Christmas food, spices and Zanzibar

It’s that time of year when chefs and cooks around the world turn their minds to the Christmas cooking. Since Christmas cakes and Christmas puddings rely on the delicious spices originally brought back to Europe from Asia and Zanzibar, what better time to share some photos of the spices in their natural habitat in Zanzibar, once known as part of the Spice Islands.

You can compare the images with the spices listed in my Christmas cake recipe from my other blog.360 nutmeg and mace low

348 cardamom low


While holidaying in Zanzibar, and en route to the north-eastern beach at Ras Nungwi, we did a spice tour. It was really fun as well as informative. The guys made it really enjoyable by testing our knowledge of the plants from smell and taste, and along the way made us hats, necklaces, dilly bags, and glasses.

Cloves, not yet ripened.

Cloves, not yet ripened.

Peeling bark from the cinnamon tree.

Peeling bark from the cinnamon tree.

Do you recognise any of these plants, or do you use them in your Christmas cooking? Each and every one is in my Christmas cake recipe but the star is….

Green peppercorns are picked and dried before they ripen.

Green peppercorns are picked and dried before they ripen.

366 spice exchange low_edited-1Now where’s my Cointreau?

Mind you I find it somewhat ironic that all these spices, so integrally associated with Christmas, can be found on the largely Islamic island of Zanzibar.

The travellers in our Spice Farm accessories.

The travellers in our Spice Farm accessories.

Kathmandu Doorways

Inspired by last week’s post on Doorways of Travel I thought I’d add some of my old photos from a trip to Kathmandu in 1977.

Kathmandu monks 1977 edit

This one has always amused me – what were they looking at?

Kathmandu butchers edit

I can’t say I’d be enthused to use this butcher shop. Goat anyone?

Many feature doorways for the simple reason that the workspaces are so tiny and people work squashed up at all sorts of skills. Our children, then aged six and four, were with us on the trip so they had some amazing experiences. We were staying with friends and former work colleagues so we were fortunate to have our own built-in tour guides.Kathmandu sari beading copy

Silver or tin smiths working on jewellery etc.

Silver or tin smiths working on jewellery etc.

Some sort of celebration or religious event -I wouldn't take a photo like this these days.

Some sort of celebration or religious event -I wouldn’t take a photo like this these days.

This image always makes me feel depressed even though street vendors are common throughout Asia.

This image always makes me feel depressed even though street vendors are common throughout Asia.

It’s a shame these photos are so colour-damaged but that’s one of the hazards of tropical living.

Sepia Saturday 202: Sandcastles, coats and spots

Sepia Saturday 202Sepia Saturday’s image for Week 202 focuses on a couple at the beach with a strange looking toy.Rach at beach The Hague

The family image that came to mind was one we took on a trip to Europe in 1977. We had taken the children to the beach for an outing as we so often did at home. Although it was around Easter and still quite chilly it did seem strange to see everyone on the beach in their boots and coats, whereas we were used to the kids being in singlets and knickers.

Louisa and Rach sandcastles The Hague

As always the girls just picked up their usual habit of building sand castles which attracted the attention of this spotty Dalmatian.

If my memory serves correctly, we were only at the beach because we had to spend additional days in the Netherlands because my husband’s passport etc etc had been stolen on an Amsterdam tram late on the Friday evening. On the Monday we had to go to the Australian embassy in The Hague to get a new passport issued, then back to Amsterdam to reissue our Amex travellers cheques. On the way into the embassy daughter #1 (in the red jumper) got her finger stuck in the hinges of the big glass door. One of those situations where no matter what strategy you employed there was pain, and yelling, involved.

Phase 2 of the process in the UK, with visas and more travellers cheques of a different brand, didn’t go nearly so smoothly. We spent so much time shuttling between the Nepalese embassy, the PNG consultate and the bank that we had a much more limited opportunity to sightsee around London. Lessons of the story: make sure one of each of you has their own passport and money (tick) and try never to have your passport stolen!

Shadow Shot Sunday: Up, up and away

It’s Shadow Shot Sunday so why not pop over and see what others have written and photographed.

Shadow Shot Sunday

While we were in Kenya we woke up one early to do a hot air balloon flight – another first for me. I don’t like heights, or more specifically edges, so I wasn’t sure how I’d go but I loved it!! Of course we were floating so low we could almost have jumped out, except for those voracious and carnivorous critters.

