Typhoon Ondoy

As some of you may have heard, we were struck by a horrible typhoon (typhoon Ondoy, international name: Ketsanaon) on September 26, Saturday. Most of Luzon (the region where Metro Manila is) was placed under a state of calamity on Saturday as cities and provinces in the region lay victim to massive flooding.

My family and I are safe but that is not the case for a lot of my fellow countrymen. Many lost their homes, and in numerous tragic cases, dear ones as well. Some are still missing. They need our help.

Here are some ways to help:

  • You can donate to the Philippine Red Cross HERE – you just have to choose Typhoon Ondoy under Project/Activity. More ways to donate to the Philippine Red Cross HERE. You can also donate via Txtpower.org to the Philippines Red Cross. You will need a Paypal account though.
  • Midge of Sybaritic Diversions has put together some numbers to call HERE.
  • Marketman is increasing his feeding program's efforts in the public schools in Taguig HERE.
  • Starting today, 29 September, the Philippine National Red Cross will be accepting relief goods and donations for the victims of Typhoon Ondoy from 8am to 8pm at The Blue Leaf Events Pavilion, 100 Park Ave. McKinley Hill Vill. Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
  • Enderun College (1100 Campus St, McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio) is preparing food packages for distribution and accepting food donations.
  • Whitespace, a venue in Makati, is also accepting donations. Most needed are: potable water, rice, blankets, clothing detergent, body soap, clothes, canned goods (or any food that can survive transport). Also needed: crackers/cookies, noodles, toiletries, formula...and VOLUNTEERS to help repack everything and load them into vans. Also badly needed are Vans for transport. Whitespace is in 2314 Pasong Tamo Extension (in between Cantinetta and Makati Hope Christian School). You can call 8447328 for more info.
  • All LBC branches, both here and abroad are available as drop-off centers for relief goods and cash donations which will be transported/remitted for free. They have partners such as ABS-CBN to make sure the goods are sent to those most in need.
  • If you are in the Alabang area you can call Deds. They are offering their showroom as drop off point for donations for the flood victims. They will deliver the goods to De La Salle Zobel so you don't have to go inside the village. Please drop off from 9 AM to 5 PM at Shop Familia, #406 Richville Corporate Centre 1314 Commerce Avenue Extension, Madrigal Business Park, Alabang Muntinlupa City. Phone: 8428412.
  • You can check Mc Donald's or Jollibee outlets. Most of their outlets are drop-off points for everyone to donate relief goods.
  • All La Salle Schools are accepting donations in cash and kind for the typhoon victims. Details on their Ondoy Relief Operation can be found HERE.
  • ABS-CBN drop off point for donations is at Examiner St., right by Alex III. Manggy has heard clamor for new underwear but of course food and potable water is the priority.
  • Also from Manggy: Doctors who wish to volunteer their services can contact the Philippine Medical Association at 929-6366 or 929-6951.
  • Ateneo de Manila University is also organizing relief operations. See details HERE.
  • For those in the U.S., you can view links posted by Knitty Mommy for US donations HERE.
  • If you are abroad, you can also use your Amazon account to donate to THIS Kickstart project.
  • THIS LINK lists the consolidated efforts for Typhoon Ondoy relief.
  • Gawad Kalinga Foundation is also organizing relief efforts. You can make donations HERE.

Amidst this tragedy, the amount of people coming together to help is truly inspirational. If anyone knows of more avenues to help, send donations, places in need of volunteers, please leave a comment. I will repost them here as well. Thank you!

God left dis place a luong tahme agoo - Days Five and Six

Day five passes peacefully with pictures, pleasantness and posh nosh before and early night.

Going to bed at 9.30 has its benefits, in particular it makes getting up at 6am feel less being forced to testify against a friend. Our last guide, Q, arrives a little early at our hotel in order to cross-examine the owners. His daughter is getting married in a couple of months and he is looking for somewhere local to put them up on their wedding night. He likes the look of our hotel; he might be back.
Q will drive us further along the coast to Gansbaai where real adventure, lifelong dreams and some enormous fish await. Along the way I decide to ask him about his background. His ethnicity is almost impossible to pinpoint, but it's highly unlikely he'd have been white enough for some racist pencil-wielding motherfucker making the decisions in the 1960s.
“Where did you grow up?” I ask when he points out a township.
“District Six.”
“Yah. I can tell you about it because I lived it.”
He can, but it seems he won't. Whereas everyone else has been surprisingly forthcoming with information and opinion, Q seems quite reluctant. When I decide to ignore this and push on with questioning him anyway, I can feel the ugly pang of Actual Journalism inside. I don't like it, but my mind scrabbles and finds follow up questions. Even more unfortunately, they garner some genuinely excellent, highly usable quotes. Suffice to say here that his family were uprooted and displaced like everyone else. Happily – for his family at least – they were shunted into an area that would eventually become one of the most sought-after neighbourhoods in the entire city.
It's clear, though, that he's much more keen to talk about the present and the future, whether it's the World Cup, his daughter's wedding or the next five minutes in front of our faces. In any case, he's a nice guy, even though he's in the unfortunate situation of being our fifth guide of the week; the majority of his Capetonian factoids aren't new to us.
Most folks'll tell you that if you want to see whales in South Africa, the best place to go is Hermanus, which locals pronounce Herrmaaanoos. As usual, most folks are wrong. While its more glamorous neighbour has swollen in population to cope with the colossal number of tourists who go there every year to watch whales from the shore, the neighbouring Gansbaai is the teeming body of water Hermanus would rather you didn't know about.
For me, the idea of whale watching has never really held that much appeal: standing on a cold cliff watching something a bit dark that may or may not be a mega-mammal bob around in the waves just sounds, well, a bit shit. For Wee Mo, though, it's much more important – a sporadic hobby, but moreover a long-standing passion. When we get on the boat for our whale watching tour, being honest, I'm thinking: this is for her first, my piece second.
That negativity lasts less than two minutes as barely has the skipper opened up the engine – the tour operator certainly hasn't finished his briefing - and we stop. Here, just ahead, two southern right whales are lolling around and, gradually, heading in our direction. Initially, the biggest surprise about them is the roar they produce when exhaling through their blow-hole which looks like a big plasticine nose pointing skywards. Amazingly, they come right over to the ship, dwarfing it from below. The zoom lens I've got on the front of my camera actually puts me too close to them to get a decent picture.

