Monday, 31 March 2014

Our very own Aladdin's Cave

I popped in the other day to see a very special person, Najaf Mazari in his very own Aladdin's Cave at Afghan Traditional Rugs at 461 High Street, Prahran. Every time I step inside the door I feel as though I have been transported into an exotic world and if I'm not careful I'll be swept up on my very own Magic Carpet and flown instantaneously to another world - now wouldn't that be fun (and much cheaper than a Qantas flight)!
Riding a flying carpet - Viktor Vasnetsov 1880 (wikipedia)
But in this Aladdin's Cave you will find a remarkable person who made the long and torturous journey to our country as one of those so-called evil 'boat people'. Here is a man who has struggled to make a better life for himself and his family. Najaf's story has been a 'best-seller' and his book was part of the School Curriculum for 3 years (normally 2 years) and if you haven't read The Rugmaker of Mazar-E-Sharif then I encourage you to do so . You can purchase it in bookstores or from his website here. I would like to think that it will give readers a better understanding of the struggles that people such as Najaf have had - and continue to have - just to survive. It's a remarkable story. And this is a man who is not going to let the grass grow under his feet or rest on his laurels as it has been followed up by his second book (also written in conjunction with Robert Hillman) The Honey Thief
Najaf in his Aladdin's Cave
I have watched Najaf over the years and he has never ceased to amaze me - his capacity for making things happen - in his own quiet way. He wanted to buy an ambulance for his home village near the city of Mazar-i-Sharif - and he has achieved that. Now that might seem insignificant to we 'comfortably-off-living-in-a-safe-country' but to raise the money took much effort not only by Najaf but also by those who have supported him since his arrival. The Mazar Development Fund was created and after many fundraising efforts Najaf travelled to Dubai where he purchased an ambulance for $35,000 and proudly had it shipped to his home city of Mazar-e-Sharif which is the fourth largest city in Afghanistan. . "It's very expensive to run" he told me, but his dream is to buy another. 
Stacks of gorgeous rugs
Najaf near the stack of plain woollen rugs - gorgeous colours
Najaf is a member of the persecuted Hazara tribe located near the Russian border in the Balkh province.
Piled high in all shapes and sizes - surely there is one for you!
So if you are looking for a rug, or wanting a rug mended, or just wanting to stop for a chat and one of his special cups of tea then I encourage you to pop in if you are passing. You never know what you could discover.
I love my stair-runners
We all have so much to learn from the Najaf's of this world.  After all we are all human beings - all wanting a better life.
The white dove of peace - on his website

Sunday, 30 March 2014

I need your input! - OOOPS!

I refer to my 'lesson' last week regarding commenting on blog posts!

I need to go to 'comment school' because my instructions stated that if you just replied to the post you received by email I would receive the comment.

No! No! No! she cried.

That is impossible because when you receive my post the email address states - drumroll - 'wait for it' ( So silly olde me - I'm still learning myself! 

Unfortunately that means that you can only comment by following my complicated instructions

I'll keep you posted (!) if I come up with an easier and quicker way!

Humble apologies for adding to your already overloaded 'i need your input' brain! 

And if you kindly responded using the ( it will be sitting somewhere up there in the ether forever. 

One so far - well that I know of!

Monday, 24 March 2014

I need your input!

As much as I love blogging sometimes I think I am just talking to myself (you might agree)! And yet I know from the kind feedback I receive from friends who are following that they really enjoy both my blogs (musings and richmondrambles). But I rarely hear from anyone with a quick comment. Boo hoo. As you can imagine feedback is important and I am just not getting any from my loyal followers - (yes I know you're out there!) So I have some options to drive more people to the site and build up the comments but they don't really appeal. They include putting ads (yuck) on the site, gathering Facebook (yuck) or Twitter (yuck) followers or Instagram (maybe) but I can already feel most of you eye-rolling and having a 'vapour' at these social media suggestions.

