogs are mangey, flea bitten and in poor health.
Although we did see some dogs that were pets and well looked after.
Not many cats were seen, monkeys were often sighted.

Women weeding in Khajuraho 

A local village women
Even the cow pats are sold and used for fuel
The trucks are very ornate with decorations.
All in all my experience of India was a good one except for what I have just mentioned, but we need to look past the pollution, filth, the poor animals and enjoy the experience of another culture and architecture, we do plan to visit the south in the near future.

Varanasi, The Ganges, and a little relaxation.

After our flight landed in Varanasi, we board our coach for the long ride to our hotel. I am not sure about the distance but to get to the ganges it is a 45 minute ride, from our hotel. We all settled into our hotel and rested for the afternoon and our group met for dinner, an early night was had by all, as we were to get up at 0430hrs to go down to the Ganges to witness the sunrise, cremations and the Hindu pilgrims that bathe in the Ganges..
Walking to board our boats
On the boat.

We were driven by coach to the Ganges and then walked 10mins to get to the banks of the ganges, where we board a boat to take us up the river.

There are about 83 cremations performed a day along the banks of the Ganges . These cremations are done on the river bank on a pile of wood, so the fires that you see is a cremation.

I might mention that we were all very conscious of not touching any of the water from the Ganges due to it being heavily polluted, the river is so polluted the dolphins that are in the ganges are blind.
There were also people bathing in the ganges, but I suppose being an Indian native they would be immune to what lurks beneath.

The other that I can not fathom is if the hidu's feel that the Ganges is sacred water, why is it so polluted.?

Let me share some amazing scenes along the ganges.

After our 2 hour boat ride we all disembarked and went to visit the university, where people can go to study for free or a very minimal fee, all they need to do is sit for a test and if they pass the test at an elevated level, they are allowed to study their. This university is one of the leading universities for medicine.
Entry to the Hindu temple
Also in the university grounds was a Hindu temple, we all witnessed blessings to the gods.

We were returned to the hotel for breakfast and free time, until 4.30pm, where we all took tut tut's back down to the granges to witness what happens at night, here we took another boat ride and we all layed candles with marigolds, the sacred flower, in memorium of people we have lost or in poor health at present.
The tut tut ride, 10 of them was the most exhilarating ride of our lives, weaving in and out of traffic, with the noise and pollution, was very fast, I would hate to think what would have happened if we had had an accident.
DH and I layed the candles and marigolds for friends lost, Ian Thompson, Christine Book and Jo Kent Biggs, and DH mum struggling also at the moment, our thoughts were with them when we layed our memoriam.
The candles in the Ganges.

That was an end to our evening in Varnasi , for tomorrow we travel back toDehli.
The next day was a free day, some had left our tour group and were going to Nepal, 15 of us were catching an overnight train to Dehli. The train ride will be 14 hours, we had a sleeper carriage, but had to share with two other people from our tour, we felt we were quite lucky as most of our tour group did not get a private cabin and had to go cattle class with  locals.
All in all it was an experience, not one that I wish to repeat.

Needless to say we were all very tired when we got back into Dehli, thank goodness for breakfast and our room being ready.

After a rest 7 of us went and caught the metro to Chandi Choux, the market place in Dehli where everything could be purchased, this was now my time to shop, as I had only done a little whilst travelling due to the weight restrictions on our flight from Khajuraho to Varanasi.

In hindsight this was not a clever move, as unbeknownst to most of us, 
the Indian government had banned 500 and 1,000 rupees nulinvoid due to the amount of circulated counterfeit notes. 
The banks closed down for two days and no ATM's were accessible, and guess what, all we had was 1,000 and 500 rupees, and no one would take them, so after finding kinnari Brazzar where all the sari's and trims were located, I had a very frustrating time with looking but not much purchasing, due to only having the unacceptable rupees, the other frustrating thing with India is they choose not to accept credit cards and we soon found out that their machines do not work, because they only use eftpos for India and need to get the international eftpos for our cards to work.
Amazing that these eftpos machines are used when they are going to miss out on a sale.
We were fortunate that the banks opened on the day we left, so that we were able to change the money that we had left.
Just a few trims!
Fabric, silk and trims galore!
I did manage to get a few trims!

Thursday we few to Singapore, then Perth, next post I will share with you a recap of my overall experience with India and some amazing photos that I have taken.
Next post Perth, Broome and Margaret River.