By Yvonne Blackwood ~

The adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words” rings true today as it did when it was popularized in the early 1900s. Travelling across the globe I have come across various locations that I regard as stunning. These spots may not necessarily be as appealing to others as they are to me, but that is why we are individuals.

On a tour of New Zealand a few years ago, we toured both the North and South Islands. As we travelled over hill and dale, through verdant countryside, I was impressed with the country’s beauty, so picturesque in some areas, it seemed like the canvas of an artist.

New Zealand

A piper pipes us in to Larnach Castle,  Dunedin

In Dunedin, the second-largest city of the South Island, we toured the charming Larnach Castle (I will cover this later in a series on castles). The castle stands on a hill—as most castles tend to do—and overlooks Otago Harbour. The harbour is a natural one and includes a long indented stretch of navigable water which separates the Otago Peninsula from the mainland.


Otago, New Zealand
Otago Harbour—picturesque view from Larnach Castle

While I found the castle, and the story behind it interesting, and the gardens fabulous, it was the view beyond the grounds that took my breath away. I had to take a second and third look. Was it real? Was it a canvas? After convincing myself that the view was real, I realized that William Larnach who built the castle must have reacted similarly, hence this chosen spot for his home. I thought, “Imagine waking up to this view every morning.”

My new children’s picture book will be published early spring; be on the watch!


By Yvonne Blackwood ~

Herbal Tea, Tisane, medicinal

Herbal teas, or tisanes, have existed for centuries dating back to ancient Egypt and China. They have become extremely popular in North America in recent years.

A report on the herbal tea industry asserts that the widely publicized health benefits of these teas have boosted their demand significantly over the past five years. Consumers have been purchasing more herbal teas because they are perceived as healthier and good for many ailments than traditional black tea, although black tea still remains the most consumed type of tea in the United States. In 2015 revenue from herbal teas grew to $1.0 billion.

In one of our previous articles about teas, we explained that tisane is any beverage brewed from material other than the Camellia Sinensis bush—teas brewed from barks, stems, berries, seeds, and even leaves of other plants. It is obvious then, that tisane material is limitless.

So what are the qualities you should look for when you select a tisane?

According to an article in Reader’s Digest, Best Health, it is important to look for a well-sourced product made from high-quality ingredients. If you drink herbal tea for medicinal purposes, you should steer clear of products that have things like essential oils or flavours added. In addition, you should steep the loose tea leaves or tea bags longer, say at least ten minutes, to extract the healthful properties. The article further explains that, “Anytime you’re ingesting something, you’re giving your body the building blocks it needs to manufacture tissues and hormones. . . If you drink tea every day, you can make all sorts of significant changes to your mood, your skin, your sense of well-being and energy.”

Below we have listed some of the most popular herbal teas/tisanes and some of their benefits.

Peppermint tea: Naturopath, Colin Huska recommends drinking peppermint tea to relieve symptoms of abdominal gas and bloating, and to relieve muscle spasms. It’s also good for nausea (without vomiting) and for heating up the body and making it sweat.

Ginger tea: Aids digestion. It can curb nausea, vomiting or upset stomach due to motion sickness.

Chamomile tea:  Chamomile is a gentle calming and sedative tea that can help with insomnia. Huska recommends it for a cough and bronchitis and when you have a cold or fever. It should be steeped well to get all the medicinal benefits.

Lemon balm tea: Helps to lift the spirits. It is recommended for the winter blahs, and to help improve concentration.

Milk thistle and dandelion tea: According to Huska, when these teas are consumed they act as gentle liver cleansers. “They help the liver to regenerate and function at a higher capacity.”

Rose hip tea: This tea is made from the fruits of the rose plant and is a good source of vitamin C, and important for the immune system, skin and tissue health and adrenal function.

There are so many wonderful herbal teas to choose from. Tell us about your favourite tisane.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended only to provide information, education, and entertainment. We do our very best to ensure the information we provide is accurate. Be reminded that nothing you find on our site or in our blogs is in any way intended to be a substitute for the medical care and advice your professional healthcare provider gives you, so be sure to visit him/her with any health issues.


By Yvonne Blackwood~

The tanned, smooth clear skin of the Polynesian men contributes to their exoticism, but the skin is not left unadorned. Every man I came across had numerous tattoos.  I delved into the matter to find out what tattooing is all about in this region.

Tattooing is not a fad in the South Pacific Islands, it is a part of the culture. The origin of the English word ‘tattoo’ is derived from the Tahitian word ‘tatau’. In Tahiti in ancient times, tattoos symbolized a person’s position in society; it indicated a sign of strength and wealth. It goes without saying that chiefs and warriors usually had the most elaborate ones.

Exotic, Polynesian
Native man in Moorea wearing loincloth

Men are not the only ones with tattoos, women have them also. In Samoa I had the opportunity to speak to the teenage daughter of a chief, and she sheepishly lifted her long skirt to show me her right leg. A series of tiny uniformed emblems were tattooed there covering an eight-inch square area just above her knees. “My father had these tattoos done on me. I didn’t have any say,” she told me. Tattoos on women indicate the maturity of girls’ sexuality or puberty.

