Pirongia, New Zealand: Hospitality and Recipe by da-AL

Vicky Apps (with her kitty) is a wonderful hostess!

We had less than a week to sample beautiful New Zealand. We’d landed in Auckland, spent a night in Rotorua, hiked a few hours in the Redwoods, strolled along Huka Falls, peered into Craters of the Moon and visited the Waitomo Glowworms Caves, and then river rafted in Taupo — then later Hamilton Gardens. (Eventually, in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family and birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach and saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.)

Pirongia was a lovely village (by the way, it was interesting to find that as far as I know, here in the U.S. we only use the term ‘city’, not ‘village’) to spend our final night before returning to Auckland. Short as our visit to Pirongia was, our hostess, Vicky Apps, made it memorable. If you’re ever in the area and need a cozy room at a reasonable price, I highly recommend emailing her at apps@xtra.co.nz

Vicky and her charming kitty, made us feel like family at her gorgeous, spacious home. We so enjoyed sitting in her flower-filled backyard and chatting with her. Moreover, she even washed (and folded!) my clothes at no charge. For breakfast, she shared delicious homemade jams and preserves, including one that was made from a guava type fruit found only in New Zealand. (By the way, New Zealand has its own variation of sweet potato too, which I regret not getting a chance to sample.)

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash.

When I much enjoyed some of Vicky’s Anzac biscuits, an immensely satisfying sort of oatmeal cookie that was devised for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during World War I, she generously hand-wrote the recipe for me!…

Vicky’s recipe for Anzac biscuits, page 1.
Vicky’s recipe for Anzac biscuits, page 2.

Do you have a biscuit or cookie that’s special to where you live?

Arthritis Remedy for Dogs and Cats: The Power of Warmth by da-AL

Winter can cruel to aging warm-blooded pets. The best arthritis advice I received was when my great vet told me, “Just get them through the winter.”

Cropped photo of someone in a bunny rabbit suit walking into bleak distance
Wonderfulness via Ryan McGuire of Gratisography.com and tweaked by da-AL

Even in warmer climates like Southern California, winter is his busy time when it comes to pet owners frantic to relieve their pets of arthritis pain. “Even if it feels warm to us, they know it’s winter,” he said.

“Keep them warm,” was his advice. At all hours.

An electric blanket is perfect during the night. Toss it over your pet’s sleeping area. Make sure it’s the type that will stay on at a very low setting all night (don’t get the kind that switches off after only an hour).

Of the many remedies I explored to make my best friends comfortable, the electric blanket afforded them most dramatic relief.

How do your pets fare in winter?

Guest Blog Post: Benefits of Tea by Rhiannon Brunner

As a novelist, tea is one of my best friends. If I want a boost, to warm my fingers, something tasty and healthy yet free of calories (given how writing involves little physical energy), or during the moments I want to commune with others (making a story can be like cooking,  the ingredients being actually living).

Tea is infinitely varied — hot or cold, fruity or robust, earthy or sweet, and on and on — there’s a tea for everyone. Blogger Rhiannon Brunner lives in Vienna, Austria. She’s written a pile of books about subjects that interest her in German, which she’s planning to soon translate into English.

What’s your favorite tea? Here she describes hers…

Photo of Rhiannon Brunner
Author and blogger Rhiannon Brunner.

Tea offers extremely valuable properties. Many minor physical pains can be easily relieved with the right one.

If you take a look at my tea box, you will find some herbs that serve healing purposes. The classics (rosehip, chamomile, and fennel) are of course included. However, I would like to present here two varieties that I have long considered to be absolutely essential:

Damiana is a healthy and good tea.
Damiana is a healthy and good tea.

Damiana

Damiana tea tastes like dried hay.

Its positive effects include stress relief (it makes one slightly euphoric), relief of menstrual pain, and it has anti-inflammatory properties. 

Many people find it helps relieve stomach problems, acts as an aphrodisiac, aids sleep, and strengthens the heart and general circulation.

Bitter gourd is another great tea.
Bitter gourd is another great tea.

Bitter Gourd

If you don’t like the bitter taste, sweeten it with honey, because it tastes really bitter!

