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Archive for February, 2012

A Visit to Bam, Iran

Mud Town, Bam, Iran

During our trip from London to Kathmandu we traveled through Iran. One of our stops was the town of Bam. This is the old mud town, which was fascinating. We arrived about half an hour before closing, so it was a hurried visit, but we were the only tourists around.

Most of the village was intact. I’d never seen anything like it before with the high wall surrounding the buildings, the round towers and the maze of buildings inside. The town sat on a hill. We raced to the highest point and looked out over the entire town. The setting sun made the mud bricks glow in an incredibly rich color. It was beautiful.

Tragically an earthquake struck the town of Bam a few years ago, and much of the town was badly damaged.

Strategies for Procrastinating Writers by Shelley Munro

I’m visiting Terry’s Place, the hangout of author Terry ODell today and talking about Strategies to beat Procrastination.

Change procrastination to productivity.

Does this sound like something you need? Yes? I have to admit there are times when I’m a champion procrastinator. Yes, it’s true. Sometimes attacking the ironing pile seems like way more fun than sitting down to write. On days like this it can take me hours to pound out my target number of words, and each one is dragged from me kicking and screaming. Read more at Terry’s Place.

Spying on Dolphins

For years I’ve thought about going on a dolphin watching trip on the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland. I mean, it’s my own backyard and I should explore. I first took the trip in January. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a single dolphin, but I received another trip as compensation.

This time, the weather was a little overcast with rain. Hubby dropped me off at Z pier, and I boarded the MV Dreamweaver.

View from Z Pier, Auckland Harbor Bridge

The staff on board the Dreamweaver were brilliant. They were hospitable and knowledgeable about the different dolphins, whales and birds we might see during our trip.

The weather cleared and yachts and fishermen came out in force, ready to spend a day out on the water. We motored past Rangitoto Island, Auckland’s youngest dormant volcano at around 600 years old, and past several of the other Gulf islands including Rakino.

Rangitoto Island

My fellow passengers ranged in age from about three-years-old to grandparents. The kids were well-behaved—much to my relief—and they were the ones who spotted the pod of dolphins first. It was the bottlenose dolphins we saw. This species aren’t as friendly as the common dolphin but they hung around our boat as we travelled slowly along. It was a thrilling experience, looking over the bow of the boat to see the sleek bodies of four or five dolphins surfing along with us.

Dolphin pod, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

There were about 40 dolphins in the pod with several youngsters, almost hugging the bodies of their mothers as they swam along. We saw splashes of water when fins and tails broke the surface, and the water is so clear we could see the flashes of white bellies and their long pointy noses when the dolphins went under water. Since dolphins are mammals, they come up for air, and it was easy to hear the gasp-like sounds they made each time they surfaced.

Cameras clicked frantically, and both children and adults alike exclaimed with sounds of loud excitement. Yes, me too!

Dolphins, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

 

Some of the trips see orcas and Bryde’s Whales. This was the only dolphin pod we saw, but we did see several Little Blue Penguins and watched gannets fishing too. The Australasian gannets plunge into the water at great speed, making a huge splash. Over time, the gannets go blind and die of starvation. The blindness is caused by the continual diving, which damages their eyes.

It was a rewarding day, and once again, I was impressed by the beauty of the Gulf. It’s so handy and is easily accessible to all with many ferries operating in the region.

Central Auckland Cityscape

We sailed back into central Auckland, extremely satisfied customers. If you’re ever visiting Auckland I highly recommend a trip out on the harbor with Dolphin Planet. They go out of their way to make your day memorable. I certainly enjoyed my day trip.

Is there any type of animal that you’d like to watch in their natural habitat?

Recipe: Orange and Cranberry Biscuits

First things first, before I get to my post today – I’m visiting Get Lost in a Story and talking about my recent release, Cat Burglar in Training. I’m also doing a giveaway. I hope to see you there!

Weekend Cooking MemeWeekend Cooking is a chance to share the food love and is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. On Saturday mornings, publish your post — perhaps a cookbook review or maybe just some favorite food-related quotes.

Make sure to leave a link, so we can read what you have to say. I hope you’ll join in when your weekend (or recent) reading or movie watching fits in with the theme. Remember, the definition of Weekend Cooking is free and easy, if you think your post even remotely fits the theme, grab the button and sign in to Mr. Linky.


Author Maria Zannini shared this recipe with me a few weeks ago. The cranberry and orange combination works really well. Luckily this recipe makes a large batch of biscuits because they taste delicious!

