Your hands tell a story

You can tell a lot about a person from their hands.  When I meet someone, it’s one of the first things I notice.  Their hands tell the story of life, of adventure, work, care and creativity.  Hands have the power to create and destroy, to harm and to heal, which makes them fascinating to study.  Each one has its own unique pattern, grain and features.  Here are some stunning examples of hands.  We use them so much for many mundane activities we often take their beauty and complexity for granted.  Take a moment to see what these hands say to you.
hands in marriage

hands in marriage (

Artist: Nycki Owen

Artist: Nycki Owen (

X-ray of healthy hand

X-ray of healthy hand (

Hand of Buddha

Hand of Buddha (

Michelangelo: Hands of G-d and Adam

Michelangelo: Hands of G-d and Adam(

Henna Hands

Henna Hands (

Ancient cave paintings - Santa Cruz, Argentina

Ancient cave paintings - Santa Cruz, Argentina (wikipedia)

Helping hand

Helping hand (

In prayer

In prayer ( click picture to link direct

There is a giant sculpted hand on the Pan-Pacific Highway in Chile.  It is in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth.  In the desert and the dust, this hand marks the landscape.

Photo: Elizabeth Southey

Photo: Elizabeth Southey (

The artist behind the hand is Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrazabal and was constructed 1100 metres above sea level.   It stands 11 metres high and was inaugurated on March 28, 1992.

Atacama Desert Hand - Chile

Atacama Desert Hand - Chile (

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Mini cakes for the sweet tooth

There are two exquisite patisseries near my house and although I’m trying to get fit and eat well, I can’t deny myself a little sweet treat every now and again.  In my daydreams I sometimes wish I worked there creating these lovely mini cakes – edible works of art that are an absolute delight.  A big cake usually cuts into eight pieces, so I thought I’d profile eight beautiful mini cakes here.  Enjoy (preferably with a good coffee or tea in a china cup)!!

A mini cake assortment

A mini cake assortment. Click picture to link to

The trusty blueberry muffin

The trusty blueberry muffin. Click picture to link to

Custard and Choc Custard Horns.

Custard and Choc Custard Horns. Click picture to link to

Mini wedding cakes: Maisie Fantaisie

Mini wedding cakes: Click picture to link to

Baby lemon cheesecakes

Baby lemon cheesecakes. Click to link to

The Lemon Meringue Tartlettes (below) are gorgeous and if you’d like to recreate them, check out the recipe here.

Lemon Meringues

Lemon Meringues. Click picture to link to

Mini Pavlova maybe?

Mini Pavlova maybe? Click picture to link to

and last, but not least, the mini trifle of course.  If you’d like to make this one, check out the recipe here.

The mini trifle

The mini trifle. Click picture to link to

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Beautiful Home Libraries


A few years ago we spent several weekends visiting homes with the view to buy.  In between scheduled visits, we stopped in at a property that was way out of our league but we were killing time and thought we’d have a look.  Stella was a very professional agent and she patiently showed us around the entire place, despite us clearly not being true prospects.  She lead us through the six car garage, into the sauna and past the his and hers dressing rooms.  I knew this wasn’t going to be our new house, but it was quite a treat to walk through a fantastic mansion and dream a little.  All my sense and practicality evaporated when she ushered us into “The library”.   It’s something I’ve always wanted to create in my home.  A quiet retreat where I can curl up with a book, a lap dog, maybe a warm fire, some gentle music.  Ahhhhhhh.   We didn’t buy that house, but I can still remember the feeling of warmth it evoked and I still long to create my own space.  Here are some beautiful home libraries to inspire you (and me!).

Courtesy: The Rusty Typewriter

Courtesy: The Rusty Typewriter (

Courtesy: Lexis Interiors

Courtesy: Lexis Interiors (

Mark Twain's house library

Mark Twain's house library (

Here’s a neat little window seat to perch on, I love the lighting in this picture below.

Courtesy: Business Week

Courtesy: Business Week (

Home Library: West Newton. Mass.USA

Home Library: West Newton. Mass.USA (

I’m sensing a lot of library designers have gone for the wood-floor-with-rug theme.  I like it!!
Courtesy: Manhattan Cabinetry

Courtesy: Manhattan Cabinetry (

The Google office in Zurich (below)  has a library room exclusively for staff where they can meet and relax.
At work: Google Office, Zurich.

Photo by pineapplebun (Flickr) Staff library room: Google, Zurich.