So what to do. Having discussed the lack of feedback with some of my followers in person I realise that most of you are just reading the posts as they come to you in your email. But in order to see a blog (not just mine) in all its true glory you need to do the following:
  1. When you receive the email you need to click on the post heading (in this case I need your input!) and voila it will take you to the actual blog which is much nicer than the boring email version - even if I say so myself! Then things start to get exciting - a whole world will open up - and you will also see the blog as it should be!
  2. Read the blog (thankyou) and when you get to the end you will see comments with a pencil next to it!
    At the end of each post - including a pencil (free!)
  3. Click on the comments link and voila up will come 'Post a comment'. You can now write your comment in the box and then just click Publish and your comment is on its way to me! Easy peasy! Of course if you want to comment using your URL etc (I can feel you glaze over again!) you can but it's not necessary.
    And there is a little box that you can type your message!!
  4. Your nice (!) comment will then come to me for approval - yes I get the choice! - and I may even reply to you so that we can start to have a bit of dialogue rather than me just talking to myself and the ether!
Of course if you just want to read the email version (which I often do with the blogs I follow) that's fine. You only need to do the above if you want to make a lasting comment.

Or if you don't want to go through the above process then you can just reply to the email you received with the post and tell me what you think (nothing easier than that!)

Oh and while I'm in teacher mode - if you like the posts there is no need to create a file and save each one of them as one of my most loyal followers has been doing. They are all there for all eternity (scary!) In the 'real blog' you can either:
  1. Scroll to the bottom of the page (it might contain 2-3 posts) and click on Older Posts and it will take you back through them all - a bit tedious. Or:
  2. If you are looking for one that you enjoyed or you want my recipes for i.e. preserving olives - then on the right hand side of the page you will see Blog Archive - just click and go searching and when you find the post you want just click on the heading and it will take you right to it!
Voila - and there are all the posts!
If you are having difficulty following my bloggedygook (!) then reply to me from the email post and I will try and walk you through what to do. 

And so to sum up. I really do APPRECIATE that you are following my musings and/or richmondrambles  - after all YOU are the reason I do it! A comment here or there would be great.

After this lesson there will be another but let's get this going first! So happy commenting when the mood takes you. Oh - and absolutely NO pressure!

Monday, 17 March 2014

By the light of the silvery moon

There's something about the French that always appeals to me. And it has nothing to do with love! Except that I have always loved this story told to me by my friend about her mother-in-law. (Well not technically a mother-in-law as my friend is not married to her 'frenchman'...) But her stories of Maman gathering wild herbs by the light of the silvery moon have always stayed with me. I can't imagine that happening here but then living in such an urban environment just gathering parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (isn't that a song?) from the garden is as far as I go. And I suspect that is about as far as most Aussies go. But not in France. 
In the village of Vence - I bet this person goes herb hunting!
One of my favourite blogs that I follow is written by an American who has lived in France for 25+ years with her Frenchman (husband this time...). Her post was entitled "Some smoke weed, others eat it" Well that got me interested! After all there are so many cooks now putting all sorts of weird and wonderful weeds and water plants into our modern cuisines. 

So here's Corey's post in her blog Tongue in Cheek (join up she's a serious brocanter)

2011 Wasn't that yesterday? I am beginning to think that when I close my eyes a whole century goes by, and then I wake up to today. Odd.

Anyway in 2011 I wrote a post about Annie and her weed salad. I am reposting it here now.

Yesterday on my walk I noticed those weeds underfoot... I thought of Annie, how she loved to walk, did so every day until recently. I thought about how she collected her "weeds" for her salad and to cook them as well. I thought about how the weeds of spring are in full force and Annie is sitting in her home not able to pick them.

So today I took a plastic bag with me to collect weeds....

But first her is Annie's Weed Salad Story (how many of you remember it?)

Weed Salad
My friend Annie makes weed salad.
She gathers the weeds in a field.
She eats them.
And tells me, "..they are good for you, high in vitamins."
Weeds that I walk on without given them a thought.
Bitter weeds.

Pissanli, fennel, salade de
Weeds with names such as:
Salade de Chasseur, or Hunter's Greens in English.
Fenouil, or Fennel's first shots. Not to be confused with older, later in the season's more substantial growth.
Pissanli (I won't tell you what that sounds like in French... oh dang I have to tell you... It sounds like Peeing in the Bed!) better known as: Dandelion! Bitter is what it is!
And the fourth cutie weed... Much to my shame, I forgot its name.

