Morocco gets on my goat!

Morocco gets on my goat!

This is not fake news or fake photos. There we were, driving along a flat, dry part of the western Moroccan landscape dotted with small farm houses and solitary argan trees (agania spinosa), endemic to Morocco.

I squinted at the tree in the distance, with its limbs spread out in the sun and great clumps of wooly white stuff mid branches.

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As we drew closer I doubled up with laughter – goats up a tree. I had never seen such a thing.

On top of a tree! Here, in the south-west of Morocco, in North Africa where the plants and trees are far apart and fewer, goats use their climbing skills to find their food. Here the animals have climbed up an argan tree to get to the fresh fruit at the top. They can climb an impressive 8-10 metres to do this.

The good oil

Argan oil is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree (Argania spinosa L.) that is endemic to Morocco. In Morocco, argan oil is used to dip bread in at breakfast or to drizzle on couscous or pasta.

Argan oil is rich in essential fatty acids, and has moisturising, anti-aging and antioxidant properties. … in short, it promises results as a powerful anti-wrinkle cream. (I hope this works!)

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Moroccan argan oil is made from the seed of the Argan tree), a native to the Souss-Massa-Drâa region of Morocco and Algeria. While the traditional method allows the goats to process the nuts first, as this softens the husk, some Berber women will hand-pick and open the nut to get at the seed.

The trees often grow to up to 8 metres and the goats have no qualms about moving along the thorny branches in search of the tree’s bitter fruit.

The argan fruit resembles a shriveled golden apple. The fruit is firm, has a thick peel and contains the fleshy pulp around an almond-shaped nut that looks like a dried olive.

The crazy tree goats love the pulp. They eat the whole fruit despite the fact that their bodies can’t digest the nut. Greedy goats!

The argan nuts pass through the digestive system of the goats and once they are excreted, people gather them from the droppings and crack them open to expose the seeds inside.

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The production and marketing of argan oil is a valuable resource for Morocco – economically and for education. Stats (compiled by the University of California) of enrolment data from 1981-2010 concluded that the rise in production of argan oil is directly linked to an increase in Moroccan girls being able to attend secondary school.

And back to goats in trees  . . . even after feeding their faces, the goats hang around on the branches of the trees just looking out at the horizon . . . excellent for photography and tourism.

Writer, Bev Malzard was smitten by the goats-in-trees phenomenon and grabbed a baby goat to cuddle while standing under the tree. She took the goat to Marrakech, bought it dinner, a new cardigan and a phone card. But nothing persuaded the animal to get on a plane to travel to Australia. Goat’s loss! Malzard is currently under arrest for trying to smuggle a baby donkey into Oz, will she never learn?

Travel to Morocco with http://www.bypriorarrangement.com

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Drumming up light and love

Drumming up light and love
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Something happened to me in my mid 30s (a few years ago now) I stopped doing any regular exercise. I had dabbled in yoga and even had personal trainer for a short while. And as a teenager, had played competitive squash and tennis. But time and work and the party life offered little useful movement and the promise of sedentary comfort.
But over the past couple of years with decades of sitting on my bum in front of a computer, travelling and sampling the best food in the world . . . my weight ballooned and my fitness added up to being breathless while walking up slight inclines.
So, with a changed work routine, less time at the computer, I now walk as much as I can and spend time at the local pool doing aqua aerobics.
I’m feeling damn good these days, better energy and actually motivated to move more.
Recently I went to a yoga retreat for a couple of days with a group of amazing women. Yoga, schmoga! I liked the idea of it but draw the line when I see pictures of people yoga- ing in various locations from around the world.
Anyway, I did the weekend, attended half the yoga classes (bit old and stiff to fully immerse) and enjoyed the weekend immensely.
Aside from brilliant vegan food – yes – brilliant – created by the ‘laughing chef’ which I went back for seconds, there’s the  drumming circle.
Now, in the past I had, I admit, put crap over the ‘wimmins’ drumming circles. But full of peace and love by way of Happy Buddha Retreat I surrendered to the drumming experience.
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Wow.
What a wonderful experience, bashing, tapping, humming and smiling as wide as the Megalong Valley I am a convert. There’s absolutely nothing that can’t be shaken off, damped down or moved out of your mind while the drum rhythm is vibrating through your hands, body and mind.
The beds here are comfy, you can share or have your own room, there’s an ensuite bathroom, a swimming pool and peaceful grounds for relaxing and breathing in the pure mountain air.
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Jeevi, originally from Nepal is known as the Laughing Chef and prepares the Happy Buddha Retreats’ brilliant dishes. 
Below is some information on a weekend away to immerse yourself in the drumming circle.
This is not a sponsored post, I don’t get paid to talk up these types of experiences – it’s just that I loved it and want to share the happy vibes of the Happy Buddha Retreat. I caught the train from Sydney to Wentworth Falls, about 90 minutes or so from Sydney. The drive is quick and easy and there’s parking.
I may even head back there again myself. Drumming yes, but not the downward dog, who has time when there’s vegan curries to eat . . .

