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Spice Health Heroes by Natasha MacAller.  Photography © Manja Wachsmuth Photography 2016. Published by Jacqui Small, an imprint of The Quarto Group

Whether we are inhaling the aromas of curry with spices like cardamom, cumin and coriander, or tasting a pasta sauce rich with rosemary, basil and oregano,  generally we simply enjoy the taste and smell food sensations. But although the word spice evokes the concept of piquant flavors and aromas of foods or drinks,  most of us don’t think of the ways in which these different herbs and spices may be altering our metabolism or have a medicinal effect. 

Sandra Medeiros and Carlo Marks. Photo by Angelo Renai

While a thunderstorm rages over an isolated log cabin deep in a forest, siblings Bobby and Betty, are there together ostensibly to clear out a tenant's property from the cabin. But this is no Hansel and Gretel story of innocent siblings threatened by a mean step-mother and a cannabilistic witch with a fairy tale happy ending. Instead it is a dark exploration of the truth and lies  behind the emotions of an big sister-baby brother relationship now grown up.

Natasha Macaller aka dancing chef

A professional ballerina turned professional chef, who has just authored a cookbook in which Vanilla is the star! That hit three of my hot buttons - dance, great food and my favorite flavour and aroma, vanilla. And as someone who turned to working in the arts after a long career in science, I was fascinated to learn about how and why a dancer became a chef. 

So as soon as I read that Natasha MacAller would be in Vancouver for a book signing at Barbara Jo's Bookstore, I knew I wanted to meet her in person. We had arranged to...

Vanilla Table by Natasha Macaller

Vanilla - a lush sweet aroma and flavour that inevitably entices me to indulge in more sweet or frozen desserts, cakes and chocolates than I probably should. It's hard to resist those sweet treats.  But I hadn't thought much about vanilla in the context of a savoury dish, until I saw a listing of recipes from Natasha MacAller's Vanilla Table.

Guest chef contributorsThis paean to vanilla was partly inspired by a visit to the Heilala plantation. an organic, fair-trade, family business in  the Kingdom of Tonga....

The cast of Miss Shakespeare. Photo by Bold Rezolution Studio

The premise of this show had me hooked from the beginning. It's early 17th century England and theatre abounds. Companies of players are performing comedies and tragedies with meaty roles for the players to tackle - but only if the players are men. Women are not allowed to perform and if they risk it and are caught on stage, they are subject to shaming by the church. This gender-based prohibition does not sit well with Miss Judith Shakespeare (Amanda Lisman) the feisty younger daughter of The Bard...

The cast of In The Heights at Arts Club. Photo by David Cooper

I was happy to get a chance to see this show as I missed it on each of my New York trips and I really enjoyed it a lot.

I liked the musical variety with Latin rhythms, salsa, merengue and rap, and the energy of the salsa and hip-hop dancing.

night falls on the Amazon

A To Z Challenge 2015This was my first time back to the A to ZChallenge since I completed it in 2012. I chose for my theme, to revisit my Amazon River Cruise  through the Peruvian Jungle in 2013 which I had partly documented on my return -  here is a post that showed the excursions during this journey - taking the opportunity to add more information  and details.

This was post A. Amazon Jungle Adventure- Why?

I learned a lot...

Jennifer Suratos, Christopher King and Ryan Lino. Photo by Nicol Spinola

I have always been bemused by the terms "fairy tales" or "children's stories" used to describe the collections of German folk lore compiled in the 19th century by the appropriately named Brother's Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm. Although sanitized and glamorized into gentler, happier and pretty versions  as in the animated Disney films that even young children love to watch, the actual stories tell of violent acts and cruelty that don't always end with the protagonists living "happily ever after."

Just think of Cinderella, abused by her step-mother and sisters, without any help or intervention from her own father. There is...

Certifying my Amazon Adventure

For our final dinner on La Turmalina the crew outdid themselves. 

The entire crew from the Captain to the kitchen staff came out to be introduced and thanked by us all, and each of the guests was presented with a certificate showing that we had completed our week on the Amazon River.

the reluctant fisher girl

One of the frequently hinted at, and therefore anticipated highlights of this trip,  was the opportunity to go fishing for piranhas on the Yarapa river, one of the tributaries opening into the Amazon.

I have to confess  that fishing is not something I like to do. I don't mind standing around with a rod dangling in the water - it's kind of peaceful- but I really don't want to actually catch a fish. I hate watching the fish thrash around on the deck gasping for air. It's worse when they are bashed on the head - and as for pulling...

frog or toad 2

Xenopus is a genus of clawed aquatic frogs native to sub-Saharan Africa. There are about twenty known species in this genus. I first made the acquaintance of Xenopus Laevus, the best known celebrity of this family, in zoology, in my first year at medical school. At that time the primary laboratory investigations that we carried out were simple dissections.  It was in zoology class that I realized that I was far too squeamish to be a surgeon. 

If I couldn't even bear to cut up a frog how could I possibly slice up humans? I decided the kind of medicine...


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Spice Health Heroes by Natasha MacAller.  Photography © Manja Wachsmuth Photography 2016. Published by Jacqui Small, an imprint of The Quarto Group

Whether we are inhaling the aromas of curry with spices like cardamom, cumin and coriander, ...


I specially love the dancing when cruising on the Cunard ships, Queen Mary 2, Queen ...