Annie's Weed Salad
I went over to Annie's yesterday to cut her hair.
Entering her kitchen there was an overwhelming garlicky aroma.
Annie told me she had made her Weed Salad. I tasted her weeds before without seasoning, and it was not my favorite. Annie reassured me, "...I know you don't like my wild salad...."
"You mean weed salad?""
"Yes, but you should taste it with my vinaigrette."
"Is garlic the main ingredient?"
She laughed, "Can you smell it?"
Annie collects the weeds, then trims, washes and seasons them:
Olive oil, salt, apple vinegar and a fist full of crushed garlic.
I love garlic. I have heard the the reason escargot tastes good is because of the butter and garlic. Weed salad falls in the same catagory. The garlic won me over.
Annie was happy that I am now a fan of her weed salad. I'll never walk on a weed again without my tastebuds watering.... well, that is if garlic dressing is close behind.

And here we go with her follow-up blog entitled The Edible Weed
 Edible Weed weeds
 I brought in the over stuffed pink plastic bag of weeds that I had pulled up from my walk. Feeling like Santa Claus I beamed as I plunked it down on Annie's lap.

She giggled believing that the overstuffed pink plastic bag of weeds were 100 percent edible. I had to remind her that this was my first solo attempt pulling edible weeds. She swooshed her hand, as if to say nonsense to my doubt.

We started sorted through the pink plastic bag. I pulled up the weeds with the roots, later I discovered this makes for more work. A fourth of the sack confirmed my doubt, we threw them away. The others I cut off the roots, sorted through the sticks, grass, and a few dried leaves. Then I washed and rewashed the edible weeds.

edible weeds
 Annie with her heaping edible weeds. It was if I offered her a little baby Jesus in velvet shorts.
(When in France when something you eat is delicious, French Husband says,  "C'est le petit Jésus en culottes de velours - Like baby Jesus in velvet shorts." Honest to God, that is what he says... I guess it could be better translated as: "Oh My God, this is good!" Obviously, we didn't have the same Catholic upbringing. Jesus never wore velvet shorts in my church.)
wild edible weeds
Pissanli or dandelion, and *osez which means "dare" in French, which I find funny, "Do you dare eat this?" I do not know what osez is in English. I also picked fennel. These three edible weeds I am sure of... the other ones that are edible I am not so good as finding... yet.
*Correction: Nancy Ravisé-Noel said:
"The osez you were lucky enough to find is actually spelled oseille and translates "sorrel" in English." Thank you.
Edible Weed
Annie instructed me to put three fourths of the edible weeds into some boiling water. Edible weeds boil like spinach, they reduce tremendously in size. I put them in a pan of boiling water and turned them gentle time and time again. The weeds cooked about ten minutes. Then I put them in a drainer for over thirty minutes. 
Edible Weed
 The lighter leaf is osez. The brown water (the edible weeds were clean) was dumped into the sink. edible weeds
 The rest Annie had me chop finely, adding garlic, parsley, olive oil and vinegar.
Linda wrote in yesterday's comment section: "I'm convinced that you could eat a rubber tire if you put enough garlic and butter ..."
Isn't that true?
And Mardog asked in the yesterday's comment section, "How much does this weed cost?" 
Now are you going to pick some weeds for dinner?

Now to give you a little background - Annie is her aging neighbour and Corey speaks so lovingly about her. Wise women these oldies are - and gathering herbs particularly by the light of the silvery moon just has to be the real way to do it.So just be careful where you walk - you may be walking on your dinner! So happy gathering (day or night)  - oh and don't forget the garlic! Let me know how you go!
The wives of the boule players are all at home cooking their weeds!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Stop press - I'm a grandmother!