 

Cranberry Biscuits with Orange Frosting

Cranberry Biscuits with Orange Frosting

Ingredients:

1 cup granulated sugar/white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter softened/8 ounces
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
2 Tablespoon orange juice
1 egg

Mix all the above together using either spoon or electric mixer. Then stir in:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Then stir in:
2 cups chopped cranberries

Heat the oven to 375 F. Grease cookie sheets. Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls on the cookie sheets. Keep about 2" between them.

Bake 12-14 minutes. Cool them on wire racks for at least 30 minutes.

When they are cool, frost them with a mixture of:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar/icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
enough orange juice to make a soft spreadable frosting.

Sharing recipes is a lot of fun, and this one is going into my keeper file. Do you have a favorite recipe that you received from a friend?

A Random Post About T-shirts

As I sit here writing this post, I’m wearing a T-shirt (purchased at Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump in Canada) and shorts. My favorite summer outfit. When the days grow shorter and the temperatures become cooler, my uniform changes to a T-shirt and jeans. I love T-shirts. Read more at the Carina Press blog.

London: Haunt of a Cat Burglar in Training

London. It’s a place I dreamed of visiting after hearing the poem about Christopher Robin and Alice as a child. Do you know the one I mean? Here’s the first verse:

Buckingham Palace
by A.A. Milne

They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace –
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
Alice is marrying one of the guard.
"A soldier’s life is terribly hard,"
Says Alice.

Luckily I was able to persuade my husband that London was a good idea, and off we went on our overseas experience. Fast forward many years, and it was inevitable that some of my experience would find its way into my writing.

Today is the release date for Cat Burglar in Training, which is partially set in London. Eve Fawkner, my trainee cat burglar attends balls in various London locations and her receiver lives in Kensington, an area I’m familiar with since we lived there for several years.

Here are a few photos from the Kensington/Knightsbridge area. These are places Eve sees or drives past on a regular basis. (Scroll over the photos for info or click on them to enlarge.)

BTW – London was everything I dreamed it would be!

Harrods, Knightsbridge, London at night Kensington Gardens, London

Kensington Palace after a snow fall, London Albert Memorial, Kensington near Royal Albert Hall

The Goat Tavern, Kensington, London.  Horseguards, Rotten Row, London


CatBurglar_SM

Here’s the blurb:

Eve Fawkner had no intention of following in her father’s footsteps. But when the thugs harassing him to repay his gambling debts threaten her young daughter, Eve is forced to assume the role of London’s most notorious cat burglar, The Shadow. The plan is simple: pull off a couple of heists, pay back the goons and go into permanent retirement. But things get messy during her first job when Eve witnesses a murder, stumbles across a clue that sheds some light on her past and, worst of all, falls for a cop.

Inspector Kahu Williams would be the perfect man, if Eve were looking, and if there wasn’t the little matter of their career conflict. The man is seriously hot—and hot on the trail of a murderer. A trail that keeps leading him back to Eve…

Purchase today from Carina Press

Is there a place you dreamed of visiting as a child?

Recipe: Pea and Pesto Soup

Weekend-Cooking_thumbWeekend Cooking is a chance to share the food love and is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. On Saturday mornings, publish your post — perhaps a cookbook review or maybe just some favorite food-related quotes.

Make sure to leave a link, so we can read what you have to say. I hope you’ll join in when your weekend (or recent) reading or movie watching fits in with the theme. Remember, the definition of Weekend Cooking is free and easy, if you think your post even remotely fits the theme, grab the button and sign in to Mr. Linky.


Pea and Pesto Soup

I first saw this recipe on a Nigella Lawson cooking show. She’s my favorite celebrity chef, and I always enjoy trying out her recipes. This one is quick, simple and fairly low calorie for those of you who are on a diet.

Cooking 074

Ingredients:

750 ml water
375 g frozen peas
2 spring onions, trimmed but keep whole
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp lime juice
4 Tablespoons fresh pesto
2 Tablespoons pine nuts (optional)

Boil the kettle, and once the water is boiled measure out the correct amount of water into a pot. Bring back to the boil.

Add the frozen peas, spring onions, salt and lime juice to the pot. Cook everything for about 7 minutes.

Discard the spring onions and place hot liquid into a blender. Add the pesto at this stage. Blitz until soup is smooth. Toast the pine nuts in a small fry pan until they start to color. Sprinkle over the soup and serve.

Shelley’s notes:

1. This soup was delicious. I used a hand blender and my finished soup had a few chunky bits. I was fine with that since I like a little texture in my soups.

2. I didn’t have pine nuts, so I garnished mine with grated cheddar cheese and a dollop of non-fat yoghurt.

3. This soup served two.

Who is your favorite celebrity chef?

Thirteen Common Endearments

tt_minimal3

Since it was Valentine’s Day this week I thought a list of endearments would be the perfect topic for my TT.

