Friday, January 18, 2013

Meet the new Hoots!

At last, I've made some new Hoots!

These little ones are ready for the Shirt and Skirt Market at Abbotsford Convent this Sunday 20 January. I am having a bit of a fire sale, so come on down!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

On the road to Varanasi

Driving through the thick fog, it’s as if the universe has shrunk down to just this. The road disappears five metres in front of our eyes. Beyond that, there could be anything … sea monsters, a fairy castle, the god Ganesha reclining on a cupcake. You would never know.

It’s six am and the sun’s not up – or at least not visible through this unseasonable fog. The mist ridicules the headlights, diffusing the puny beam so that they’re less than useless. Everything is invisible. Everything is white. This must be what the world looks like through cataracts.

Painted trucks loom up at us without warning, their dark windows like eye sockets in a metal skull. The van swerves to miss them, and a cacophony of horns throws blame onto the road as we pass by the skins of our teeth.

As the hour wears on, the fog stays stubbornly in place, though the world starts to warm up inside it. Bicycles begin to appear, and women walking along the edge of the road, and bullock carts stacked high with bags of wheat. Every now and again a fire flickers through the veil, but it swallows the smoke without trace. 

I crossed the border from Nepal this morning. The immigration office wasn’t open and the touts hadn’t started to mill around the boom gate. A man with a scarf tied around his head took my passport, and checked every letter and number on the form I’d filled out against it. He carefully stamped the page and in ten minutes I was across the border and instantly into India.

I’d thought Nepal was quite like India, right up until that moment. But on stepping through the change was so palpable that I breathed it in. India has its own smell, its garbage is an art form and the way the shops are arranged is just so …. quintessentially Indian. In the space of a ten-metre parentheses, the whole world tilted slightly on its axis, I left Nepal behind, and India came sharply into focus.

It’s 300 kilometres to Varanasi, India’s holiest city, and it will take me ten hours in this car to get there. We’ll join another four lanes of traffic on this one-lane goat track that is the major highway, and we’ll go at an average 30km per hour while we avoid disaster on the pitted, pockmarked road. In some places there’ll be cows asleep in the middle, curled up like cats. There’ll be vegetable markets for miles, all selling the same combination of apples and bananas, or cauliflower, potatoes and eggplant. I’ll want to buy one of the hand-woven reed baskets with its pretty patterns of pink and green on the inside, but we won’t stop for that, not for love nor money.

And every time my driver, Mr Yadev, swerves to avoid a dog, or manfully passes a motor bike, or leans on his horn, or tops out the speedometer at the grand total of 43 km per hour; he’ll give a small, burbling wet belch of quiet satisfaction; all the way there.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Reaching Nirvana: are we there yet?

Six hundred years before Jesus or the prophet Mohammed, a baby boy was born.

Siddhartha was a prince born into a royal household. His mother gave birth to him after bathing in a pond.

When the astrologer came to read Siddhartha's horoscope, he predicted that Siddhartha would be one of two things: a great and powerful king, or a saint.

Siddhartha's father, the king, wasn't super keen on the idea of losing his heir to a sainthood, so he kept Siddhartha cosseted inside the palace. The king wanted to make sure Siddhartha had everything his heart desired, so that he would never want to leave.

But Siddhartha wasn't content. When he was 29 he left the palace for the first time, and he was shocked to see the suffering that had previously been hidden from him.

To cut a long story short, he meditated on this, trying to understand why people suffered, and after many years he reached enlightenment under a banyan tree. He became the Lord Buddha.

His realisations were that to live is to suffer. That desire is the root of all suffering.That rising above attachment is the only way to relieve suffering. That to be enlightened, to reach nirvana, is the ultimate state of being and the purest form of detachment.

Lumbini is the place where Buddha was born. It is a world heritage site and a place of pilgrimmage. Baby monks come here.

 You literally leave your shoes at the door, and walk barefoot inside the grounds.

A golden stupa marks the site of Buddha's birth. It's called the Maya Devi temple.

People light candles and incense.

There are many colourful prayer flags, from all over the world.

 And people pray under the big banyan tree. Sometimes for hours, in positions that look terribly uncomfortable.

And monks receive alms, and pose for photos. 

 Sadhus - holy men - come from all over India to pay homage to Buddha.

For Buddhists, it's one of the holiest sites in the world.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pictures from Nepal

Internet very bad! Cannot connect! Trying desperately to post photos instead! (This always seems to happen when I'm over this part of the world, doesn't it?)

I am reliably informed that access from India will be better. I'm due there tomorrow, after visiting Lumbini today. Lumbinin is where the Lord Buddha was born.

So I am hoping enlightenment will follow shortly afterwards.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Kathmandu, I could Kist you

Whoo, Kathmandu Nepal!

I am a mere 250km from Mt Everest. You cannot see it from my hotel room, but I did not know this. I thought I'd be able to just, you know, look up and see it EVERYWHERE. That is not the case.

Today I've visited a bunch of Buddhist temples and learnt about samsara and kharma. I've drunk yak milk lassi and waited in line for Amma, the hugging guru. (I did not get a hug. I do not hug strangers.)

But the internet, alas, it is very spasmodic and not at all reliable. So I am quickly posting this and I'm afraid I haven't been able to spend time polishing it.

The first thing that struck me about Kathmandu is that no ATM would take my card and that meant I had no money. Not a great start. Especially when you consider that the hotel we first arrived at also had no record of my booking (which I totally booked, and totally confirmed before we left), and therefore we had nowhere to sleep. It was midnight

It took me some time, but we worked through it and eventually got a room at the Kathmandu Guest House. The next day, it was ATM number five - for Kist Bank - that eventually accepted my card and gave me some money.

I immediately went out and bought the Mount Everest of had-embroidered felt balls. A thousand of them, to be precise. For a little over $25.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Life As A Blog

Are you a Sunday Age reader? Maybe you saw the cover story in today's M Magazine ......

If you want to follow the epic project to bake every single cake in the Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book, you can follow my blog here, or join my Facebook page here  !

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cake it to the limit

Dear readers, I have begun a new blog project!

Having not had a birthday cake since I was ten or eleven - and that's a long time ago - I've decided to rectify the situation.

I'm going to bake every single cake in the Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake book.

Yes, you heard correctly. There are 104, so if I bake one a week, every week, it will take me exactly two years. That's a lot of cake. I may have to start training for a marathon in parallel.

I'm still going to be posting my craft projects here at All Toile And No Reward though, so just add my new blog to your list.

You can visit me at -prepare to be covered in flour and icing sugar and tales of disaster!