Travel theme: Street Markets

I see that there’s a Travel Challenge this week. The theme is “Street Markets,” of which I’ve visited many on my travels.

Usually I can spend a good deal of time browsing around at all the goods on display, but this one, in La Paz, Bolivia, was so gruesome, that we only stopped long enough to take a photo, before hurrying away. La Paz has a population of over a million people, and at face value, it looks much like any other bustling city, with its high rise buildings, shops and restaurants, but when we stepped into this side street, we came upon El Mercado de las Brujas, which is Spanish for ‘The Witches’ Market’. Witches wearing dark dresses and hats, sell a bizarre assortment of goods there, and one can buy all manner of things, such as dried frogs, which are supposed to bring you wealth, ceramic naked couples to improve your sex life and fertility, Bolivian armadillos which are to put over your door to keep the thieves away, and most bizarre of all, dried llama fetuses, which 99% of Bolivian families are said to put in the foundations of their houses to bring good luck. This was one market which didn’t tempt us to buy souvenirs. 😉

This fruit and vegetable market just outside Cusco in Peru, was very interesting indeed. I saw all manner of fruit and veggies that you don’t get in our shops. Our guide told us that there are 4,000 types of potatoes in South America. We didn’t see that many, but certainly saw quite a lot that we didn’t recognise.

(pic from Google)

Peruvian farmers grow more than 55 varieties of corn, more than anywhere else on earth.This woman had some in every colour: white, yellow, purple, black, red and mixed.

We also found a stall selling many different natural dyes. The Andeans love their brightly coloured fabrics. The favourite colour is red, and the female cochineal beetle, to be found on the prickly pear cactus, is dried and ground down, to be used in the production of red dye. The other dyes are mostly vegetable, made from flowers, moss, tree bark and nut shells etc..

In Quito, Ecuador, we were surprised and horrified to see live guinea pigs for sale in the market, by the sackful!

Gualaceo, about 45 minutes’ drive from Cuenca, is a very traditional town, and here we came upon this 25th of July Market (Mercado 25 de Junio). At the doorway to the market, we saw a woman selling what appeared to be ‘fast food’.

On closer inspection, this is what we saw! It was roast guinea pig and corn take-away!!

Neither hubby nor myself could be persuaded to sample it, even though, I believe it is very low in cholesterol. 😉 I suppose it’s just our Western upbringing which makes us shy away from eating anything cute and cuddly, especially the kids’ household pets. Inside, there were some succulent looking roast pigs on display,

which I might have sampled, except for the fact that we were going out for a really slap-up restaurant meal that evening. We were again offered guinea pig, but opted for something less traditional. For the life of me, I can’t remember what we ate, but it certainly wasn’t anything remotely huggable. 😉

Well, that’s enough pics of South American markets to be going on with. If you want to see what markets other bloggers have been to, just click here.



Jake’s Sunday Post theme, ‘Door’

Jake’s Sunday Post theme this week, is “Door.” I was reminded of my trip to Morocco, and the photo we took of the entrance to the Royal Palace, built in the 17th century, and situated right in the centre of Fez. It’s reputed to be one of the most elegant structures in Morocco, but alas, the beautiful and ornate doors are not open to the general public. As you can see, even from the outside it’s an impressive sight.

I was itching to go inside, as I believe that this palace houses innumerable valuable artifacts from all over Morocco, including carpets from Rabat, pottery, silk fabrics and ancient manuscripts. It also has beautifully painted ceilings and intricate mosaic work.The palace, which comprises 80 hectares of land, is said to have lovely gardens and mosques inside the compound, and is still used as the residence for the king of Morocco when he visits the area. If I had a holiday home like that, I’d want everyone to see and admire it, wouldn’t you?  😉

Anyway, getting away from the sublime, I decided to show you my own front door, which should you decide to visit, I will gladly open to you.

My next door neighbour is not so friendly, but I persuaded hubby to creep up and poke the camera through his security gate, so that I could show you his custom-made door, on which are carved “The Big Five,” as they are known in Africa. The phrase was coined by big game hunters, and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa, to hunt on foot. These are, the African Elephant, Black Rhino, Cape Buffalo, Lion, and Leopard. Come to think of it, my neighbour is probably the sixth most dangerous. 😉

I hope you enjoyed my choice of doors for the challenge. You can go and check out other bloggers takes on the theme, here.