If their noise and attitude are a surprise, though, the fact that they were hunted to near extinction is not. Naturally curious and slow moving, these languid leviathans got their name because they were such easy quarry – if you saw one of these, you knew it was the right whale to be following.
When we move off, I'm a bit worried that after this flying start it will all peter out. But as anyone who looked at my Bet 365 account circa 2002 – 2006 will be able to tell you, I'm pish at predicting pretty much anything. We make five or six more stops, each time getting good long looks at the whales. At one point, one of them even gives the boat a gentle nudge. “Don't touch the whales,” they told us at the start – I thought they were talking shite.
It's alternately serene and exciting, but photographing them is often frustrating. It reminds me of watching waves, willing the next one to be a mini tsunami, only to see its retreating predecessors suck away its power. Here, just when it looks like you're going to get the iconic shot of a V-shaped tale with a sweeping panorama behind, the whale dives just a little early, or turns, or just gets a bit lazy and doesn't bother committing mooning us.
Two hours fly past and we turn for shore. It's been fantastic, better than I could have imagined and then they stop the boat for one more whale. This one – god bless the fat bastard – decides to breach, right in front of us, disappearing for a few seconds then repeatedly hurling itself into the air.

It's 1996 or possibly 1997 and everyone in my second year English class must pick and animal, study everything they can about it and give a talk some weeks later. Given that most adolescents can be hung, drawn and quartered by their peers for bird shit on their jacket, it seems a little cruel and unusual. Still, as I'm a weird combination of bully, nerd and big-mouthed prick – able to study with enthusiasm and jeely-body anyone who dare make fun of my effort – it's the sort of thing I love. I choose sharks and spend about a fortnight reading what I can and picking out some pre-Google/Wikipedia information from the internet. I repeatedly watch videos of shark-bite victims round at an Older Pal's house and, partly because of their enthusiasm, settle on a notion that I want to go cage diving with great whites.
Thirteen years later and today is the day. And on somebody else's dime too. We arrive just before they start the briefing and are quickly shuttled onto the boat where we spend the 25 minute commute out to Dyer Island talking about whales.
Strangely, the cage is already out there, bobbing in the ocean waiting for our arrival. An irritating English girl, who has been annoying most folk with a video camera – doubtless so she can charge us a fortune at the end for a pish DVD – starts to give a safety briefing when somebody shouts “Shark!”
I get up to the viewing deck and look below. There's nothing there. This, as it turns out, is how much of the time is spent – waiting, only really watching a large shoal of small fish going wild over the chum and an enormous fish head they're using as bait. Once or twice I think I see a shadow below the surface but it's pretty hard to see much of anything. Hmm.
We gamble and decide to go with the second group into the cage. Then, just as the first diver of the first group is about to get in, it happens; a great white rushes up from the deep and gets a good hold of the bait. It thrashes around like a dog with a rope-toy, then drags it below. The line gets tight for a minute, then goes slack. The buoy goes too. The line-handler below grumbles that he should have had a shout from the spotters on the deck with me about the shark's attack. No body else is complaining.
Wee Mo and I get our wetsuits on about 20 minutes later then go back to watching. Sometimes the shark comes back up to the surface and every time, the older South African who has taken charge of the bait-line has an uncanny ability to predict it. To be honest, though, it's pretty slim pickings. I wonder if those in the water are bored or frustrated. I probably would be.
After what feels like a few days, it's out turn to get into the water. I had expected to get an air supply and to be lowered into the water. Most people (because of Jaws) expect the same, but that's not what happens. Instead you kind of sit in the cage, holding on to the roof with no air other than what you can hold in your lungs. Admittedly, that sounds a bit pish, but once you get the hang of it, it's really not. We're in for literally a few seconds when the first one arrives.
Strangely, fear couldn't be further from my mind. Instead... Instead, I dunno. It's not even excitement, just total fixation. Nothing else in the world matters; just it. It's like being hilariously high – I'm dedicated to the moment and the event, utterly absorbed.
The shark hangs around briefly, then disappears. Ten long minutes pass with nothing happening. Then two divers – women, obviously – decide to jack get back on board and let a couple of Spaniards (the only two people yet to dive) join me, Wee Mo and an amusingly enthusiastic American pensioner in the cage. Maybe they smell tempting – I imagine most healthy Spaniards would probably taste quite nice, pre-marinated almost – but moments after they get in the cage, it all kicks off.
The shark from earlier returns, more determined, keen, it seems to me at any rate, to entertain. Again and again it chases the bait, occasionally taking a break by circling the cage and at one point taking a small bite (alas, not at my end). Every time it appears, it's only for a few seconds, but there's something different about this. Hours later, with waking eyes I can see the images of their gigantic shape tattooed onto my brain. My body changes too. I forget about breathing. Or at least I don't prioritise it, even when I'm underwater – and I haul myself down again and again and again. Most of the time, I see the shark approaching before they do on the surface. I can't remember the last time I was this focussed, this dedicated. Somehow in the middle of it all, I managed to take a couple of decent pictures too. Just when I don't think it can get any better, a second shark turns up, bigger with a patchwork of scars across its face. Other things happen but really they don't matter. This is fucking great.

Topsy Turvy

Ok, craziness over here. Seriously. Can't scan, no fabric delivery, car is in the shop and I was displace and out of my home for two working days because they were paving and other stuff around here. Let me re-group for a day or so. Meanwhile, enjoy these videos. One is of my funny friends from Kindred Quilts and the other is of an amazing sand artist who won Ukraine's Got Talent.


Vacation Notes

I had such a great trip back home! I was in Rhode Island visiting friends and family for a week and a half. I got to spend lots of time at the beach and watched some great movies with my mom (Coco was my favorite!), fell asleep listening to the waves at night, went to the amazing Brimfield fleamarket and found lots of treasures to turn into a whole new collection of jewelry (stay tuned... I'm so excited to show you!), took the ferry to Block Island, ate tons of delicious seafood, went to an outrageous wedding and took the train to New York to visit my cousin and my oldest friends. It was so relaxing... just what I needed!