In my previous articles in this series   part 1Part 2Part 3 , & part 4, I mentioned the pareu—a wraparound rectangular cloth worn by both Polynesian men and women. There is another type of garment—the loincloth—worn by some of the men, and it had us ladies gawking. When the loincloth is worn, it allows you the full view of how extensive tattoos can be, and a better appreciation of a tattooed body.

Moorea, exotic

A playful native of Moorea in tattooed splendour!



By Yvonne Blackwood~

Touring some of the French Polynesian Islands provided insight into the geography of the place and its culture, but as always, I am more interested in the people from foreign lands. In our previous three articles in this series,  part 1; Part 2; Part 3,  I focused on the exotic Polynesian women.

But what about the men?  With tanned, smooth clear skin, they are every much as exotic as the women. You can’t help noticing their skin because similar to the women, some wear the pareu—a wraparound rectangular cloth—worn mainly around the waist, thus exposing their upper bodies and parts of their legs. More flesh is exposed when some step out in loin cloths only (I will cover this in another article).

Native of Moorea wearing pareu




By Yvonne Blackwood~

Pareu or pareo is the French Polynesian word for a wraparound skirt worn by many women in the South Pacific Islands. It is related to the sarong. Originally, women wore the pareu, men wore loincloths. Today pareu applies to any piece of cloth worm by either male or female. Pareus are made from some of the most beautify, and colourful materials.

Tie-dye materials are popular in the Polynesian Islands, and I had the pleasure of watching a native woman transform a plain piece of cloth into a colourful one before my eyes. Many pareus are made from tie-dye materials.

Plain cloth transformed by tie-dye process. Moorea

The pareu is very versatile and can be worn in several different ways. One of the exotic ladies of Moorea created several outfits when she demonstrated some of the ways this simple rectangular piece of cloth can be worn. The fascinating thing about the creations is that needle and thread and pins were not required.


Polynesian woman demonstrates one way to wear a pareu



By Yvonne Blackwood~

Christopher Columbus is said to have described Jamaica (the place where I grew up) as the “Land of wood and water,” suggesting it is lush and green with refreshing rivers and blue seas. It certainly is. But putting all biases aside, there are some other islands that I have visited which are more beautiful with the bluest, clearest seas—the French Polynesian Islands. Looking at the ocean in Boro Boro and Moorea, the beauty took by breath away.

Amazing shades of the ocean in Moorea

Still, while I basked in the sun and soaked up the crystal clear turquoise seas of many shades, the people attracted me the most. As I continued my exploration of these islands, I attended a show at the Tiki Village Theatre in Moorea. In one of the performances, two virile-looking Polynesian men entered the theatre carrying a large, closed oyster shell. The audience held its breath. What on earth is in that thing? Maybe some prehistoric creature we have never heard about! The men placed the shell on the ground in the centre of the theatre. They tapped it. The shell slowly opened. Out stepped—not a prehistoric creature—a most exotic French Polynesian woman. Applause.

Polynesian, exotic
French Polynesian beauty steps out of oyster shell

The word exotic conjures up vivid images of aura, beauty, culture, and colour; we were witnessing these feelings as we looked on. I asked myself, is it any wonder that Gauguin did not want to leave this paradise?

As mentioned in our part 1 of this series of articles, the Polynesian women do not require makeup—eye shadow, mascara, lipstick, base, and anything false are unnecessary; they are simply, naturally beautiful, simply exotic.

Exotic men coming up soon!





By Yvonne Blackwood ~

Anthony Bourdain would probably say that the most interesting thing about roving all over the world is the exotic food—and maybe he should, after all he is a chef; for me it is the people.

The word exotic conjures up vivid images of aura, beauty, culture, colour, and different perspectives. One can employ many adjectives to describe the native people of the Polynesian Islands, but no word is quite fitting as exotic. I found these Islands populated with interesting, exotic women and men.

French Polynesia is composed of 118-130 islands (according to World Atlas and Encyclopedia Britannica) and stretches over more than 2,000 kilometres in the South Pacific Ocean. Divided into five groups of islands, The Society Islands are the most populous, and best known. They include Boro Boro, Moorea, and Tahiti. These islands are part of an overseas territory of France, originally claimed in 1843.

For the women of these islands makeup is unnecessary—eye shadow, lipstick, mascara, base or powder is not required; they are simply, naturally beautiful. But exoticism can pull you in, and we see this with the famous artist, Paul Gauguin. He travelled to Tahiti to discover the primitive and purity in Polynesian life and to get away from modern France.

Paul Gauguin
Original painting by Paul Gauguin displayed in Moorea

Spellbound by both the beauty of the islands and the exoticism of the women, Gauguin spent several years there living with and among the Polynesians. Several of his paintings depict partially nude Polynesian women.

Below: This exotic woman of Moorea welcomes us to the Tiki Village Theatre.

Exotic woman of Moorea, French Polynesia

Sorry, lady readers, you’ll have to wait for my next Theme Day series to see some equally exotic men! It will be well worth waiting for.




