Wednesday, April 17, 2013


With the temps pushing the sixties and seventies on a more regular basis, it's a sign that summer is getting closer to knocking on our door. The bursts of color are now the rule rather than the exception and, after I write this, we're taking the puppies for a frolic in Prospect Park - and leaving the long sleeves behind.

I have friends from New Zealand arriving this week - so glad that the weather is putting on a good show.

Enjoy - there's nothing better than a beautiful spring in New York!

Union Square Farmers Market in full bloom.

A little bit of China Town pushing its way through Soho.

One thing I've always loved about America - the unbridled patriotism.

Potted hyacinths in Herald Square looking and smelling divine.

Hands down the best deal on Broadway. Fishs Eddy - one of my favorite stores.

Spring demanding to be heard over the noise of 34th Street.

Fresh seafood literally going out the door in China Town.

Tulips on Broadway

Little Italy, a tourist drawcard in Soho. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013


It's officially Spring in New York! 

Sure, it's still chilly but if you look closely you'll find young bulbs starting to peek out of the earth and new buds on the trees. It was only 30 degrees here in Brooklyn this morning but I was determined to find a splash of color for you. 

A bed of crocuses blooming on Abermarle Road just down from our apartment on East 16th.

Brooklyn Public Library's doors at Grand Army Plaza are some spectacular bling and with the Brooklyn Museum located just down the road, also a great tourist attraction in summer.

One of the many pre-war apartment buildings in Park Slope.

To the victor go the this case the Blue Team who won this game of girls' soccer played at our local parade grounds on Caton Avenue.

Early morning flea market in the school grounds on 7th Avenue, Park Slope.

Radio tower on the walk home down Washington Avenue, Brooklyn.

One of my favorite pastry shops on 7th Avenue in Park Slope.

All photos copyright Jackie Maw Tolliver

"Is the spring coming?" he said. "What is is like?"...
"It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine..." Frances Hodgson Burnett


Friday, March 1, 2013


One of the many blessings we enjoy here in Brooklyn, is living on the doorstep of Prospect Park. Designed by the same architects as Central Park (Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux), it's a wonderful retreat in all seasons, and during the last big snow, quite spectacular.

The snowfall created a winter wonderland in Prospect Park.

The pond is iced over for winter which makes slim pickings for these birds.

The children's playground wasn't getting a lot of use this day.

Out for a walk in Prospect Park

The Brownstones of Park Slope, Brooklyn

Friday, February 22, 2013

COLD AS HELL - A story of six brave men

Month One - February

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, is, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the World's Greatest Living Explorer. And true to form, he's at it again. Not content with crossing the Antarctic during summer, he is currently leading an expedition that until now, has never been attempted because it was considered well, a rather frightfully bad idea. A journey across the Antarctic during the dark of winter. An elevator pitch might look something like this: six men, six months, 2000 miles in temperatures around minus 90 degrees celsius while operating in near permanent darkness. Or more simply 'The Coldest Journey'.

It's taken Ran and the team five years of checking boxes just to get the expedition a green light. The initial intention was to ski across during winter, hauling what they needed with the aid of food/fuel depots left behind from the previous summer. However, because the failure rate was high and potentially embarrassing for the British Government, they had to compromise (interesting word to use in this context I know) and add mechanical support, in this case two 20 ton Caterpillar D6N's. Five years later, the expedition was allowed to proceed.

But making impossibly difficult expeditions happen is what Ranulph Fiennes is good at. In fact he tells me it's all he knows how to do. He's certainly built an impressive resume. He was the first to cross both the Antarctic and the Arctic ocean and first to circumnavigate the world along its polar axis (both times with Charles Burton), then in 1993 with Mike Stroud, was first to complete an unsupported crossing of the Antarctic Continent. In 2000 he attempted a solo Arctic expedition and in 2003 he famously completed seven marathons in seven days on seven continents (a short three and a half months after suffering a massive heart attack and having double bypass heart surgery). He then climbed the north face of the Eiger (to cure himself of vertigo, he once told me) and in May 2009 at the age of 65 he finally made it to the summit of Mount Everest, the oldest Briton to do so, having come close before in both 2005 and 2008.

He's also a prolific fundraiser, having raised over £16m for different UK charities from all his expeditions. It should be pointed out here that Ran and anyone he recruits, don't earn a penny on the expeditions (and in this example, we're talking five years before pressing 'go'). Unbelievably, no one is paid for their services which is why, Ran tells me, he writes books and lectures after the fact, so he can pay the bills. A rare breed indeed, these explorer types.

When I spoke with Ran earlier in the month by sat phone in Antarctica, they were heading south to their first port of call, Princess Elisabeth Station. They have now done so, although at the time of writing, they are stuck in white-out conditions going nowhere. Even though technological advances allow them to stay connected to the outside world, the harsh reality is that if anything should go wrong over winter, an air rescue would be out of the question until summer.