Case Design At Flutter

Check out the exciting new jewelry cases that I designed at Flutter!

God left dis place a luong tahme agoo - Day Four

Meet P. He too lived through Apartheid (he was classified as coloured, which was worse than white, but better than black) and today is a sort of Del Boy figure, wheeling and dealing in property, operating a tour company, keeping an eye on his daughter and trying to keep a hand-in with football coaching. Lovely jubbly.

He’s taking us down to the wonderfully-named Cape of Good Hope, the very mention of which immediately makes me think of pirates and adventure and discovery and the world being flat.

Before that, though, we’re stopping off in Hout Bay, a little fishing town a little way down the coast. Initially, there doesn’t really seem to be much point in us stopping here; it’s quite pretty and all, but nothing that you wouldn’t find in the north of Scotland. But then we meet Peter, an almost-certainly-insane local, who P tells us has been locked in a 27 year battle with the authorities over his behaviour around the dock. Specifically, they don’t like his party piece – holding dead fish in his mouth and having blubbery, barking Cape Fur Seals leap from the water to snatch it out.

He has it down to a fine art, which is probably just as well as the seals are far bigger and, at least when food is on offer, more aggressive than expected. Peter has been feeding the seals like this since finding six pups covered in oil before I was even born. Only one survived and today, the imaginatively titled Petey Boy leads the pack when it comes out to hand outs. The Man says it creates a dangerous association with humans and food – and they might have a point; when a boy tried to imitate Peter’s weird feeding technique, his face was mauled.

The hobo in the red cap doesn’t really care (he later tells us that he has recently been in court for threatening to kill a man sent to poison Petey Boy) he just feeds the seals and collects donations from onlookers “for more fish” and possibly fortified wine.

We stop off at Boulders Beach to have a close up look at some African penguins in the wild but get absolutely soaked by a passing squall, so we’re quickly back in the van and heading towards the end of the earth. One of the great things about the Cape Point peninsula, the south westernmost point of the African continent, is that it looks exactly as it should – grand, dramatic, final, like Peter Jackson designed it with a limitless budget. Here, at the end of all things, the wind blows and the waves crash and mountains plunge into the sea. There’s so much fresh air and, well, general weather that the suffocating brown sky of Dubai seems like a dreadful impossibility.

We get buffeted by the wind at the Cape of Good Hope before heading for something to eat at the Two Oceans cliff top restaurant. As we’re visiting journalists, the manager orders the entire staff gather round our table to serenade us with a pitch-perfect, distinctly African chorus, before dancing off to the kitchen. Being British, and a dick, I find it quite embarrassing initially, but then quite enjoy it.

When they’ve left, a horrendous colonial type (she’s definitely into horses) leans over.

“I say, why did they do that for you? Are you on honeymoon?”

“No no, we’re just very, very important people.”


We tuck into a sprawling seafood platter (I avoid the mussels) but croquet woman hasn’t finished. Not satisfied with my answer, she wants to know more. I get half way through telling her the truth before she starts banging on about herself. No one is interested. Her teenage daughter is mortified. When she move on to P, grilling him about Apartheid (I’d be amazed if she didn’t support it) I have a strong desire to hurl her into the angry surf below.

We head back inland, pass an ostrich and a baboon, both of which have long since forgotten a fear of humans, and rattle towards the Sleepy Hollow Horse Riding centre. For reasons not immediately obvious to either of us, we’re here for a horse ride along a beach. We’re joined by a couple who actually are on honeymoon and are, bizarrely, from Glasgow, Shawlands in fact. That stabbing Glaswegian brogue is the last accent I expected to hear in a place like this.

We saddle up on grey horses Maestro and Cognac and tentatively follow our group leader out of the centre. It becomes pretty clear that my horse, Cognac, prefers eating to walking, this along with the general discomfort and increasing boredom confirm a long held suspicion that horse riding is, in fact, pure pish. Unfortunately for Wee Mo, the experience is altogether more unsettling. Her last riding experience came the best part of 20 years ago and ended with her thrown then hospitalised. When I fail to sufficiently stifle on of my irritatingly loud sneezes, her horse startles and almost bolts. The next 90 minutes are spent holding on tightly and occasionally cursing me. Like I said: horse riding = pish.

We’re taken to our new hotel, in the pretty little town of St James, but are both too tired to do much else other than digest the knowledge that our planned snorkelling with seals has been cancelled due to a choppy sea. Instead, the day will be ours to do as we please which, given how much running around we’ve done, is fantastic news.

Nourish The Soul

It has been a nutty week. Don't I always say that? Well, I finished a couple of projects and then was displaced for a couple of days. I had to leave early and I had to stay out of my house all day because there was paving and other stuff going on around here. Of course, my car and printer had to break down amidst all of this. Timing is everything! You just have to smile and move forward.

I'm not trying to bore you with the details.  All of it made me think about how lucky I am to be crafty [in the artful way, of course]. Sewing, knitting and all of the other things that I do make me who I am. What a great relief and distraction when my day is turned upside down. That's how I felt when I designed the projects from my "Inspiration" line for you. 

For now, I can say that I am thankful for a lot of things and that whenever life is just a bit out of sorts, sitting down to sew or knit is nourishing to the soul. Sometimes a little escape is all I need. Next month is breast cancer awareness month. I'm sure that many of you have been affected by someone who has had to deal with this horrible disease. I hope that you will make these little gifts for the loved one in your life who's dealing with and fighting this terrible disease. 

This little zippered pouch is the first pattern for you. I use mine all of the time and I put all of my itty bitty things in it. Otherwise, my purse would be a big, black hole and nothing would ever be found. [*Link will be posted tomorrow. Technical difficulty and technical guy is out of town until tonight. Sorry!]