Dust bunnies………are they really harmless little house pets? ;)

Today has been a spring-cleaning day of note, even though it’s winter here. Now that my eyesight is scarily near perfect, I can suddenly see all sorts of little details that I’d rather not. 😉 Wrinkles aside, there’s also the matter of how many pesky corners there are in the average house, not to mention the floors underneath the beds which one doesn’t normally get down to examine in minute detail.  This reminded me of a post I did a couple of years ago about some lucky guy In England who’d discovered a priceless Michelangelo painting, which had been stashed behind the sofa in his lounge for a good few years. Some of my fellow bloggers mentioned that all they could find behind their sofas were ‘dust bunnies.’

Is it true that we bloggers spend so much time on the blogs, that we don’t have the time to clean house properly?  Surely not!

Dust bunnies are of course those harmless little bits of fluff that accumulate under furniture, particularly those pieces that are difficult to move, or clean underneath. Other names for these bunnies are, ‘beggar’s velvet,’ and ‘sluts wool.’ Do you by any chance recognise this pic? 😉

They often go unnoticed and are left alone to breed in peace and quiet,but if a dust bunny is left to hibernate, it can quite possibly grow into a dust bear, which is of course quite a bit bigger. This bear loves to sleep, so it’s best not to disturb it, as a disturbed bear is far more ferocious that a bunny. They can be very unpredictable and it’s wisest not to ‘rattle their cage’ with such things as vacuum cleaners and feather dusters. It’s definitely inadvisable to try to remove the dust bear, unless absolutely necessary. You do not want to awaken a dust bear, as they can be very scary, so my advice is to just forget about them.

This laziness on our part, can however, have scary repercussions, because if your dust bunny/ bear is left to hibernate undisturbed for long enough, it can evolve into a dust devil which is neither harmless nor sleepy.

These are dangerous balls of accumulated debris which are made up of all sorts of household detritus, such as, hair, lint, dead skin, spider webs, dust, crumbs, and other bits and pieces dropped on the floor and not swept up. All this is held together by static electricity and can harbor dust mites and parasites.

Just look at this microscopic view of the contents of a dust devil.

These household pets have been around for centuries, living quietly alongside us, and have become quite domesticated. Unlike most other pets, they are very low maintenance, not requiring vet’s visits or inoculations, and they’re also able to find their own food. Maybe this why they’re so popular. 😉 They’ve even been known to turn vegetarian, so if you don’t want them eating your house plants, it’s best to wipe off the leaves occasionally. They do reproduce at an alarming rate, and although they seek out quiet, dark spaces, such as under beds, sofas and dressers, they do sometimes get curious about the outside world, and have been known to make an appearance on warmer days when the ceiling fans are switched on, and they come out to dance in the sunlight. Some of you are now going into summer, so watch out for them.

Suzanne Proulx, an American artist, has created and sculpted dust bunnies from her own household dust and lint etc.. She even adds other elements of her family’s lives, like toenail clippings, hair and flakes of skin. Don’t they look cute?

Anyway, be that as it may, and not meaning to alarm you at all, quietly lurking within these cute little dust bunnies, are creatures too small to see with the naked eye. Dust mites are arachnids, the class of arthropods which includes spiders, scorpions and ticks. They feed on dead skin flakes and crumbs, and live their whole lives hatching, growing, eating, defecating, mating and laying eggs. It’s their droppings which make us itch and wheeze. A single dust mite produces about 20 waste droppings each day, each containing a protein to which many people are allergic. There can be 100.000 of them living in one square meter of carpet. Many people develop severe allergies to these droppings. If you lie on a rug where they live, you might get little red itchy lumps on your skin. Breathe in the dust, and you may develop more serious symptoms, like difficulty breathing or even a severe asthma attack. Yikes!