To give you a better picture of the expedition, the Ice Team aim to cover 35 kilometers a day in order to reach their final destination of the Ross Ice Shelf within six months. Two men ski point to search out any potential threats such as crevasses while the other four follow behind in the two Caterpillars. Each of the Cats are towing one caboose, the living/sleeping cabin measuring seven meters by five meters, and the research lab, seven meters by two and a half. In addition to the threat of crevasses, extreme cold is the other main threat – to not only the human cargo but to the heavy machinery. The Ice Team are also wearing specially adapted heated clothing, but the coldest temperatures these have been tested to was minus 58 degrees. They're not expecting their journey to be in temperatures lower than minus 70.

In addition to successfully covering 2000 miles, much of it in total darkness, the team will also be completing a significant amount of scientific research work including the 'White Mars' project. As the name suggests, because polar conditions are similar in extremity to those experienced by astronauts in space, the team will share their findings with NASA on what they learn about psychological and physiological changes caused by living in close proximity during such harsh conditions.

For the next six months I will be writing a blog once a month with updates direct from Ran and the Ice Team. Their actual polar crossing is due to begin on the Equinox, March 20th. My next call is scheduled with Ran at the end of March so until then, take a moment to check out The Coldest Journey website and Facebook page for other updates from the ice. The charity is called 'Seeing is Believing' and their goal is to raise £10 million, so I'm sure they'd be thrilled if you can help.

And finally, at the end of each of these blogs, I'm going to leave you with a personal account from Ran's life, a man who never ceases to amaze me.

The following happened after an unsuccessful attempt to walk solo across the North Pole in 2000. The attempt failed because Ran's sled fell through ice and he was forced to pull off the glove on his left hand to get the sled out. As a result he sustained severe frostbite. Ran's doctor suggested it was necessary to keep the black and dying finger tips attached for several months prior to a scheduled amputation, but the pain and discomfort soon got the better of him. So he took a Black and Decker vice from the tool shed and using a small saw, proceeded to cut off the dead fingertips of his left hand. He'd saved himself £6000 which I presume gave him no small amount of satisfaction but no doubt contributed to the colorful conversation that allegedly resulted between he and his doctor when next they spoke.


February 27th: Just a day after writing this blog, Ran was injured after a fall skiing and because he had to use his bare hands to repair a ski binding, has once again suffered severe frostbite. As I write this, Ran is making his way off the Ice and back to Cape Town. The five remaining explorers will carry on without him. I imagine 'disappointment' will be an understatement for all concerned. A reminder that mother nature plays favorites to no one.

© 2013 Jackie Maw Tolliver 

Thursday, January 17, 2013


The two girls sat close, touching hands in a gesture of both familiarity and affection. They were similar in age but not in attire. One was all blonde ponytail and Juicy track suit, the other, her mother's clothes. I would have guessed them to be around seventy years.

They were talking, as girlfriends do, about boys.

Miss Ponytail: “I need a break from Lenny.”

Miss Drab: “You should meet Don.” “He's nothing like Lenny, you'd like him.”

Miss P: “Is he fat? I don't like fat.”

Miss D: “He's not fat.”

Miss P: “Does he have hair? I like hair.” Her voice trailed off, lost in the image of her ideal man.
“You know, she continues, switching back to Lenny, “it's not that he's not a good man. “He calls me twice a day.

Miss D: “Twice a day?”

Miss P: “Twice a day. But what I don't like is his obsession with money. It has to be the best restaurant, the most expensive coat. You know, it's just too much pressure.”

Miss D: “Pressure?”

Miss P: “All I'm looking for is a nice, normal Jewish man. Is that too hard to find?”

Miss D: “It's not too hard to find, but I think you're being fussy.”

Miss P: “Fussy?”

Miss D: “You can't afford to be fussy at your age.”

Miss P: “What do you mean, 'my age'?”

Miss D: “Oy vey, you're no spring chicken. How often does a man come along with his own teeth and hair?”

Miss P: “Lenny doesn't have his own teeth.”

Miss D: “But Lenny can look down and check that his shoes match his belt. That's no mean feat in this day and age.”

Miss P: “His shoes have to be the most expensive shoes.”

Miss D: “I don't think your trouble is men.”

Miss P: “What do you mean?”

Miss D: “So take Lenny. There's nothing wrong with Lenny. Plenty of girls would like Lenny.”

Miss P: “What are you saying?”

Miss D: “But it's all 'Lenny's got problems'. 'He's too obsessive about money...'”

Miss P: “'You don't understand.”

Miss D: “What do you mean, 'I don't understand?”

Miss P: “You're not with Lenny.”

Miss D: “Who said I want to be with Lenny?”

Miss P: “If you were with Lenny, you would know what I mean.”

The train pulled up to their station and they both got up to leave.

Miss D: “And if it doesn't work out with Lenny, come meet Don.”

Miss P “I'm not interested in Don.”

Miss D: “How do you know?”

Miss P: “You said he was nothing like Lenny.”