567 balloonist and light

571 Balloon filling low

Blurry trees in the pre-dawn morning light. You can see how low you can go.

Blurry trees in the pre-dawn morning light. You can see how low you can go.

Shadow Shot Sunday Samburu and Kudu

Today is once again Shadow Shot Sunday and I thought I’d start the photos from my recent trip to Africa – Kenya, Uganda and Zanzibar in Tanzania.Shadow Shot Sunday

We were very fortunate to do a few of safaris while in Kenya, the first in the Masai Mara National Reserve, one to Lake Nakuru where we saw flamingos, and one at Samburu National Park further north. What was great was to be able to see different species of animals, and ones that differed between the parks. The scenery varied quite a lot so we were so pleased to have the time and opportunity to take more than one safari.

A male Greater Kudu in Samburu. © Pauleen Cass 2013

A male Greater Kudu in Samburu -the shadows dapple his striped coat. © Pauleen Cass 2013

We were impressed to note that our pilots on the flight to Oryx airstrip at Samburu National Park were both young Kenyan women. One of our guides, Anthony, was there waiting for us in the ubiquitous open-sided Landcruiser and we set forth on mini-safari en route to Elephant Bedroom Camp.

A female Greater Kudu with her pretty face, and striped coat snacks on the tree.  © Pauleen Cass 2013

A female Greater Kudu with her pretty face, and striped coat snacks on the tree. © Pauleen Cass 2013

Anthony was a Samburu man and I think that their multi-generational knowledge brings so much interest to each drive. His keen eyesight soon picked out a few Greater Kudu grazing among the shadows.  Initially we didn’t realise this was such an important sighting as we’d seen a wide variety of antelopes already. However it’s fairly unusual to see a Kudu as they are quite shy and generally stay in more mountainous areas.

They have beautiful markings and the males have quite impressive horns. The multiple twists of his horn suggest that he’s quite old but with his young ladies around he certainly wasn’t solitary as our animal book indicates.

In the midday heat they were enjoying snacking in the shade of the trees – can you blame them?

Breaking from the shadows the male shows  the "war paint" across his nose. © Pauleen Cass 2013

Breaking from the shadows the male shows the “war paint” across his nose. © Pauleen Cass 2013

Into Africa

11 elephants and plains_edited-1Skywards in September

Australia to Arabia and Zanzibar

Wandering like Joseph

Under African skies[i]

Animals from Antelopes to Zebras

Roam their own vast spaces

As nature intended

And not in a zoo

How can a giraffe

So very tall

Disappear from view

A mother lion and cubs

Ignore the circling safari

A lick, a snarl, a swaggering few

The leopard with in-filled spots

Ignores the enclosing traffic jam

Yet jumps skittishly at a twig

Thousands of Wildebeest

Migrate like ants down the hill

To cross the river en masse

A Samburu in pastels and beads

Shares the knowledge of years

With his curious visitors

Maasai in red, hiss and

Leap before the fire

Bring the watchers to the dance

Narrow Stonetown lanes

Ancients houses, carved wooden doors

Intrigue yet exclude the visitor

New days, new language and experiences

Jambo, Sopa

Asanti sana, Karibu

Lala salama[ii]

These songs of Africa stay with us

Though our passing presence

Goes unnoticed into Africa

[i] Reference to Paul Simon’s Graceland album and the song,

[ii] Jambo (hello in Kiswahili), Sopa (hello in Maa), Asanti sana (thank you very much) always followed by Karibu (you’re welcome). Security guards wish you lala salama (sleep well)…a greeting that can’t be returned, for safety’s sake.

Too late for Easter

It’s one thing taking a photo most days, it seems to be another to upload them and keep up to date with my main blog, especially when I’m in the midst of a daily post in the A to Z April challenge.

These two photos are of Easter-themed egg cups which I was given as a child by a great-aunt who was like a grandmother to me (my maternal grandmother, her sister, having died when I was tiny). Having recently reacquired them, I passed them on to my grandsons on Easter Sunday along with their Easter bunnies (sorry no bilbies). After all my granddaughter recently got my old bride doll so it seemed only fair.