Well, this started out as a lighthearted look at our pet bunnies, and ended up on a more serious note. I’m off now, to finish vacuuming underneath the beds. 😉

Have a great day everyone. Chat again soon.

Sidey’s challenge ‘Contrasts’. Two family birthdays on one day.

Hi again, everyone. Here is my post for sidey’s weekend challenge, ‘Contrasts.

Yesterday was my darling Mom’s 87th birthday, and we took her and her very best friend, out to lunch at a lovely restaurant called “The Pot & Kettle,” which is situated high up, overlooking the beautiful “Valley of a Thousand Hills.”

When we arrived at her cottage, she was looking really lovely, dressed all in various shades of her favourite colour, which is mauve. She had received a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from my daughter in Johannesburg, the previous day, and told me that she’d been inundated with phone calls since early morning. One of her men friends had thoughtfully woken her up at  6-15 am, so that he could be the first to wish her a happy birthday.  As she heard our car arrive, she was busy ushering her next door neighbour out of the back door, and he was gone before we walked in the front.;) We collected her friend Marg, and set off  for lunch. I could hear the two of them, chattering and giggling like two excited school girls, in the back of the car. They get on so well together, and Marg informed me that my mom has at least 8 male ‘admirers’ that she knows of. I’m not at all surprised, as mom is still quite vivacious and sparkly eyed, even at her advanced age. 😆

We were shown into a lovely dining room, from where we had a gorgeous view of the garden and the hills beyond.

The decor was really festive and bright, and for a while there were no other people there but ourselves.

Mom had just remarked on how tranquil it was, when a large family arrived with three small children, and thus, in a split second, the peace was shattered, but not for long.  After they’d ordered their food, the granny took the baby for a walk in the stroller, and when she returned, he was fast asleep. The two small children, after having a good look around and examining absolutely everything in the room, settled down to enjoy their lunch, and were very well-behaved.

We spent a couple of hours, eating our delicious meal whilst chatting, joking, and reminiscing about the years gone by. Such lovely memories of my childhood came to light, and we had a laugh about my mom trying to keep a straight face whilst chasing her naughty little daughter around the table, shouting, “Just you wait till your dad gets home, and I tell him what you did!” Neither of us could remember what it was that I’d actually done, to warrant this dire threat, but it certainly gave us a laugh.

In contrast to this 87th birthday celebration, our lovely little granddaughter in New Jersey, had her 3rd birthday party, also yesterday. Here she is, blowing out her candles on the “Dora” cake that her mom made.

I know that their house was full of friends, who all have small children of their own, so I’m sure there was no peace and quiet there, for the duration. 😉

So from one end of the spectrum to the other, were two girls of sharply contrasting ages, one old but still young at heart, the other so young in every way, and both very dear to me, celebrating their birthdays on the same date. It just goes to show that we’re never too old or too young to have fun with friends and family.

Hope you’re all having a splendid weekend.Chat again soon.

Weekly photo challenge ‘Summer’

Summer is such a lovely time of year, and the photo I chose for this challenge, was taken on the beautiful Isle of Capri at the end of last summer. The weather was hot and sunny, and I remember that I was just longing for something cool. Coming towards us along the path, were a couple, both eating ice creams. I asked them where they’d bought them, and although they didn’t speak English, they pointed back the way they’d come of course. 😉 Just around the next bend, was the very welcome sight of this kiosk, which advertised that they sold the best ice cream in the world. It had a lovely green awning, and it was utter bliss to stand in the shade for a while, enjoying my strawberry gelato. A delicious, cool, summer treat.

Kudos to the Aussie postal service, and my ‘gator story gets published.

Hi again everyone. Yesterday, my faith in the postal service was restored when we received a package which had been posted to us just over a month ago from the USA. We were just on our way out of the gate for a walk along the beach promenade, when we stopped to check our postbox. A rather battered large white envelope lay inside, and we were amazed to see that it was a long lost package containing two copies of a club magazine for which I’d written an article about the capturing of an alligator outside our house in Florida.