© 2013 Jackie Maw Tolliver 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


If New Zealand's not on your bucket list, it should be. Google it's gorgeousness. I was back there recently, this time the location was Queenstown, Adventure Capital of the World. I stopped off at the legendary Amisfield Winery...

There are few moments more seductive than sitting outside on a summer's day, overlooking a stunning landscape while tucking into the finest seasonal food and wine on offer. That's why you come to Amisfield Winery, the views are rugged, the hospitality is not.

Located just outside the gold miners village of Arrowtown, Amisfield Winery is revered by both local and an international clientele. Last time I dined here, we shared the restaurant with the late Colonel Gadaffi's son and his eclectic entourage.

I was seated and watered by a cheery young thing, who at first glance looked like she had suffered a wardrobe malfunction. However after seeing the other waitresses dressed similarly, I realized the dungaree look was meant to be 'off the shoulder'.

Having studied the menu, I opted for 'Trust the Chef' as recommended online and by the wait staff. It was a good choice. Chef Jay Sherwood decides what he'll cook you on the day, based on what's seasonal and what's good.

I ordered a glass of the 2009 Fume Blanc to start. More Chardonnay than Sav thanks to the aging in oak barrels and it pared well with the first two dishes. The first being the duck roulette, served on wood with grilled sour dough and plum jam. Smooth, tasty and devourable like a rich man's marmite.

The second dish was gazpacho. The chilled soup was perfect for a hot, still day and I discovered the silky oily- ness was caused naturally by the tomatoes being left overnight with salt on before blending.

First glass down, I opted next for a three glass wine taster and chose the Saignee Rosé, the award winning Rocky Knoll Pinot Noir and for dessert, a glass of the sweet Noble.

The third dish was cooked salmon with crispy capers and shaved fennel accompanied with a garden fresh salad and manuka honey dressing. Again served on wood, it was light and full of flavor and a perfect pare for the Rosé.

The fourth dish was roasted ribeye with crème fraiche and horseradish served with an ample side plate of minty potato salad. The benefits of being early I suppose, but I was fortunate enough to get a good number of roasted end slices – char grilled and delish. The Pinot Noir was a good complement.

Dessert was a light panna cotta, the intense berry jam sitting underneath the fruit was a wonderful kick of flavor.

Some two hours and $98 later my leisurely lunch at Amisfield Winery came to an end. It was every bit as pleasing as I had hoped and wild horses won't stop be returning next time.

© 2013 Jackie Maw Tolliver 


As a Brooklyn-based, New Zealand writer, I am excited to be jumping on a plane home to Christchurch. The locals call it 'the quaky aisles.' They've had over 13,000 earthquakes since The. Big. One. which hit on February 22nd, 2010. The ground shook so hard it claimed 182 souls and took most of the inner city with it. The ground has stopped shaking and the rebuild is underway. I am keen to see it.

After landing at Christchurch's new terminal, the first order of business is breakfast. If you're a coffee lover, you'll appreciate New Zealand baristas. This small country has had a huge influence on the New York coffee culture. 

I head to Black Betty's Cafe; My eggs benedict is served on toasted ciabatta with hollandaise sauce mixed with grainy mustard and crispy shards of bacon. Thoroughly delicious with the standout being the eggs. As I slice into them, they burst into flowing rivers of molten orange. Free range heaven. My flat white coffee (more espresso, less milk) has the obligatory dark crema reserved for the realms of only the most knowledgable coffee wizards. 

Fat and happy, I am now ready for the grim task of checking out my ripped and torn city. Nothing prepares you for the shock of what you're about to see. Entire blocks have disappeared, and all that is left are piles and piles of rubble. Crocodile tears well up at the brutality of it all. 

Despite this, Christchurch is still such a beautiful city. Lonely Planet recently named Christchurch the 6th 'Must See' destination on the planet, a hat tip surely for the beautiful, resilient Kiwi spirit and a rebuild that still caters for the numerous visitors coming to the 'Garden City.' Filming the trilogy 'Lord of the Rings' in and around these parts hasn't hurt either.

However you choose to fill in your day, the Re-start Village (check out the creative way they use shipping containers), punting down the Avon, shopping at any of the large retail Malls and of course, eating, and drinking some of the world's best wine, there is something for everyone. New restaurants and cafes seem to be opening daily, and the list is growing. Check out Restaurant Schwass in a Box, the Bodhi Tree, Pedro's Lamb Box and King of Snake, and you'll be left in no doubt as to the legitimacy of just some of Christchurch's talented resident chefs. 

Picking a hotel in Christchurch is easier now too, there are a lot less of them. For me however, they don't come much better than The George, a contemporary, boutique hotel overlooking the Avon river with plenty of free parking.

Coming home this time has been very emotional but also hugely heartening to see the innovativeness and the progress going ahead. Christchurch and New Zealand should be on everyone's bucket list because the natural beauty is so spectacular, and the friendliness of its people legendary. And if you're lucky, you just might even meet a Hobbit or two. 

© 2013 Jackie Maw Tolliver