Thanks for reading.

xo, L

God left dis place a luong tahme agoo - Day Three

Standing in a pungent spice shop, being jostled by busy workers bagging up cardamom seeds and saffron and paprika and peri peri and chilli powder and ginger and cumin, I think, “This has the makings of a foreign curryspondence.

We’re in the Malay quarter of Cape Town – the Bo-Kaap – an area that were it not for the glorious colours of the buildings, would look like an especially depressing inner-city scheme. It certainly doesn’t feel very African.

N is our guide and quite possibly the cheeriest (and certainly the campest) Muslim I have ever met. It’s hard not to think that it’s a goddamn shame that more people aren’t like him though: when talking about abstinence during daylight in Ramadan, he titters that “really we’re like vampires – raaarrr!” Before folding into giggles.

This part of town was the settlement of choice for descendents of Javanese slaves who were brought here by the largely evil Dutch East India Company. Today the remnants of that enforced emigration is a strong Muslim community spread between a few colourful streets near the city centre. What was once a near slum is now makes up some of the most sought-after real estate in the city.

We are on the Cape Malay Cooking Safari, a brief cultural tour of the area, before moving onto the considerably more important topic of food as, alongside the religion here, culinary techniques and recipes have endured.

We’re led into one of the drabbest houses on the block and straight into a family living room. An initially shy, then increasingly boisterous and ultimately irritating five-year-old peeks down from half way up a staircase; two teenage daughters fiddle with their head-scarves and a gurgling baby; in the middle of it all stands F, the mother. She’s got a wearied knowing look of parenthood about her that almost obscures an undercurrent of mischief. F is a ball breaker, always on everyone’s case, maybe joking, maybe not. She treats international guests and the five-year-old the same.

We’re quizzed on some of the spices we’d seen earlier in shop and largely fail, before we’re cajoled (and occasionally bollocked) into kneading dough to make rotis, mixing ingredients for the curry and then folding samosas. At one point, Wee Mo finds herself stirring a pot with one hand and holding a baby in the other. It’s manic stuff, but all good fun. Moreover, the scran is – to my surprise – actually Quite Good, even though all we really did was follow the occasionally threatening directions.

A couple of hours later we leave with full bellies and a slight whiff of curry following us in the air. It’s not right to say that it’s downhill from there – or if it is, it’s only in an emotional sense.

When Nelson Mandela was released from jail, I was seven years old; when he became the first black president of South Africa, I was 11. The word Apartheid meant little – it maybe had something to do with the Nazis, I wasn’t sure.

This and dozens of other mounds of my ignorance are dissolved when we’re picked up by O, our fourth guide in three days, who is to take us on a township tour. He gives us a full and frank history of the cities troubled past – born in 1951, he lived through the majority of the racist Apartheid regime.

The first stop is District 6, a former neighbourhood and current wasteland near the heart of the city. In 1966 an agreement was signed to clear the area as it had been designated as white-only. Depending on skin colour (which was often decided via the Pencil Test) people were given more or less notice to clear out before the demolition began. Apparently one black family were eating breakfast in the kitchen when a bulldozer came through the living room.

From here people were displaced around the city to designated townships. They, along with thousands of others brought in from rural areas to aid with construction, remain home to some of the poorest ethic groups. We stop in Khayelitsha which with over 2 million inhabitants (Glasgow and Edinburgh combined) is the biggest township in the city. O shows us the hangover of Apartheid, people living in corrugated iron shacks without power or running water. At one point K and I find ourselves sitting in one of these little shed-homes, listening to a dress-maker tell us the story of how her cheating husband gave her HIV. When we leave I give her some money which is pathetic, but all I can think to do in the moment. Outside, some kids throw themselves in front of the camera, unaware of the misery all around.

The guide explains that the reason this way of living became so popular was partly down to the alternative, which saw men rounded up from other areas of the country and forced to work unreasonable hours before going to bed in horrendous squalor, with up to 20 people sharing in a room. Here Wee Mo and I feel particularly ashamed; that, after all, is exactly how tens of thousands of Indians, Pakistanis and Pinoys are living in the Middle East today. We’re humbled, embarrassed and massively uncomfortable with a lot of what O has to teach us, but that’s undoubtedly a good thing.

Throughout he keeps on talking about the “miracle of South Africa”: that the country didn’t fall into civil war because of Mandela’s pleas for black to forgive white; that the families forcibly removed from District 6 are now being offered a new home or compensation by the government; that now areas of Khayelitsha are now being torn down and replaced with simple, but safe homes complete with electricity and running water. He points out some of this work going on.

“This time the bulldozers are welcome,” I say, feeling a bit sick, but still somehow thinking that it might make a good closing line for a piece of Actual Journalism.

“Yes my friend,” he says laughing.

God left dis place a luong tahme agoo - Day Two

We’re up early for another tour this time of the west coast, north of Cape Town. I gorge on too much breakfast, making a pig of myself in the twee Morning Room and half an hour later, we’re picked up by L and her partner M. The latter is a native Afrikaner who grew up on a farm – he looks like it too, with fat leathery hands and a cap screwed tight onto his head. He looks like he’s in his mid 40s; she looks a bit older.

“I’m from Rhodesia,” she says briskly. “I’m embarrassed to call it Zimbabwe.” If that sounds a little severe, though, she turns out to be really quite a cool person. A little bit bossy, a little bit funny, but very friendly, she makes more effort than anyone to make sure we feel welcome in her adopted county.

She has decided to largely ignore the plans for today, opting instead to take us to some of her preferred tourist spots. First up is an ostrich farm, where the cartoonish birds are raised for slaughter. Most of the carcass is used and – to my ignorant surprise – the hide is especially important as ostrich leather is some of the most durable in the world. The meat is eaten; the feathers used for dusters; the egg-shells whittled down for jewellery or decorated as ornaments. It all reminds me of a long-lost primary school project on Native Americans.
We feed a couple of ostriches (which owing to an unfortunate incident with a goose as a toddler is a little traumatic) and even get on the back of one at one point, although it’s tethered in a stall. It’s friendly enough, but if you piss off an ostrich enough, it can rip your belly open, raptor-style. They can also run at a sustained 40mph, so you wouldn’t be able to get away from them either. The best tactic, apparently, is to hit the deck as they can only kick forward, not down. I guess punching it in the balls would be the next move after that.
Our next stop is the !Khwa Ttu [sic], San culture and educational centre. We’re taken out a little into the bush, to a mock campsite to learn a bit about the traditional San (traditional bushmen) lifestyle. While watching a guy start fire and fashion bone into a bracelet is only so interesting, listening to them talk the native dialect – all clicks and pops – is really cool, as are the imitations of the animals. As a young San man, those sounds are important; you need to know what’s sneaking up on your tent at night. Out here, there are all kinds of wandering beasts, from lions to snakes to the eland, the biggest antelope in the world, which based on its skull alone must be an intimidating bastard up close.