The address was incomplete, and the country had been omitted. It was obvious from the note written on the left hand side of the envelope, “not Australia, try South Africa”, that  it had been all the way to Australia before eventually finding its way into our post box. What a jet setter! Obviously someone in the Australian post office had the patience to try to find out where it was really bound for. Maybe he or she was an ex South African and recognized the ‘Umhlan Rocks’, even though it should have read ‘Umhlanga Rocks’. Someone has blacked out the postal code; not sure why, but it still arrived at the correct address. I would call that some sort of a miracle, for sure.

Here is the magazine article about ‘Mr Smiley’, our resident alligator who used to live in the small lake just outside our Florida home.

“Our first sighting of the ‘Ashford alligator’ was on June 6th, 2011. I remember it well. Hubby was making breakfast and called to me, “Come and have a look at this!” I hurried through to the kitchen, expecting to see one of our resident herons, pelicans or perhaps just a cute little rabbit. Imagine my surprise when It was none of these, but a rather large “Mr Smiley,” as I came to nickname him. He was sunning himself on the bank across the lake.

Not long after that, we had to return to South Africa and only returned to Florida in October, and on November 10th, we spotted Mr Smiley again, this time swimming across in front of our house.

He looked much bigger this time, and chatting to our roof buddy, we decided we weren’t entirely comfortable with his presence, especially with grandchildren coming to visit shortly. We’d also noticed that the bird life had considerably diminished, probably owing to the fact that he was eating all the fish and probably some of the water birds as well.

One day when our son and his family who were visiting from New Jersey, they came back from the pool in the late afternoon to get the grandchildren bathed and ready for dinner. Hubby and I opted to stay a while longer at the Club to have some tea before heading back to the house. When we arrived home about half an hour later, we were greeted with, “You’re going to be so sorry you didn’t come back with us; you missed all the excitement.” I immediately thought of  ‘Mr Smiley’, and asked, “Oh, did you see the alligator?”  “Better than that,” he replied, “I helped to catch him and lift him into the truck.  He was 9 feet long and weighed about 250 lbs.”

He told us that when he’d pulled into the driveway, he’s seen someone down the side of our house, dragging something across the ground, which he’d assumed to be a hosepipe. As he got out of the car and unstrapped the baby seat, the guy called out to him, “Oh good, can you help here? I need some muscle!” He then realized that he was pulling this huge alligator up from the lake, towards the road. He took the baby inside, whilst his wife stood on the neighbor’s driveway to watch the action and take some photos.

The ‘gator’s mouth hadn’t been taped at this stage, so our son was a bit wary, but he’s always been one for a bit of excitement. Our next door neighbors had  spotted ‘Mr Smiley’ earlier, on the bank at the back of our house, and reported it immediately to the proper authorities. The trapper arrived quite quickly and using a snatch hook and line, managed to secure it. Luckily for him, help was at hand when son arrived home. When asked what would happen to it, he replied that it was being taken to ‘gator jail’ as he was much too big to relocate.

We do rather miss him in a funny sort of way, but feel much safer now to walk out onto our back lawn. Coming from Africa, we never dreamed that we’d encounter such wildlife here, so close to our new home.”

Wishing you all a very happy and enjoyable weekend. Chat again soon.

The video on this post holds such a powerful message. I’m so grateful for my sight.

Chica on the Move

A friend forwarded this video to me today, and I was speechless after viewing it. I encourage you to view it, it is very brief; but so full of wisdom I decided to share it with you.

A good reminder of the power of words, be kind to one another, because… We just don’t know how lucky we are!

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Weekly photo challenge……….Hands

Hi again everyone. Here is my post for the ‘Hand’ challenge this week.

Now that my eyesight has been beautifully restored to perfection over the past few weeks, following the successful cataract operations, I am returning to my Wednesday seat at the piano in our local shopping mall.

I’m so grateful to my eye surgeon for the excellent job he did, so that I can now see both near and far without having to wear either contact lenses or glasses.

Each part of our bodies has such an important function, and to play the piano, I not only need my eyes, but also my hands, so here are a couple of photos of my hands doing a bit of practising before I go and entertain the lunchtime shoppers today.