Above all, diabetics and health-conscious people enjoy its positive effects. If you want to lose weight, you are well advised to use it, since the usual diet does not need to be changed at all.  

I have experienced this on my own body — although I did not even intend to. It includes saponins, which helps the body to break down dangerous abdominal fat (visceral fat). Bitter gourd helps to get rid of the type of fat that not even the most restrictive diets can get to. To check the results, I asked a couple of friends to drink the tea as well. Their results were like mine.

Bitter gourd is rich in iron, calcium, phosphorus, copper, potassium and the vitamins A, B1, B2, and C. Therefore, it is optimally suited for a health-conscious lifestyle.

Caution is advised only for pregnant women and people with low blood pressure.

My personal favorite way to take bitter gourd is this one, Trà Khổ Qua. It is a combination that also contains Reishi mushrooms, which makes the bitter gourd less bitter, as well as additionally healthy.

I highly recommend anyone to engage in tea and be open to a variety of impressions.

Good tea is like a beloved friend. And so — let me say — it is tea time.

 

Alice is Rhiannon Brunner's lovely cat.
Alice is Rhiannon Brunner’s lovely cat.

Visit Rhiannon Brunner’s blog, where she discusses her projects, cats and daily life.

More about good tea.

Interested in the classical tea ceremony?

Flamenco Fusion by da-AL

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” is the title of the first of my soon-to-be self-published novels. The ‘Sitting Cat’ part of the title refers to the geographical shape of Iran…

Map of Iran out lined in shape of a Sitting Cat.
Map of Iran outlined in the shape of a Sitting Cat.

I grew up with only classical music — and flamenco music and dance. My father, who left Barcelona in his mid-20s, wanted it that way. Since I left home at 18, it’s a gift to watch any type of dance I like and to listen to every kind of music that comes my way.

Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.
Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.

I still love classical — and flamenco! Especially fascinating to me is when flamenco is fused with the dance of Iran, where my husband was raised. Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam is an Iranian dancer now residing in France. Flamenco is as much about individuality as it is about technique — it accommodates all cultures, all forms of beauty.

If only politics were as intent on creating a climate of ‘we’ rather than an ‘us vs. them’!

The way Ghalam (click here for his Facebook page) fuses dance styles is respectful and hypnotic…

For more flamenco, check out Part 3: Marvelous Madrid — Flamenco

What fusion art do you enjoy?

A letter to God from Dog (as discovered by da-AL)

My doggie and I were at her vet’s office, waiting for her anal glands to be expressed (eeeewwww!!!! indeedy) when we saw this anonymous missive posted on the doctor’s wall:

Pug photo by Ryan McGuire altered by da-AL
Pug photo by Ryan McGuire altered by da-AL

Dear God,

Is it on purpose that our names are the same, only reversed?

When we Dogs get to heaven, can we sit on your couch? Or is it the same old story?

Why are cars named after the jaguar, the cougar, the mustang, the colt, the stingray, and the rabbit — yet not for a Dog? How often do you see cougars riding around? We Dogs love nice rides. Would it be so hard to rename the “Chrysler Eagle” to the Chrysler Beagle”?

If a Dog barks her or his head off in the forest and no human hears, are they still a bad Dog?

Detail of pug photo by Ryan McGuire
Detail of pug photo by Ryan McGuire

Things we Dogs can understand:
– Human verbal instructions
– Hand signals
– Whistles
– Horns
– Clickers
– Beepers
– Scent IDs
– Electromagnetic energy fields
– Frisbee flight paths
What do humans understand?

Please, more meatballs, less spaghetti.

Are there postal carriers in heaven? If so, will I have to apologize?

Why do humans smell flowers yet seldom if ever, smell one another?