 

Street wise: Hanoi, Vietnam

Street wise: Hanoi, Vietnam

www.sofitel-legend-metropole-hanoi.comA quick fix blog this week as I am away on a yoga retreat in the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours west of Sydney (I knoooow, what was I thinking) and am short on blogging time this week. A post on the yoga experience might even make its way here if I survive bending, stretching and being ‘mindful’. Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe maybe.

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One of my fave shots: there’s always a bride waiting to be photographed.

So, following on from last week’s Vietnam cruise story here are a few images I snapped in Hanoi pre and post the cruise. What an amazing city is it; brim to overflowing with personality, pragmatism and sassiness. The French colonial theme still stands in some quarters with rather lovely buildings, parks and he aroma of freshly baked bread . . .which is the legacy the Vietnamese were happy to retain once the colonialists had departed.

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IMG_1655IMG_1653Spot the tourist.

 

Writer, Bev Malzard has visited Hanoi several times and the last visit she stayed at super posh Hanoi Metropole Hotel, a divine establishment breathing history and charm. Here she cosies up to one of the doormen who gave her cheek every day, and she gave back as good as she got.

 

IMG_2753http://www.sofitel-legend-metropole-hanoi.com

 

How to take better food shots

How to take better food shots

Using your smart phone and you’re not a whizz bang photographer with a fancy camera? Want your meal to be envied? Your risotto remembered? Your cake catalogued? Then charge your phone and follow these suggestions.

 Food and travel! Seems that everyone wants to photograph what they had for breakfast, lunch and dinner . . .and in between. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Food and travel go together as we remember significant events, moments and meals in the countries we visit. Ah, that fragrant bowl of pho in Hanoi, the delectable strudel in Vienna, those ribs in Chicago, baguettes and buttery croissants in Paris and the Balmain bugs in Sydney. So why not share the chosen dishes with friends on social media – but be discerning.

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Natural light, simple presentation.

Don’t get carried away with that fab vindaloo – in bad lighting it looks like a dish of dog food; or the bowl of chicken rice under neon lights – pale as –  and a piece of steak on a plate with a couple of veg is not as appealing as it will be in the mouth . . . in short, don’t paste images of food unless they look as good as they taste. Here are some tips for smart phone or tablet amateurs that will make your food shots sing, click!

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This was a tasty lunch in Madrid, but did not translate to a great pic – don’t bother.

  • Avoid overhead lights, which create a reflection on the plate. Stick to light that is off to the side, or angle your camera or device.
  • Pull back from the dish for a wide shot to show napkins, utensils, cocktails or even a menu to create more action in the shot.
  • If you want to take a detail shot, physically step closer to your subject instead of using the digital zoom. This goes for any phone photos. Digital zoom will just make your image pixelated. You’re better off cropping the photo afterwards.
  • Did you know that you can control the exposure on your phone much like on a DSLR camera? When you open the camera app, focus on your subject manually with the touch of your finger. You will see a little image of a sun appear. If you slide your finger up and down the small bar that appears, you can control the amount of light in your photo even before you take the picture.

    Include people if they are active around food. Top left: mushroom tapas in Madrid; bottom left: Adelaide markets; right: this is how you slice Jamon successfully in Spain.

 

  • Before posting to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, use apps such as VSCO or Snapseed to edit the photo further.
  • Avoid flash because it can create harsh lighting on one area of the shot.
  • When photographing sandwiches or filled rolls, wedge out some of the contents so the shot is not blocked by bread.
  • Baked goods (cakes, bread, pastries, pies) can make for great shots because of the various textures.

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  • Oozing is attractive! Melted cheese oozing from a burger or chocolate pouring out of a pudding, this is ‘food action’ don’t miss the opportunity.

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‘Oozing’ works too. Thanks for the tip https://notquitenigella.com

  • There’s a tool on almost all smartphone devices that allows you to overlay a grid onto every photo you’re taking. That way you can make sure that your lines are straight, or you can easily divide your frame into thirds. On an iPhone, you can find the ‘grid’ toggle in your photo and camera settings. For the Android/Galaxy, you should check the settings in your camera app.
  • Your food/plate subject doesn’t have to take up the entire frame. You can let the food take up only a third of the frame. If there’s a simple backdrop you can place your food in front of, that works well. Dark or black backgrounds can create a dramatic contrast with your image.