By Yvonne Blackwood~

To date, the articles we have written about tea covers only true tea—the beverage brewed from the Camellia Sinensis plant. I would be remiss, however, if I did not touch on another kind of beverage, also referred to as tea, or more popular known as tisane.

Tisane is any beverage made from material other than the Camellia Sinensis bush. All herbal teas—tea brewed from barks, stems, berries, seeds, and even leaves of other plants—is classified as tisane. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines tisane this way, “An infusion (as of dried herbs) used as a beverage or for medicinal effects.


Herbal teas have existed for centuries dating back to ancient Egypt and China. They have become extremely popular in the western world in recent years.

The question one usually asks is; what is the difference, other than source, between true tea and tisane? There are several differences between these two types of beverages.

First, the caffeine content. All teas from the Camellia Sinensis bush have some caffeine and vary depending on whether it is white, green, oolong, or black tea. Tisane on the other hand usually has no caffeine.

Safety is another issue to be considered when you drink tisanes. Since these teas can be brewed from a variety of plant materials they may include some plants that are known to be toxic. Some may even contain allergenic material; therefore the specific ingredients must be checked individually for health and safety. In addition, the source of the herbal ingredients, like any crop, may be contaminated with pesticides or heavy metals.

Some herbal teas can affect pregnant women. It is known that some medicinal herbs such as bitter melon, mace and papaya are regarded as abortifacients, and can cause a miscarriage.

When it comes to tisane, it is a matter of individual make-up. While one herbal tea may be fine for some people, it may have a negative effect on others.

In spite of the possible negative effects that can arise from drinking tisane, most herbal teas sold in retails stores could be considered safe; however, one should be cautious of medicinal herbal teas if they are not labelled in detail. According to an article in Readers Digest—Best Health Magazine, “Herbal tea has lots of wonderful health benefits. From soothing a troubled tummy to easing insomnia and calming a troubled mind.”

Do you have a favourite tisane?



By Yvonne Blackwood~

Auric Goldfinger, the villain in one of my favourite James Bond movies—Goldfinger—is obsessed with gold. When he murders Jill Masterson he does so by covering every inch of her body with gold paint. James Bond, always knowledgeable on every subject, explains what had transpired—the pores of the skin, the largest organ in the body, had suffocated.

In every country that you visit you will see someone making a spectacle of him or herself in order to earn a few dollars. I was shopping along the streets of the lovely town of Galway in the western part of Ireland when I came upon an interesting character. Immediately, the picture of Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, sprawled across her hotel bed—dead—flashed across my mind.

Man covered in paint, Galway, Ireland

On the sidewalk, a man sat in a large make-shift chair like a king sitting on a throne. His face, hands, clothes, and the chair were covered every inch in grey paint. He sat there motionless like a statue, and moved like a robot only when money was placed in his opened container at his feet. I prayed instantly that he had not covered his entire body with paint, but had left a space at the top of his spine for his skin to breathe—according to James Bond, this was the way to avoid skin suffocation.



By Yvonne Blackwood~

Happy New Year to all

It was sixteen years ago that we were transfixed on the dreadful possibilities of the Millennium Bug. How can we forget (of have we?) the fear that gripped us, fear that the world would end, computers would crash, extensive power cuts would occur and every possible bad thing that could happen would occur? But the new Millennium sauntered in without a whimper and life continued as before.

Another New Year is about to arrive—the year 2017. As we celebrate this milestone no doubt we will take time to reflect on the year just ended.

For many, 2016 will be recorded as a terrible year. On a global level, world peace, one thing that most of us long for, remains even more remote. Fighting occurred in every corner of the globe, spotlighted by the present war in Syria. The world also had numerous natural disasters in 2016. To list a few: Earthquakes reeked havoc in Italy, killing over 240 people; In Central Viet Nam and Louisiana floods raged, killing 37; Winter storm, Jonas, killed 48, and hurricane Mathew killed 43 in the United States, and hundreds in the Caribbean.

In my view, the most heart-wrenching disaster is not a natural one, but man-made; it is the ongoing war and devastation in Syria. So while we reflect and try to learn from the past, the arrival of a New Year should give us hope and not despair. It implores us to look ahead, to plan for something different.

A line from the Serenity prayer, “God, grant me the. . . courage to change the things I can,” should give us solace if we give it some consideration. At the beginning of the millennium I received an interesting e-mail which spelled out twenty-five things that we did the previous year versus what we would do in the new era. Three particular points still resonate with me and I’m sure they will with you too: “Last year we were thinking about all the things we didn’t have; this year we will be thinking about all the things we do have. Last year we were thinking about all the pressures we were under at the office; this year we will be thinking about the people who no longer have an office to go to. Last year peace on earth was something we prayed for on Sunday morning; now it’s something we pray for everyday.”

2016 will disappear into the sunset momentarily; we cannot change those events which occurred, however; we can go boldly into 2017 with renewed hope and an overwhelming desire to do the best that we can to make the world a better place. The paradigm continues to shift; we have embarked on a new world order and a new normal.

Happy New Year.