I expect I’ll see quite a few regulars who always come to greet me. Last time I played, the elderly woman who I’ve nicknamed “the muffin lady,” came for a little chat and a big hug.  She lives by herself, and supplements her pension, by baking for the coffee shop in the centre.  I was so touched when she handed me a bag containing two freshly baked scones for hubby and myself. I really have some lovely interactions with people whilst my hands are flying over those piano keys. 😉

Have a great day, everyone. Chat again soon.

Dead P_ ets Society. A true story

Having read so many of your posts about pets, for Jake’s Sunday Post challenge, I was reminded  of a surprising confession by some lovely friends of ours. One evening during a dinner party they were hosting, the subject of conversation turned to summer holidays.

“Are any of you going on vacation?”  the husband asked. “ If you are, please don’t ask to leave your pets with us, because  we kill other people’s pets.”  Everyone present was stunned into shocked silence, as two more decent and kind people you couldn’t ever wish to meet, and besides which, they have two pampered and much adored black Standard Poodles, who they call their ‘babies’, plus a Siamese cat who is the boss of the whole outfit.

The husband, sensing our need for an explanation to his shocking revelation, went on to explain, “The first pet we baby-sat, was a gorgeous fox terrier. Sad to say, on our return from shopping one day, we found it very sick and with bright red eyes, lying out in the garden.  “Snake bite,” we thought, and rushed it off to the vet.  It was however too late, and unfortunately it died. His owners were devastated, and so were we.  Then there were the silk worms in a shoe box, which we put in the spare bedroom out-of-the-way.  When we went to check on them a couple of days later, we found them covered in ants, and all dead, so we had to rush around to a few schools in the neighbourhood to scrounge for some  replacements.  The teachers could only let us have really tiny ones though.

Next was the goldfish, which was perfectly healthy when we got it, but our cat used to perch on top of the cupboard, and stare at it for hours on end.  We think it died of fright. With its lifeless body in a plastic box, we went off to the pet shop to find another one exactly the same size and colour.  We were so relieved that we managed to get a replacement.  The last unfortunate victim entrusted to our care, was a hamster, and I think the cat must have caused it to die of  a heart attack.  We found it one morning, feet up, in the bottom of its cage, so off we went with the small body in a bag, to the local pet shop, to try to find its clone.  We got one which looked almost the same.  The owners of these pets, never suspected that the silk worms, goldfish and hamster, were replicas of the originals, although the children did remark that the silk worms hadn’t grown much. So, please don’t ever ask us to look after your pets whilst you are away, it’s far too stressful and also very expensive”.

Something old, something new. Weekend challenge.

Side VieW’s weekend challenge, “something old, something new,” of course got me thinking about weddings. This old rhyme is very well known:

“Something old, something new,
Something borrowed, something blue,
And a silver sixpence in her shoe.”

The ‘something old’ represents continuity; ‘something new’ offers optimism for the future; ‘something borrowed’, symbolizes borrowed happiness; ‘something blue’ stands for purity, love, and fidelity; and ‘a sixpence in your shoe’, is a wish for good fortune and prosperity. This remains largely a British custom, but maybe it’s also practised in other countries.

So, having got the obvious out of the way, my mind went off on a bit of a tangent, and I got to wondering, “What about old men who marry young women, and vice versa?” We probably all know of some celebrities who’ve done this. For example, there was Charlie Chaplin, who at 54, married 18-year-old Oona O’Neill, and the inimitable Joan Collins, who at 68, wed her toy-boy, 36-year old Percy Gibson. These age differences might sound  quite extreme, but if we’re talking really bizarre, what about the marriage between this 112-year-old Somali man, and his 17-year-old bride!

He said that he’d been waiting for her to grow up before asking her to marry him. Altogether, this Mr Dore has 114 children and grandchildren. His oldest son is 80 years old and three of his wives have died. He is hoping that his new bride will give him more children. How many is enough? 😉

Just to balance things out a bit, here’s a 104-year-old Malaysian woman, who married a 33-year-old man. This was her 21st marriage, but sadly, she has no children…….yet. 😉

These stories just prove that however old you may be, there’s still hope of a happy marriage with someone young and new. Never say die, until you actually do.

Have a great new week, everyone. Chat again soon.