We drive to the coast for lunch at On The Rocks at Bloubergstrand. From here there’s supposed to be a great view of Table Mountain, but today the whole thing is covered in cloud. Unsurprisingly, seafood dominates the menu in most of the posh-to-middling restaurants in the Western Cape so I order mussels to start and line-caught yellowtail for main. It’s nice. I don’t think much more about it.

Chins wiped, business cards handed to manager, we are whisked away to meet some beach conservationists. An hour passes in a gloomy beach hut as we are given a Powerpoint presentation on the ecology of the region. It’s pretty dire stuff and, with a belly full of food, staying awake is a genuine challenge, which is a shame for the student giving us the talk. Having already stuttered to a stop and confessed of nerves in front of her audience (just the four of us) my yawning and Wee Mo slouching bored at the end of the table no doubt don’t help.

By the time we get back into the car, we’re a bit fed up but have to stop in at the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) before we can head for home. Something in my stomach doesn’t feel quite right.

We’re met by V who has worked at the centre for seven years. Initially starting as volunteer, she’s now a fully qualified vet. She shows us around, introducing us to a poorly penguin and a demented cormorant. Many of the birds in here have been poisoned by some kind of pollution, but a significant number are injured by seals.

“So the penguins eat fish, the seals eat the penguins and the sharks eat them?” I ask.

“Yeah,” says V, “I wish there were more sharks.”

Like everyone else we’ve spoken to, she hasn’t been shark cage diving (M actually laughed at the prospect earlier) instead leaving it to the tourists. Struggling for much to say while she is jostled by a huddle of penguins trying to get some of the fish she has in a bucket, we ask about the king penguin we saw at the aquarium yesterday.

“Oh that’s a really sad story. It lived up in Namibia with its partner for 27 years, then it was transferred here. Unfortunately the partner got sick and died when they were in Cape Town – she died right here, we were all in tears.”

But what about the mirror?

“They put that in to keep in company. They need to be quite strict though and limit it – they can become quite obsessed otherwise. But you saw how much he looks forward to Mirror Time…”

Crushed under the gloom, we are ushered back to the car. As soon as we get in, though, I realise that the odd feeling in my stomach isn’t heartache, but a growing sense of being unwell. M asks to be dropped off and by the time we’ve got the outskirts of Cape Town, everything inside me is wrenching to get out of the nearest exit. I’m rotten on the inside, but don’t have the heart to tell the ultra likeable L.

Pulling into the hotel car park, every little movement is potentially deadly. When a security guard asks us to sign in I think I might cry; when L insists on a hug goodbye, there’s a very real chance I might be evacuated completely.

Finally I collapse into the toilet, and there I stay for the rest of the uncomfortable evening.

Lemon Butter Cookies / Sablés Au Citron

We had such wet weather last week, with rains pouring down and gloomy skies. Going to the market required juggling an umbrella with my usual market bag, and using my free hand to inspect veggies and fruits (and trying to avoid the big drips of water from overhead make-shift awnings that seem to target my head specifically!). It also meant having to market in actual “closed” shoes as opposed to my usual flip-flops...criminy.

C was woebegone as he couldn’t go biking (he’s a passionate mountain biker). I would spy him early on weekend mornings, shuffling out of bed and peering hopefully through the window blinds, then shuffling back to bed with a sigh and a resigned look. The trails would be too muddy to ride through.

This week however flounced in full of sunshine! Sun blazing through the windows and hammering the streets with its heat. And though I’m tempted to turn on the a/c during the day, I resist. Opting instead to enjoy this bit of light and warmth in one of my beach batiks and my latest pair of flip-flops. I admit the heat may often drive me bananas, but sometimes it’s good to take a step back and be thankful for the blessings the sun brings me: all-year tank tops, never having to suffer through bitter cold weather, vitamin D synthesis, and protection from vampires just to name a few.

No matter how yummy it may be to nuzzle back into a fluffy duvet on a rainy Sunday morning, I can’t deny the air of hope that sunshine brings with it.

That’s what I’d like to celebrate with this entry to A Taste Of Yellowhope. The hope that when many gather together in support of something, the darkness does not seem so daunting nor as insurmountable. The hope you feel when you know you have someone who will stick with you through tough times. The hope that they may find a cure. The hope that tomorrow will be sunnier, cooler, better.

LiveSTONG with A Taste of Yellow is a food blogging event created by the fabulous Barbara of Winos and Foodies in support of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, to raise awareness of cancer issues. It is a platform for bloggers to share their stories, or simply their support. I have always been a great admirer of Barbara and the way she approaches life...with polish and flair and always a kindness for others. And hope too I believe.

I chose these Lemon Butter Cookies (or Sablés Au Citron if you want to be cute and French...which I must admit I sometimes do) from Clotilde’s cookbook Chocolate & Zucchini, page 224. The cheery yellow of the lemon and the butter, along with the heavenly smell of lemon rind being grated, assured me that I was on the right track with this recipe. And the delicious results were all the proof I needed to know I had made the correct choice.