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Slightly angled, interesting background and a colourful dish. At Skai restaurant, Swissotel The Stamford, Singapore.

Happy snapping.

Writer, Bev Malzard takes a lot of food pictures but she sometimes gets over excited and eats half her meal before she remembers to take a picture.

(This article appeared in #3 My Discoveries e-magazine http://www.mydiscoveries.com.au

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Don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet – this is my original invention/creation of the creme brulee sandwich (patented).

How to take better food shots

www.mydiscoveries.com.au

www.notquitenigella.com

 

 

 

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The (almost half) year that was

The (almost half) year that was

I was reading a colleague’s ‘year of travel tales’ and thought I might put my 2018 up in lights too. After a few trips last year that were diverse in their locations I have many warm memories and hopefully some insights into what makes the world tick outside my limited realm. Once I began looking through my diary and picking my brains I realised that one year was too much to fit into one blog . . .so half (well, April) a year to begin with.

Southern City

At new year in 2018 I visited Melbourne with my partner and another friend, nothing planned but called it a holiday. The theme became Street and Wall Art (one of my fave subjects to write about). Melbourne led the way in Oz before other cities and country towns saw the benefit of exposing these fab young artists’ works, the tourism draw and total fun for the locals.

What I learned in Melbourne: Always take an umbrella, no matter what time of year you visit and always have a cake from the Ackland Street bakeries. Life is too short to miss one of these confections. Also discovered the charming Chinese Museum in Cohen Place.

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During the Sydney summer, I mooched around town and my suburb going for walks; heading to the beach, and going to the amazing St George Outdoor Cinema. We go to see two movies every season and the thrill of the big screen lifting up from across the harbour, the music coming on and flights on bats swarming through the twilight sky is a very Sydney night to behold.

Bali beckoned

And what was deemed another ‘holiday’ was an eight-day stay in Bali. Landed and straight up to Ubud for R&R. Four days of bliss. And the day we arrived there was a full-scale royal funeral happening .  . . thousands of people packed the streets. It was such a colourful and joyful event – and event it was. Stayed at Honeymoon Guesthouse (this is not a sponsored post), big room with air-con, pool in the grounds and a good brekkie. The Honeymoon s owned by and Australian woman, Janet de Neefe and her husband Ketut Suadana. Janet was the person who started the Bali Writer’s festival, an internationally respected annual event. Her idea for the festival was after one of the bombings in Bali when morale was low and the island needed a boost.

After Ubud we spent two days in Seminyak at the fancy Hotel Indigo and decided that’s what fancy resorts/hotels are for, staying in and resorting to chilling out. It was so damn hot we just dipped in and out of the pool all day, ordered cold drinks and hot chips . . . nice way to spend the day.

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Last two days at Sanur, so peaceful and laid back it was almost dull. But the Art Hotel had a funny roof infinity pool (pretty ordinary brekkie), nice cheap room, and close to cafes and restaurants.

See: https://travelgaltravels.com/2018/05/01/bali-then-and-now

What I learned in Bali: buy a cheap hat when you get there, don’t try to carry your good hat on a plane and from place to place. Go to a cooking school for a day’s course. Take moisturiser that is water-based. Don’t order the chicken Parmigiano on Jetstar. See https://travelgaltravels.com/2018/03/19/bali-cooking-class

 

Benalla the beautiful

Only 24 hours after landing back from Bali we were barreling south from Sydney, heading for a little town in north-east Victoria, Benalla. Stopped off on the way to stay in the wine town of Rutherglen to visit old friends for hippy, happy days in Greece many years ago (that’s an entirely different story).

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https://travelgaltravels.com/2018/06/04/where-the-art-is-try-a-country-town

Benalla’s Wall to Wall Art festival (see above link) was a blast – in a quiet country way. Yet again, exposure of art to locals and the huge crowd it draws from all over. The baby boomer crowd are the travellers who follow the art around, and check into the festivals and know what they like!

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What I learned in Benalla: Eat out early. The first night there we ate at the local Chinese and it was pretty good. Next night looking for a restaurant at 8.30pm was more difficult – only the Colonel and his chooks beckoned so we opted for a frozen lasagna, fruit and yoghurt from the supermarket, nuked the dinner-in-a-box in the motel microwave and happy as a couple of Larrys.