Detail of pug photo by Ryan McGuire
Detail of pug photo by Ryan McGuire

It’s not easy being a Good Dog. Here are some of the things I must remember:
– I will not eat the cat’s food before they eat it or after they throw it up.
– I will not roll on dead seagulls, fish, crabs, or other beautiful things just because I like the way they smell.
– The litter box is not a cookie jar.
– The sofa is not a face towel.
– The garbage collector is not stealing our stuff.
– I will not play tug-of-war with Dad’s underwear while he sits on the toilet.
– Sticking my nose into someone’s crotch is an unacceptable way to say “hello.”
– I don’t need to suddenly stand straight up when I’m under the coffee table.
– I must shake the rainwater out of my fur before entering the house — not after.
– I will not come in from outside and immediately drag my butt.
– I will not sit in the middle of the living room and lick my crotch.
– The cat is not a squeaky toy. The noise it makes when I play with it is not a good thing.

Sincerely,
Dog

P.S. When I go to heaven, may I have my testicles back?

Photo by Ryan McGuire
Photo by Ryan McGuire

Part 4: Do Marvelous Madrid, Spain, Cats Pray? VIDEO by da-AL

It's magical how Wifi stands and waves his paws!... It’s magical how WiFi stands and waves his paws!

The marvels of Spain, too numerous to count (after all, my soon-to-be self-published novel is called “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”) — were rendered all the more marvelous thanks to our kind hostess Henrietta Fielden (henriettafielden@gmail.com).

Her flat in Madrid is located within a theater building that’s over a hundred years old. Everything there is gorgeous, starting with the stairwell…

Madrid, Spain, stairwell skylight. Going up is lovely…
Madrid, Spain, stairwell. And so is going down…

…and ending with dear Henrietta herself! Starting each day at her table was a delight not merely because her breakfast spreads were feasts both eyes and tummy — she’s also fun and interesting to chat with, no matter how our sleepy bodies protested at waking early for more sighseeing …

Breakfast with hostess Henrietta Fielden and da-AL's husband.

…moreover, her little Wifi kitty could easily be a professional stand-er! According to Henrietta, he’s merited quite a few Japanese YouTube viewers since she hosted guests from there.

My husband and I are fortunate to have met WiFi’s equally handsome and charming brother. Alas, WiFi’s performance made me forget to photograph his brother who has since passed away, his life far too short.

When I uploaded this short video of WiFi to my YouTube channel, Henrietta contributed this enlightening note, “There’s my WiFi! To potential fans, I should let you know he lacks discrimination. He will do this to a bare wall sometimes, too. So perhaps it is a kind of praying…”

Both of them humored my taking many pictures of them to share with you…

Henrietta and Wifi cuddling.

In the end, it’s the kindness of the people I meet on a trip that most touch my heart.

Our trip included:

Barcelona, Spain

Huesca, Spain

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France

Espelette, France

French Basque Country: Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz, France

San Sebastián, Spain

Bilbao, Spain

León, Spain

Madrid — Part 1Part 2Part 3 — this  post (Part 4)

What magic have you experienced on a vacation?

Part 3: Marvelous Madrid, Spain — Flamenco by da-AL

Flamenco goddess Carmen Amaya. Flamenco goddess Carmen Amaya.

My father was from Spain, so even though I was born and mostly raised in the U.S., the music of my childhood was solely European classical and flamenco. That’s why my upcoming novel is named, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” and here flamenco my marvelous visit to Madrid merits a post of its own.

When it comes to flamenco, Seville gets all of the attention. Madrid’s Casa Patas, however, was amazing!!! My photos turned out awful — instead, here’s someone else’s video from another show. Each night features different performers. As terrific as these young girls are — the adult performers were even better!!!

How I wish young girls everywhere knew that beauty has little to do with popularity, wealth, youth, and plastic surgery. If only every single one of them was encouraged to artistically express unrestrained exuberance, anger, strength, fury, humor, and passion …

The beauty of flamenco is very different from that of Hollywood…

All-time flamenco goddess, Carmen Amaya

Flamenco star of today, Sara Baras…

Next, in Part 4, Madrid hostess par excellence Henrietta Fielden, her home, and her pets — all delightful enough to merit a separate post and a video!

Other posts about our memorable vacation:

Barcelona, Spain

Huesca, Spain

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France

Espelette, France

French Basque Country: Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz

San Sebastián, Spain

Bilbao, Spain

León, Spain

Madrid, Spain — Part 1Part 2 — this post (Part 3) — Part 4

Have you ever been enchanted by a country’s special dance?