Here’s what you do: Mix together 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon fleur de sel (I used one scant teaspoon), and 1 tablespoon freshly grated and finely chopped lemon zest (from organic lemons if possible!). Add 3.5 ounces (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter that is well chilled and diced. Rub the butter into the flour mixture (this feels really nice), or cut in with a pastry cutter until combined into what looks like coarse crumbs. Add one egg yolk and stir with a fork until blended. Take the dough into your hands and knead (lightly now...you’re not making a baguette) until it comes together and forms a ball. If they dough looks too dry add some ice water (a little at a time!). If it feels too sticky add some flour (a little at a time!). Now, halve the dough and roll each half into a log about 1-inch in diameter. Wrap each log in cling wrap and tuck in the freezer for a 30-minute nap (you can also freeze the dough for up to a month -- freshly baked butter cookies any time you want...yay!). When you are ready to bake them, remove a log from the freezer, unwrap, and slice into 1/4-inch rounds using a serrated knife (roll the dough a quarter-turn after each slice so the log stays round). Repeat with the second log. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and stick into a 350F (pre-heated) oven for 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let the cookies cool completely before adding the glaze.

To make the glaze: I only made half the glaze so to get the full quantity just multiply by two. Place 1/2 cup powdered sugar in a bowl with 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice – whisk until syrupy. Glaze the cookies using a pastry brush or the back of a teaspoon...or as I did here, place glaze in a ziplock bag or parchment paper cone and pipe onto cookie in any design you wish! Let cookies stand until the glaze is set.

These cookies bake up to a buttery crispness on the outside and a melting flakiness on the inside, infused with a bright lemony aroma and shot through with bursts of fleur de sel. They would be perfect shared with a good friend over tea and a nice chat.

Barbara has extended the deadline for entry submission to September 18 so you can still catch up!

Wishing you all a sunny day with a taste of yellow! :)

p.s. the sun was out for the past few days, but as I post this it has started to rain again...good thing I have stored a little sunshine in the form of these cookies!

p.p.s. it's the following day and the sun's out again! :)

On The Shelves Now!

Busy, busy, little bee. So much work, yet so little time. Who said that I'd have so much free time since Little A would be at school all day now? FYI, not true!
I can't believe that summer is nearly over and that fall is upon us. The kids are back at school and we are adjusting to the new schedule.  I've been so busy these past few weeks with school, birthdays, activities and deadlines. How do we get some more time in the day? 
The new season also means that Quilt Market is around the corner and that my fabric line, Inspiration, for Henry Glass Fabrics, should start hitting the quilt shop shelves any minute now. I'm excited about this line because the colors are upbeat and the message is good. Let me know what you think and of course, if you make something from the line, send a photo! I'd love to see!
Next month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Many, if not all of us, have been touched by someone's story in her fight against breast cancer. I've designed a few projects for you to make as gifts for your loved ones in support of breast cancer awareness. There will be a lap quilt or two and a tote bag. Here's a sneak peak of the first design, Twinkle. I'm just tweaking the patterns right now. Drop by early next week for the patterns and to share your stories. 
Super exciting news! You'll see Inspiration in a design for American Patchwork and Quilting this winter. The design will accompany my profile in their February 2010 issue! So awesome!
I think that my work of late has had a sense of "purpose" beyond making a beautiful quilt. I'm just about finished a knitting design for a prayer wrap. I'm giddy with excitement because it came out so beautifully. Be patient! You'll get to have a peak in time. xo, L

God left dis place a luong tahme agoo - Day One

Nobody likes turbulence. That's a fact. Turbulence that happens about 2am when high above Mogadishu is particularly troublesome; if you somehow made it to the ground, that'd be when the real fun began.

Despite this an hour of this, though, it's hard not to be excited. I'm flying to South Africa, Wee Mo is with me and, if the stars align properly, we'll see some great white sharks up close in six days time.

We touch down in Johannesburg at about 5am after around eight hours in the sky. Everyone feels like shit, none more so than the likes of us who have to hang around for a couple of hours before transferring to Cape Town. Having spoken to a number of South Africans about their country, though, the fact that not hanging around here in Johannesburg is a good thing; depending on who you listen to, there are parts of this sprawling city that are still virtually lawless. To back that up there's an area at the airport to check in your firearm… In nine months time the biggest city in this ex-colony will host the World Cup Final. Lord only knows what will happen.

We manage 30 minutes of weird half-sleep before getting on the next plane. Two hours of further semi-consciousness later and we're flying over a beautiful mountain range, overshooting the city into the Atlantic, making a U-turn and chasing the white horses back to shore.

Cape Town is undoubtedly one of the prettiest cities in the world, built around the famous peaks of Table Mountain (okay, so it doesn’t actually have a peak), Lion's Head and Signal Hill. On the journey to the hotel we pass a national park, right here in the middle of the city, which is home to Wildebeest and Zebra among other things. It's a bit better than Bellahouston.

Our hotel is, we are told, in a good location but too posh by half – we're a bit more worried about breaking or defacing the pastel finishings on the faux-antique furnishings than relaxing. Irritatingly, they've also put us in separate rooms, but then as the entire trip was built on a lie, that's hardly something to get too pissy about.

I'm here to write about sealife and the tourist industry around it. Wee Mo is nominally here to take pictures. More than anything, though, we're both here to have a good time in a country neither of us has been to before.

One thing that probably isn't ideal, though, is the jam-packed itinerary Cape Town Tourism has organised. While it ensures that we'll see as much of the country as possible in the week that we're here, it really cuts out the simple pleasures of walking around a place absorbing its newness, taking pictures and trying not to be mugged.

About and hour after we've dumped our bags, we're back out again, met by the overwhelmingly lovely A who is like your mum's scatty but entertaining pal who somehow used to make visits to dull things like the park a lot more fun. Our first stop is Table Mountain, a colossal double-check on Wikipedia trapezium that dominates the entire city. Millions of years ago, its peak was where the ocean lapped the shore; today that stands over 1600 above sea level. We don't get anywhere near enough time there before we're whisked away for a pretty average lunch in a quaint district known as Camps Bay. We walk off some of the food along the beach, most of which is spent looking over our shoulders after a tramp had warned us to take care of our cameras.

Suitably paranoid, crime is one of the first topics I raise with A when we get back in the car. Her answer is as astonishing as it is funny. “Listen, I'll tell you the truth. It's not right to say that there isn't a chance you won't get hijacked here, but the difference in Cape Town is that nine times out of ten, you'll survive.”