Thirteen Endearments

1. Love/lover

2. Sweetheart

3. Darling

4. Dear

5. Honey

6. Babe/Baby

7. Sugar

8. Sweetpea

9. Sweetie/Sweet

10. Doll/dollface

11. Cutie

12. Sunshine

13. Cupcake

When we lived in England, it was very common for the customers in the pub where we worked to call the barmaids luv or darlin’ or sweetheart. I was a bit taken aback at first, but soon became used to 18 year old men calling me luv.

One of our regulars used to call all of the girls “me old darling.” He’d say, “Another drink, me old darling.” I hated this and used to grit my teeth each time. When my husband wants to wind me up, he’ll call me that. Gets me going every time!

Do you use endearments in your relationships? Which endearments do you absolutely despise?

The Rebirth of Napier

On Feb 3 1931, at 10.47am an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck the seaside town of Napier in New Zealand. Fires soon broke out, destroying buildings that had survived the earthquake. 157 died in Napier due to the earthquake and resulting fires.

Instead of rebuilding the Victorian-style town straight away, the townsfolk formed a committee and made a careful plan for the new town. The decision to go with the Art Deco style was a practical one. The buildings were robust, should there be further earthquakes. They were cheap to build—a consideration since it was the depression. And finally, Art Deco was fashionable.

The first building to go up after the quake was the Market Reserve Building. The builders used rivets on the steel frame, instead of welding it. They wanted to create as much noise as possible to send a message of hope to the the people.

These days the Art Deco features are a real feature and bring a lot of tourists to the town. I rather like the plain block-type style of the buildings and the intricate zigzag and starburst patterns. Egyptian and Mayan designs are also visible on many buildings. Leadlight glass designs were also a common decoration, but I don’t have any photos of those. 

Napier 082

This is the former Hotel Central, which was built in 1932. It has balconies, balconets and zigzag and sunburst decorations.

Napier 065

This shot shows the interior of the current ASB Bank. This building features a Maori design in red, black and white. This photo really doesn’t do the decor justice. It’s breath-taking. I stood inside the bank and gawked.

Napier 094 Napier 137

Napier 148 Napier 199

Napier 144 Napier 088

Top left: Colenso House, done in Spanish Mission style.

Top right: Daily Telegraph Building. This building contains most of the Art Deco styles including zigzags, fountain shapes, and sunburst.

Middle left: Thorps building as a Mayan flavor to its facade.

Middle right: The interior of the Masonic Hotel.

Bottom left: The exterior of the Masonic Hotel.

Bottom right: A view of the buildings in Emerson Street, the main street of Napier.

Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Napier 112 Napier 116

Napier 176 Napier 181

The Art Deco flavor is enhanced with music, souvenirs, cars, and costumes. Even the fountain is designed to blend with the buildings around the town. Visitors can take a tour or do a self-tour. It’s a pleasant walk with lots of cafes and pubs along the way to take a break. The perfect way to while away a few hours. I highly recommend a visit to Napier, if you’re ever down this way.

Do you like the Art Deco style?

Recipe: Melting Moments

Weekend CookingWeekend Cooking is a chance to share the food love and is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. On Saturday mornings, publish your post — perhaps a cookbook review or maybe just some favorite food-related quotes.

Make sure to leave a link, so we can read what you have to say. I hope you’ll join in when your weekend (or recent) reading or movie watching fits in with the theme. Remember, the definition of Weekend Cooking is free and easy, if you think your post even remotely fits the theme, grab the button and sign in to Mr. Linky.


Melting Moments

My mother used to make these biscuits when I was a child, so each time I eat one it’s like a trip down memory lane. Melting Moments are shortbread-like in texture and are sandwiched together with icing. The recipe is taken from one of my older cookbooks, which is why it’s not in metric measurements.

DSCF1471 

Ingredients:

7 oz butter
3oz icing sugar (powdered sugar)
4 oz plain flour
4 oz corn flour (corn starch)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Method:

Cream butter and icing sugar in a mixing bowl. Sift the flour, corn flour and baking powder and add to the bowl. Combine well. Roll in balls (small teaspoon size) and place on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten a fraction with your hand, then press each biscuit a bit flatter with a fork. Bake in a moderate oven (350F or 170C) for 15 – 20 minutes until they’re still pale but their bottoms are turning brown. Once the biscuits are cool sandwich them together with your favorite icing.

Notes:

1. To stop your fork sticking to the biscuit, dip the fork in a cup of cold water between flattening each biscuit. My mother taught me this handy hint.

2. I usually use a lemon or passion fruit icing (frosting) to sandwich the biscuits together. You can also use your favorite jam.

Do you have particular recipes that bring back your childhood?



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