How can that be you ask? I'm single, unmarried and have no children! In fact I was once in the not too distant past called a spinster not surprisingly by a now ex friend when describing a cupboard-sized bedroom with a single bed which she had 'dressed' for a photo shoot. She delighted in describing it to me (3 times) as "Jan's spinster room." Wow - who needs enemies when you have friends like that! (Particularly as her bedroom was smaller than mine!!) What is it about the word spinster? It's such a hideous name when a man who is unmarried is a batchelor - the contrasting image is amazing. But I digress!
My pretty pond and fountain welcomes me outside the front door (with possum spikes at the front!)
When I first moved into my home just over a decade ago (the one with the big bedroom!) I was given two goldfish! Frank and Francine lived happily ever after until late last year when Francine disappeared. The culprit - the street cat who was often seen longingly watching them cruise the pond. I was devastated! And so was Frank! He sat on the bottom of the pond and hardly moved. He was depressed and lonely. I just knew it even though a friend of mine said "Fish don't get depressed" as a mother I just knew that he was!  But what to do? First I had to find a way to keep the street cat from helping himself to Frank, my now one-and-only depressed fish. After many musings - and a few visits to Bunnings - I stuck some clear 'keep the possums away' spikes at the front of my pond. 
Grandpa Frank welcomes Fred and Freda
Chatting to a friend one day (I do have two or three who don't call me names - at least not to my face!) she happened to mention "My fish are breeding like rabbits." To which I replied "Could I have a couple of rabbits?" She looked a bit startled but nevertheless agreed. So around I went with a kitchen sieve (washed clean since!) and a bucket and after many attempts I came home with 2 small goldfish. Well suddenly Frank burst into activity and swished around. He had some friends and company (pathetic aren't I?) Well Freda and Fred fish settled in although they seemed to hide until they became acclimatised to their new home. They even sent a text to my friend, their former mother:

Dear Mummy
We arrived at our new home safely
It was a bit scary when we met that big fish
But there is lots of room 
And we have places to hide and explore together
The big fish is surprised 
But we will look after him
I know we will be happy here
We miss you 
Thank you for looking after us so well
Luv Fred and Freda fish

My friend got a bit teary knowing she had been a good mother! Well they must have settled in well because yesterday I was stunned to see a little grey fish happily swishing in and out of the water plants. Google tells me that goldfish thankfully change colour as they grow - when they are first hatched they still have the colour of their carp ancestors but will gradually become the colour they have been genetically endowed with. I do hope that happens as I love the colour of Frank, Fred and Freda. 
Welcome baby Finn
So after all these years I am finally a grandmother - and can compete with all my friends who tell me tales of their two-legged grandchildren. I've always done things differently but never did I expect to be the proud grandmother of Finn!
Poppa Fred (or Momma Freda) have handed on the pretty tail gene to Finn
Both Grandpa Frank, Fred and Freda and of course Grandma Jan are all bursting with pride!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Here a tat, there a tat, everywhere a tat tat!

As body painting - if that's what tattooing is called - it  seems to be becoming almost the norm for the young (well mostly young). I have always wondered how those who are currently so enamoured with their bodies being stained with hideous designs might feel as they get older.

Now I'm not talking about the tattoos for some traditional cultures - they are widely found - after all the word comes from the Polynesian word tatau. I'm talking about the new fashion. 
What a handsome Maori chief
A friend was at a beautiful wedding recently and the plunging bridesmaids dresses were 'highlited' by a back load of tats. Her response "they were hideous and spoilt an elegant affair". Not surprisingly I agree with her. 
Angelina - real or fake?
One arm covered seems to be the new fashion - and the footballers (and even our Cricket Captain) have set the pace. Some bodies are almost covered with the things. And tattoo shops are popping up everywhere. I'm pleased to say that my footy team (Go Cats) is not the leader of the pack when it comes to tats - it must be Collingwood that would win the Tat Flag.
Collingwood player Dane Swan - before he really got going!

Dane - a work in progress!
At White Night recently the outer walls of the National Gallery of Victoria featured a moving display of tattooed bodies. I just can't see anything attractive in them, particularly on women (maybe that is being non-feminist!) Such pretty faces, great bodies and - well to me - ruined flesh! 
Such a pretty girl - Tattooed on the wall of the NGV
The leaves on the trees at least soften the effect during White Night at the NGV (Nathan Dyer - News Corp)

So imagine my surprise and delight when driving along Church Street, Richmond the other day - there was an ad for undoing all that expensive art work. All I can say is that there is always someone who will make money out of 'rush of blood to the head decisions' that one regrets later on. I bet they're busy and will be for years to come.
Go guys!
Do you hate them as much as I do? Do you have a hidden tat someplace?!? Will you admit it!