A couple of hours more driving around getting our bearings and we're dropped off at the Two Oceans Aquarium, which is almost completely unremarkable save for the penguins. We watch a couple of ridiculous macaronis doing nothing in particular and a lonely king penguin (the ones what are on the chocolate bars) mooch around up the back. We're just about to leave when a keeper comes in and sits an enormous mirror in front in the pen. As soon as the king sees the thing, it waddles over and stands, staring intently at its reflection.

Its funny for about three seconds before an overwhelming melancholy begins to hang heavy in the air. It's the first sad thing we've seen since arriving, but this is very much just the beginning.


What is it about old familial favourites that make them so daunting to me that I shuffle my feet in eternal hesitation to even hazard an attempt? I’m fine and dandy with things I’ve never made before, like soufflé and opera cake. I dive head first into dishes from other shores, like Thai green curry and Arni Youvetsi. But when it comes to familiar, well-loved dishes with long histories, I cower like a mouse facing a lion. I supposed you could say that when it comes to trying new things I am all daredevil and bluster, but when much is at stake (like wreaking havoc on an old family dish) I get cold feet.

Well no more! I’ve conquered my fear of making adobo (I now love making it – as only someone who has started making it late in life can). We’ve successfully managed to start down the tricky road of paella. And now it was time to revisit callos (Callos a la Madrilena...but just callos from here on in to keep things simple).

I made callos for the first time 3 years ago when I got married. No, not to make it for my spanking new husband, but for K’s talented then-boyfriend, now-husband J. He designed our fabulous save-the-dates and callos was his preferred mode of payment. So I promptly set about harvesting culinary information from my grand-aunt and my mum-in-law (two experts in our family) and cobbled together a recipe.

Now if there is anything I can say about our old family recipes it is this: there is no recipe. And back then, I was not as adept as I am now at recognizing the subtleties and nuances of these age-old, hand-me-down methods, or knowing how to extract the correct information from beneath memory and reminiscing, or asking the right questions to translate a technique from past to present. In short, although J’s invite design was indeed fabulous, my callos were not. They came out much too watery no matter what I did. I spent most of the night over a huge pot of what looked like a Spanish-style stew that simply refused to make the leap to a proper callos. J and K did say the flavour was good...but it hadn’t made the cut in my book. I never made callos again.

Until now.

Like Thomas Keller riding back into Manhattan on a golden chariot made of French Laundry to build a palace called Per Se, victory was finally mine.

As with the paella, I have no recipe yet. Perhaps there never will be. A basic framework, yes. An exact recipe, probably not. Dishes like these are meant to be tucked in here and taken out there and tweaked to your own brand of deliciousness.

Here’s what I did: I divided the work into two days. This is a dish that needs a lot of patience and love so I broke down the steps so I wouldn’t get too tired and ornery. On day one I prepared the meat and the stock – the backbone of the callos. Because of my first attempt’s lack luster performance, I decided to stick with a small batch for now. I used roughly 400 grams each ox tail, ox feet, and tripe. I wanted a good mix of gelatin-rich joints, a little meat, and of course the tripe (I love tripe). I bought the tripe already clean, as you can find in most supermarkets if you search and ask questions. This allowed me to nix the step of multiple boiling and tossing of liquid (which I did the last time...which caused me to lose all my gelatin from the other meats...which caused the watery callos). That being said, go ahead and brush your tripe with salt and rinse under running water if you feel it isn’t clean enough. Feel free to experiment with other callos-friendly meats as well (I know I certainly will in the future!) like pig’s feet and face. Cover the meats in water to about 1-2 inches above them, bring to a boil and skim off the scum. Try to get as much of the scum off as you can. Once all the scum has been removed add a piece of ham bone (if you can get jamon Serrano bone use it!), some halved red and white onions, lots of whole black peppercorns, and a couple of bay leaves. Simmer until all the meats are soft. This took me about 6 hours. Be patient! It takes time to coax the meats into tender submission, as it does to render all the gelatin from their bones and reduce the stock to a sticky, glistening mess. Don’t rush this part I implore you. Do this on a day when you have to stay home and do a lot of work/chores. Just check on your pot every once in a while --- add more liquid if the water level gets too low and fish out meats that have already gotten tender before the rest. You want a stock that is reduced, glossy, and a bit sticky. When you are almost there, taste and adjust the seasoning – do this at the very end as you may not need any additional salt. Once done, I took the meats out, deboned them, and cut them into chunks. Make sure you get all the bits! Strain the stock (I didn't have much left after all that reduction - but that's ok...if it's good and rich you won't need copious amounts) but don’t lose any of the gelatin. Once cool, I stored the stock and meats (separately) in the fridge. When chilled, my stock turns into a jiggling solid mass – one piece of solid gold flavour and deliverer of unctuousness. I have yet to explore freezing options but will do so soon!

On day two, you can now breathe a sigh of relief as you get ready to make your callos knowing that the long, arduous part is over. I heated some olive oil in a pot and sautéed lots of chopped onion and garlic, and a bay leaf. Once the onions were soft I added some canned roasted red pepper sliced into strips (you can roast and peel your own as well) along with a couple of dollops of carne de pimiento choricero (bottled pulp of a type of red Spanish pepper). I then added some chorizo bilbao (or any Spanish chorizo meant for cooking – use something fresh but strong) and some chopped bacon slab. Once they rendered their oils I deglazed the pot with some red wine and let the alcohol cook off. Add some pimenton de la vera and, if you like and additional spice kick, some cayenne or chili (I do and I did). After giving this a few stirs I added a 400 gram can of chopped tomatoes, juice and all. I cooked this until pulpy (evaporating much of the liquid). At this point you can remove some of the oil if it looks excessive to you. I then tossed in the reserved meats, stock, some garbanzos (about half a 400 gram can, drained), and some green olives (unpitted) and cooked it until it all came together in a bubbling, sticky pot of goodness (which doesn’t take too long – watch your pot!)!