I love the mantlepiece in the picture below.
Courtesy: Library Designs

Courtesy: Library Designs (

The two-tier, walnut-paneled library at Biltmore House (below) contains some 10,000 volumes and a fireplace surrounded by a carved, black-marble mantel. On the second floor of the library, there is a secret door that George Vanderbilt used to come down directly from his bedroom to locate or return a book.

Biltmore House, North Carolina USA.

Biltmore House, North Carolina USA. (

Courtesy: Neville Johnson

Photo: Neville Johnson (

Grand Library (Neville Johnson)

Photo: Neville Johnsons - Grand Library (

Courtesy: Neville Johnson

Photo: Neville Johnson (

Jay Walker is the founder of the Priceline company and lives in Ridgefield, Connecticut USA. His personal library (picture below) occupies 3600 square feet (330 m2) and features books, atlases, artifacts and models of space exploration, cryptography and James Bond films.

Jay Walker - home library, Connecticut. USA.

Jay Walker - home library, Connecticut. USA. (

Ahhh, happy decorating – let me know how you go.

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Sand Mandala – Tibetan Art

In 2001, two Buddhist monks constructed a sand mandala in the Ackland Art Museum in North Carolina USA.  It measured over five feet in diameter and is an exquisite piece of Tibetan Art.  Construction is a delicate and painstaking process.

Drawing the Mandala map

DRAWING THE MANDALA MAP. Click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum (

Throughout construction the monks pour millions of grains of fine sand, (usually coloured stones that have been ground) from traditional metal funnels called chakpur.

Ackland Art Gallery: Mandala in progress

MANDALA IN PROGRESS - click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum

The intricate patterns and symbols within the piece are astounding.   I love the vibrant colours, symmetry and symbolism of the work and can appreciate looking at the smallest corner or the piece as a whole.

Ackland Art Gallery:  Mandala close up

CLOSE UP - click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum

Ackland Art Gallery: Mandala closeup

CLOSER STILL. click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum

Ackland Art Gallery: the mandala grows

MANDALA GROWING. click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum

Once complete, the monks perform a closing ceremony that is very sacred and symbolic.  The final product is an absolute wonder.  Imagine a solid week of work creating this masterpiece.  Imagine how your neck and shoulders might ache from being hunched over the board for all that time, gently and carefully placing grains of sand in just the right places.
Ackland Art Gallery:  mission accomplished

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum

The closing ceremony is a dismantling.  The monks who took hours to create the mandala also sweep up the mandala, capturing again the coloured sand.  (I want to cry – Noooooo!!!!)
Ackland Art Gallery: dismantling the mandala

BUT FOR A MOMENT. Click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum

In Tibetan culture this symbolises the transient nature of life and the impermanence of everything that exists.   I suppose it means you really have to treasure something right in the moment, and remember it.
Ackland Art Gallery: sweeping the sand

THE RITUAL. Click photo to visit Ackland Art Museum

The sand or coloured stone is never used twice.  In some ceremonies it is given to the audience as a blessing, and reminder.  Sometimes the sand is swept up, wrapped in silk and taken to a body of running water where it is released back into nature.  Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, I guess.  There is something lovely about that idea – it started as rock, came from the earth, was pummelled into sand, was handled carefully and deliberately, became beautiful, was celebrated then carefully returned to its source.
In Tibetan ritual arts, the collaboration and execution of the sand mandala is considered much more important than the final product.  It sounds like another way of saying the journey is more important than the destination.  One day, it might just sink in…

Bright Lights, Big City

I’m one of the billions of people on the earth that live on the edge.  Sometimes I think I’m on the edge of sanity, but what I mean here is that I live on the edge of the land.  Actually, I live pretty much on the edge of a continent.

I think I’ve always assumed that there wasn’t much in the middle, in the heart of the land.  Mainly because when I travelled within Australia, it is a remote and arid land (mostly) and the distances over the beautiful but inhospitable terrain are vast.  It got me thinking about the rest of the world.  We know that India and China have massive populations, but what about other areas?  Where do we all live on this blue planet?

The picture below is from NASA and shows the location of permanent lights on earth.  This image was created with ongoing data from the Satellite Program which studies the changes in urbanisation over time.  The brightest areas of the Earth are the most urbanised, but not necessarily the most populated.  Even after more than 100 years after the invention of the electric light, some regions remain thinly populated and unlit.  Antarctica is entirely dark.  Lights are beginning to appear in the jungles of Africa and South America.  Interesting huh?  See what you can see.

Earth Lights: Craig Mayhew & Robert Simmon, NASA. GSFC.

Earth Lights: Craig Mayhew (