Dominican Republic. Blue skies, blue seas and blue amber.

Dominican Republic blue amber is ancient, rare and beautiful. It also behaves in a very strange way…

Under artificial light, it appears yellow or golden as expected but under sunlight it has an intense blue glow. When held under ultraviolet light it glows a bright milky-blue.

Blue amber is very rare with only 100 – 150 kg mined each year. Specimens of blue amber have also been found in Indonesia and Mexico.

Unlike the common golden amber, blue amber does not appear to contain fossilised material.

The finished product. (

And let’s indulge in other blue beauties of the Dominican Republic….

Dominican Republic (


Dominican Republic artwork (

Yes please. Dominican Republic (

Have you been to the Dominican Republic? Have you seen the blue amber? I’d love to hear all about it!




Beyond the Map. The Big Picture.

The Big Picture finalist photographer R.William captured this image in the Thar desert between Jaislmer and Bikaner. (

Check out the 25 finalists in the Sydney Morning Herald’s reader travel photo competition – The Big Picture. I’m glad I don’t have to judge! I love them all. Which one is your favourite?

Dominica. Pirates of the Caribbean

What a perfect place for a pirate adventure! The hugely successful Pirates of the Caribbean movies were filmed all over the Caribbean with some of the more memorable scenes inspired by or filmed on the beautiful, pristine island of Dominica. Discover Dominica here in this short video, then see if you can recognise any of the film locations in the images below!

Underwater filming with Captain Jack! (


For more information on the film locations visit

Here is a great video showing some of the filming on Dominica


Djibouti. The Gentle Giant of Djibouti.

Between October and February each year large plankton blooms close to the coast of Djibouti draw these beautiful gentle giants close enough for tourist trips and driving adventures.  Although enormous (often growing to an incredible 12 m!) whale sharks are docile fish and sometimes allow swimmers to hitch a ride!

Size comparison…(





Word from the West. ICE (Information and Cultural Exchange)

 Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) is the actualisation of so much that is great in Western Sydney.  Described as a creative conduit between Western Sydney and the world, ICE brings to life the qualities of Appreciative Inquiry I wrote about here….. and demonstrates the ways in which we can benefit from sharing our stories and experiences.

“Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) works at the intersection of arts, culture, technology and community. ICE projects engage diverse communities, build capacity in digital media and arts practice, and tell the stories of an extraordinary place, Western Sydney – the most diverse region in Australia.” (From the website) To learn more about ICE and read about the amazing projects and people visit

A video of the storytellers.

And Facebook if you want to be in touch






Denmark. A Christmas gift from Hans

Hans Christian Andersen (

In December 2008 we visited Denmark on holiday with my brother and his wife who were living in Belgium at the time. It was a wonderful and much needed holiday and was made all the better  because we were in  Copenhagen before Christmas –  exploring the city and the Tivoli Gardens with family, celebrating Christmas with a glogg or two and shopping for very un-Australian Christmas gifts!

Tivoli Gardens at Christmas (

Tivoli Gardens at Christmas (

When we got back to Sydney my husband revealed to me that on the way home from the gardens one night (after a few gloggs!) he had asked a statue of Hans Christian Andersen for a little baby (something we had been waiting very patiently for!) Unbeknownst to him, I had bought a beautiful copy of Anderson’s fairy tales for him for Christmas so he could read them to the baby when/if it came along.

Our little girl was born the next year, as sweet as any fairy tale character of Anderson’s imagination. Needless to say, we love Denmark, Copenhagen and Hans Christian Andersen!

1 week old

Our girl – 3 days old.

(He’s since brought us a gorgeous little boy too!)


Doris Lessing: On not winning the Nobel Prize

Some moving words from the recently departed Doris Lessing.

Speak for Yourself

lessingDoris Lessing, who has died aged 94, was  not impressed  when she got the news she’d won the Nobel Prize in 2007, as the very entertaining video below will show you. Unable to travel to Sweden for the awards ceremony, her Nobel lecture was delivered in Stockholm by Nicholas Pearson, her publisher in the UK; while  she was presented with the award at a special event in London, where her  publisher, HarperCollins,  announced the gift of 10,000 books to Zimbabwe in her honour.

We’d expect a Nobel Laureate in Literature to have something impressive to say. Nonetheless, Lessing’s Nobel lecture is a stunner. It is reproduced below,  videos and text may all be found on the Nobel website,  here. To hear the great author speak  in person,  watch  this interview  given one year later, to Professor John Mullen.


I am standing in a doorway looking through clouds of…

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Cambodia. Rice fields.

Cambodian rice fields (

Having reached the end of the C section – from Cambodia to Czech republic, I went back to review all the amazing things I have discovered…only to discover that I missed Cambodia altogether! So here it is – last instead of first but no less loved!

Cambodia has two rice crops each year, a monsoon-season and a dry-season crop. The majority of the rice is produced in the monsoon crop over a 6 month period.  The dry-season crop is smaller, and takes 3 months from planting to harvest.

In addition to these two regular crops,  floating rice is grown in April and May in the areas around the Tonle Sap, which floods and expands its banks in September or early October. Before the waters rise, the seed is spread on the ground without any preparation of the soil, and the floating rice is harvested nine months later. It has a low yield, probably less than half of the typical crop, but it can be grown inexpensively on land for which there is no other use.

Cambodian rice treat – Kralan (

Czech Republic. The Alchemist’s Gold.

The Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička) is on the Eastern side of Prague Castle, near the outer wall. The small, colourful houses were originally constructed in the 16th Century for the castle guards of King Rudolph II. In those times the street was known as Archery Lane. It was later renamed ‘Golden Lane’ for the goldsmiths who moved into the houses in the 17th century.

Legend has it that alchemists attempted to turn metal into gold here, but in fact the alchemists lived elsewhere in the castle. It was the goldsmiths who gave the street its captivating name.

Artist impression of Golden Lane (

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Word from the West. Sweet.

Fairy bread sweetness

Fairy bread sweetness

I spent a gorgeous day with my two little ones; running around in the sunshine, exploring Old Parliament House in Parramatta Park and eating fairy bread. Coffee and treats at Lachlan’s café is the perfect way to begin your day in Parramatta Park.  Here is a photo from under the shade of the very old grape vine…

Our view over Old Government House

Our view over Old Government House

For more info on Old Government House