C loved this version – I know because of the many high fives that came my way with dinner, plus he had it until the last drop was gone! He declared that it must be logged down into our own tome of family recipes (which now consists of a furry purple notebook unbeknownst to him). So in it went!

I feel (as I do with fabada) that it is essential to make a rich and full-bodied stock to serve as the flavorful foundation on which your callos will stand (and also to get it as sticky as C likes it to be). Actually, looking back, I think I ended up with something more akin to a demi-glace than a stock...either way, it was phenomenal and I believe a big part of the success of this version. That, and using good chorizo (get the best tasting Spanish cooking chorizo you can find -- something fresh ideally, not from a can, with a nice strong flavor) and pimenton de la vera (look for the denominacion de origen please!). This will no doubt be treated to much variation as time goes by, but I think this basic method works well for us :)

***Our callos was an amalgamation of recipes and methods from our two families, patched together to form something that both C and I loved. I also took inspiration and technique from another wonderful cook’s informative callos post.

My New Pincushion

Look at what I made for myself! I bought a couple of these ring notions at a local bead shop recently. How cool! I've wanted to make a finger pincushion for a while now because I use teeny, tiny little applique pins when I hand applique.  I just couldn't find these ring bases until now.

Then I dove into my roving stash and made a felt ball. For those of you who have never played with roving, run out and buy some! It's addictive. I sewed on some cute little seed beads and hot glued the felted ball onto the ring base. Look at my pretty new pincushion! 

I love my new pincushion. Hmm, could be an easy holiday gift to make for my sewing friends. Shhh, don't tell them, ok?  xo, L


I hope that you've had a great week. My brother and I got sick while we were in Toronto.  He had to fly back to Vancouver so he had to go while still sort of under the weather. By then he was feeling much better. I delayed my return home and I feel so much better now. Then the kids had their first day of school and I worked on another deadline!! It has all been crazy and chaotic!

See that quilt up there? Believe is a fun and funky applique design that I used to sell as a block of the month set. People still ask me for it. Good news! It will be a single packet pattern very soon. Even better news! The entire pattern will retail for $24! I'll let you know when it will be available. 

Remember when I made an appearance on Quilt Out Loud? One of the other panelists was the wonderful Patsy Thompson. She sent me a pile of her wonderful DVDs. I watched a few of them and all I can say is that they're terrific! She's clear, and she packs in a lot of information. I like the way that she shares her tips and that she points out areas along the way where you might run into trouble. In essence, she's teaching, guiding and troubleshooting for you as you're quilting. 

See you later! I have some more videos to watch! Have a wonderful and safe weekend.  xo, L

Apple Bread With Sugar & Cinnamon Topping

If you’ve been visiting here for a while you would have surely bumped into my best friend K in and around these posts. She popped up first here, during my first year of blogging and her move into a new apartment. Since then, she’s made many appearances. It’s inevitable really. Someone who is as much a part of my life as K will certainly find her way into the stories I tell.

She dropped in to try my first ever attempt at soufflé. She is the mother of my awesome godchild Z. We’ve gone off on adventures together. She knows what I like and brings me lovely gifts. She tastes the stuff I make even if they don’t turn out as good as they should. She tastes the stuff that does turn out good! We try to save the Earth together. She recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and we celebrated with a tea party.

K and I met in high school, and though on the surface we may seem very different (she is a gung-ho athlete who loves the smell of competition and I am a slow moving nap-lover who shies away from organized sports), it was the best friend version of finding your soul mate. Heck, forget versions, it was finding a soul mate! There are friends you bond with over common interests, friends due to some sort of proximity (same school, course, neighbourhood, family), and those serendipitous ones that happen by happy accident. Then there are those that you know are no accident...those who you know you were heading towards from birth and that become such an integral part of your life that you cannot imagine one without the other. That's K.

Some people have masses of friends, hundreds, even thousands if you check here and here. But a true best friend is worth ten million times that in my book. And for her birthday you'll want to try your darnedest to give her something really special – even if it’s just one of your favourite cookbooks and an Apple Bread baked from its pages.

Apple Bread With Sugar & Cinnamon Topping
(from Apples For Jam by Tessa Kiros, page 350)

  • 150 grams sugar
  • 150 grams butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 120 grams all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 400 grams apples (about 2), peeled, cored, and coarsely grated (I didn’t bother peeling them...I just took them to the grater unpeeled and this worked fine...and much quicker)
  • 60 grams walnuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 60 grams walnuts, finely chopped
  • 60 grams brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

- For the topping, mix together the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside.
- Beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat them in well.
- Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon into the mixture and add a pinch of salt. Mix until just incorporated. If using a mixer I just give this a couple of turns with the paddle and then scrape down with a spatula, mixing the rest of the way by hand.
- Add the apples, walnuts, and vanilla and mix through until just incorporated evenly. I did this with a spatula by hand as well. Scrape into a buttered and floured loaf tin (12x4 inch).
- Sprinkle topping generously over the batter. Bake in a pre-heated 180C oven for 45 minutes or until at cake tester poked in the center of the cake comes out clean. My loaf took about 50 minutes.
- Cool slightly before turning out carefully...the topping will scatter a bit! So do this over your serving plate so you don’t lose any.
- Serve slightly warm or at room temperature...plain or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

I have spoken about my love for Tessa Kiros before, and Apples For Jam is even more proof of why I am such a fan. Her enchanting “voice” draws me into her recipes like no amount of chef-cred, fame, or restaurant ownership could. So I wanted to share a bit of this with K on her birthday, along with Tessa’s delicious Apple Bread. This cake is beguilingly moist and laced with the spicy scents of apple and cinnamon – one of the best smells you can have coming out of your oven (if you live in a flat like me, this is a great way to get rid of fried fish smell)! The crunchy sugar-nut topping is the perfect foil to the cakes softness. A scoop of vanilla ice cream will not go amiss here. The only thing I have changed is forgoing the ground cardamom used in the original recipe. I have already made this two times, and both times everybody loved it...so despite its simple looks it is a definite crowd-pleaser.

K’s birthday was two days ago but I wanted to celebrate it here too (and share this lovely recipe with all of you) --- Happy birthday again my friend! :)