Going through last year’s diary between trips I have scribbled: pool; write; pool; write blog; record ‘Barry’; pool; walk; DEADLINE; write; cocktail event; find images today – urgent; find so-and-so to commission a story; pedicure; send proofs; movie; pool; Walking Dead starts tonight; buy food; hairdresser; bake a cake; write; DEADLINE; pool; writers lunch; walk; catch up on blog writing . . .  my exciting life!

Nimmitabel – who knew?

Ranked as seventh highest town in Australia (1082m) Nimmitabel is a tiny town (320 population) in the Snowy Monaro region 37km south of Cooma in NSW.  I rolled into this town when the two shops had shut – so the place resembled a ghost town. But life hums along quietly here and I was to visit a friend who is a quiet achiever, a legend in some small circles – a man who, with his partner has been rescuing wombats left along the highway. He raises them, looks after them 24 hours’ a day, has them eat him out of house and home (true), travels far and wide to find fresh grass when the drought gives nothing and then he teaches them bush craft and how to live in the wild. There’s not a native animal or bird that someone has found and not brought to him to look after when it has been shot, neglected or run down by cowboy drivers. His name is Garry Malzard.

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What I learned in that region: After having lunch at the cool little village of Jugiong, don’t distract your driver and end up in Canberra when you’re hoping for reach Sydney. AND the area around Nimmitabel has the only true chernozem soil in Australia, a very rich, fertile and dark coloured soil.[3]

Admirable Adelaide

Next Aussie destination was Adelaide. The Adelaide Central Market. The markets, the markets, the markets . . . best in Oz (IMHO). Shopped and ate.

Headed to the Fleurieu Peninsula – stunning coastline with roaring sea rolling in and vineyards crowding the land. A precious part of South Australia, this region boasts many splendours – one of which is the Star of Greece restaurant that sits on the edge of the cliff with views along the cliffs and beaches of Port Willunga.

The Star has been there for many years and until a recent makeover it was a basic beach shack. And it is still not too up itself and offers conviviality and a homey ambience. No fancy pants here – just the real deal.

img_0123What I learned in Adelaide: Get out of town and visit the amazing D’Arenburg Cube . . .go see for yourself. Eat anything fish and chippy! Buy curry spices from The Adelaide Central Market.

Last stop in Oz before the middle of 2018 was a six-day trip to Tasmania. Two days in Launceston, and then a drive to Freycinet National Park to stay in the Coastal Pavilions – glam accommodation and the region home to the famous Freycinet oysters – so wish I liked them as people say they are the best!

Then on to Hobart in one of the worst storms the city had seen in decades – see link below.

So that’s me up until the end of May 2018. I didn’t realise I had such a good time last year . . . I will ponder on the second half for another post.

https://travelgaltravels.com/2018/06/18/tasmanian-ancestral-home-beckons

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TIPS for taking better food shots

TIPS for taking better food shots

Want your meal to be envied? Your risotto remembered? Your cake catalogued? So, as an amateur, make sure you follow these suggestions.

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 Food and travel! Seems that everyone wants to photograph what they had for breakfast, lunch and dinner . . . and in between. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Food and travel go together as we remember significant events, moments and meals in the countries we visit. Ah, that fragrant bowl of pho in Hanoi, the strudel in Vienna, those ribs in Chicago, baguettes and buttery croissants in Paris and the Balmain bugs in Sydney.

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So why not share the delectable dishes with friends on social media – but be discerning.

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This (above) tasted sensational – but does not look appealing in this shot.

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This is more like it!

Don’t get carried away with that fab vindaloo – in bad lighting it looks like a dish of dog food; or the bowl of chicken rice under neon lights – pale as –  and a piece of steak on a plate with a couple of veg is not as appealing as it will be in the mouth . . . in short, don’t paste images of food unless they look as good as they taste. Here are some tips for smart phone or tablet amateurs that will make your food shots sing, click!

  • Avoid overhead lights, which create a reflection on the plate. Stick to light that is off to the side, or angle your camera or device.

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  • Pull back from the dish for a wide shot to show napkins, utensils, cocktails or even a menu to create more action in the shot.

edward-guk-357344-unsplash (1)

  • If you want to take a detail shot, physically step closer to your subject instead of using the digital zoom. This goes for any phone photos. Digital zoom will just make your image pixelated. You’re better off cropping the photo afterwards.

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Rustic and real . . .

  • Did you know that you can control the exposure on your phone much like on a DSLR camera? When you open the camera app, focus on your subject manually with the touch of your finger. You will see a little image of a sun appear. If you slide your finger up and down the small bar that appears, you can control the amount of light in your photo even before you take the picture.

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  • Before posting to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, use apps such as VSCO or Snapseed to edit the photo further.
  • Avoid flash because it can create harsh lighting on one area of the shot.
  • When photographing sandwiches or filled rolls, wedge out some of the contents so the shot is not blocked by bread.

brigitte-tohm-209477-unsplash (1)

  • Baked goods (cakes, bread, pastries, pies) can make for great shots because of the various textures.

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  • Oozing is attractive! Melted cheese oozing from a burger or chocolate pouring out of a pudding, this is ‘food action’ don’t miss the opportunity.
  • There’s a tool on almost all smartphone devices that allows you to overlay a grid onto every photo you’re taking. That way you can make sure that your lines are straight, or you can easily divide your frame into thirds. On an iPhone, you can find the ‘grid’ toggle in your photo and camera settings. For the Android/Galaxy, you should check the settings in your camera app.

Example of bad food shots. Left, in the Adelaide Markets, wonderful spices but I sure didn’t do them any favours! And right: this is the most magnificent cheese made in Spain – better eaten than photographed!

  • Your food/plate subject doesn’t have to take up the entire frame. You can let the food take up only a third of the frame. If there’s a simple backdrop you can place your food in front of, that works well. Dark or black backgrounds can create a dramatic contrast with your image.

Happy snapping.

Writer, Bev Malzard takes a lot of food pics on her travels and often surprises herself when she has forgotten to take a shot of a fabulous dish –  because she ate it.

First published in the e magazine at www.mydiscoveries.com

Before and after – I tried to resist eating the lot but this lamb . . . in a restaurant in Trujillo, Extremadura region Spain. 

 

How to: have your cake and eat it too

How to: have your cake and eat it too

After ten days sailing on the Red River in North Vietnam we came back to earth (land) and entered the mighty maelstrom of a late afternoon Hanoi happening. It seemed so crowded, so noisy, we had to find some a peaceful place.

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I’m used to busy cities and love to throw myself into the middle of a crowd, but after gliding on the silky river waters and away from the hurley burly it came as a shock.

Then peace and quiet opened its doors – we entered the Metropole Hotel Hanoi and the world was set back on its axis.

To stay in the Sofitel Legend Hanoi Metropole Hotel is to be treated like royalty and be immersed in Hanoi’s long and complex history. The French carved a colony out in Vietnam from 1887 until its defeat in the First Indochina War in 1954 when independence was claimed for the country.

The French left many beautiful buildings especially in the north and the Queen is the Hanoi Metropole, gleaming white, brass polished as a shining ritual and all things here, tres bon. The staff still greet each guest throughout the hotel with a welcoming “bonjour”.

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The hotel includes 364 rooms. The historic Metropole wing has 106 guest rooms and three Legendary Suites. The suites are named after famous residents and visitors to the hotel (Graham Greene, Charlie Chaplin, Somerset Maugham). Green and Maugham spent long periods here working on their novels. (For inspiration read The Quiet American by Graham Greene, or watch the movie starring Michael Caine.)

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From the Paris-inspired cafe La Terrasse, to the popular poolside Bamboo Bar or Vietnamese restaurant Spices Garden, the multi-award French restaurant Le Beaulieu or the stylish Italian-influenced restaurant and lounge Angelina – the hotel promises a gastronomic journey.

The architectural style is neoclassical and is set on a tree-lined street. This luxury hotel is a 5-minute walk from the Hanoi Opera House and 27km from Noi Bai International Airport.

And if you can only visit for one thing – make it afternoon tea. Served daily, High tea and the Chocolate Library – tres, tres, bon.

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Every day, between three and 5.30pm, the Chocolate Library opens in the Club Bar. Praline, ganache, éclairs, mille-feuille pastries, chocolate fountain, a selection of every kind of French pâtisseries and chocolate in every shape and form appears and appeals seductively to the afternoon tea fanatic.…

And the High Tea isn’t too shabby either . . .scones, pastries, tiny cakes, finger sandwiches, baby quiche . . . do I need to elaborate? My travelling companion and I worked the program . . .one of us did the High Tea, the other the Chocolate Library. Would have been a terrible shame not to share.

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And there’s always Le Spa du Metropole after an afternoon of high indulgence. Enter a calm sanctuary of refined style for rituals combining east and west – to massage way the High Tea guilt.

For a little bit of fancy Francais in Vietnam, this hotel offers every experience to please a world traveller. Bon chance!

Visit: www.sofitel-legend-metropole-hanoi.com 

Writer Bev Malzard, recovered from an afternoon tea sugar coma, and proceeded to order a simple repast later in the evening. There’s a little shop within the hotel that sells baguettes, rolls, charcuterie and a selection of exquisite French cheeses. It was just a simple, light dinner . . . truly.

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