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In February 2014, the Blind Foundation held a Leadership programme in Dunedin for blind people. As part of the three day programme, dreams were dreamed and goals were set by both individuals and groups. One group, three blind women, Sue Dickson, Janice Fleming and Julie Woods, discovered their common skill was knitting, so decided to get together and knit for a cause. Before long, beanies for the premature babies in NICU was their project and In searching for a colour for the beanies the group decided the best colour was that of their favourite rugby team – the Highlanders!
So, the group went out and purchased the right coloured wool, divided it up and knitted enough beanies to make up a rugby team; 15!
One of the blind knitters has a special relationship with NICU as her daughter was in the unit 30 years ago “and my six year old grand daughter Rayne was a month early too so ended up there too” says Sue Dickson. “NICU has a very special place in my heart” she confessed.
Part of the Leadership programme covered happiness, in particular, following in the footsteps of Helen Keller who believed the simplest way to be happy was to do good. The group hopes that by picking up their knitting needles to do good, they’ll not only find happiness themselves, but also inspire other blind people to pick up their knitting needles to do good too!
Read more here: http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/310901/warm-gesture-team-spirit
Earlier this year Julie got the opportunity to co-facilitate the SEED leadership programme run through the Blind Foundation for its members. This is the third time Julie has been involved with facilitating SEED and loves the opportunity to work with her people. Pictured here with Julie are Karley and Peter who both attended the Dunedin programme in February 2014. They are standing beside a flip chart which contains comments from the group on what attributes a great leader should have.
After visiting her fourth wonder of the world Julie got to talk with Nights Host Paul Brennan about her recent visit to the Taj Mahal in India.
17/02/14 - Join Paul Brennan on nights on Radio NZ at 7.10 pm on Tuesday the 18th February as he discusses Julies latest trip to India when she visited her 4th Wonder of the World the Taj Mahal. Julie always writes a sensory diary when she travels. One thing, everyday, she smells, hears, tastes and touches! Find out what she smelt in India and more under the 7 Wonders of the World folder at this very website.
Watch this short documentary explaining how I got involved in the Dunedin Fringe Festival. While at the same learning about my life on the way.
At Dunedin Fringe Festival 2013 I stepped into another world as described in E.L. Jame’s international best selling book “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Everyone was reading the book except me so I rang the Foundation of the Blind to ask for a braille copy and they sent me one.
After reading the book I decided to enter an event into the Dunedin Fringe Festival using braille biscuits as my medium to produce an edible braille montage. I thought it would be fun to use a sentence from the book to highlight how blind people access information about the world of bondage and discipline and in the process dispel the myth that blind people are asexual. Fifty shades of braille appeared in the window of the Community Gallery, Princes Street, Dunedin on Tuesday 19 and Wednesday 20 March at 12 noon as part of the Dunedin Fringe Festival. Check out the onlookers in the attached images! The hard copy braille version of “Fifty Shades of Grey” comes in eight volumes and fills up two shopping bags.
Invented by Louis Braille in 1824, the system of reading and writing using raised dots is currently in use by millions of blind people around the world with new technologies such as electronic braille displays and note-takers. I wondered what Louis Braille might think of my use of his literary code but I know Louis Braille was hot on blind people accessing information in order to acquire knowledge so I am very sure that he would approve! You can watch a clip from the event on channel 9 news here. http://www.ch9.co.nz/content/demonstration-has-serious-message
Last Friday I visited Whakatane Intermediate School as part of a nationwide project aimed at inspiring kiwi kids. Named after my famous truffle recipe, “Operation Truffle” is my project to visit the 119 Intermediate Schools around the country. On Friday morning it was Whakatane Intermediate’s turn to host Operation Truffle. From my travelling suitcase I unpacked all of my Cooking Without Looking gear, and in front of a school assembly told my story, which started in the hospital waiting room in 1997, where I was about to be declared legally blind, and ended up in Paris for Louis Braille’s 200th birthday bash! While I was doing this I was also making my famous truffles! I also shared with the school how turning my “no” into “why not” has lead me to walk seven half marathons, go to Premier House and speak to Prime Minister John Key, touch the great Pyramids in Egypt and write my own book!
I then presented this book to the school as I actively encouraged questions from the students. Some students were lucky enough to receive a chocolate truffle for their question but not before telling Julie “what the best thing about being blind was.” “You get to learn loads of new skills!” “You get to travel” “You get to be an inspiration to others!” “You get to find out who you are!” And finally…… “You don’t have to worry about what wallpaper is on the wall!” Perhaps the feedback i've had from the students can be best summed up by Jade who emailed me: “hi Julie it’s jade here from whakatane intermediate school I worked out the braille code as soon as I found the first letter and saw it was two words its WHY NOT! i want to say thank-you for coming to our school you nearly made me cry because your so happy and such an inspiration to so much people! my friend gave me some truffle because shes a class Councillor it was absolutely beautiful! the best i ever had thanks again for coming you rock!”
Special thanks go to Gemma, Victor, Cheyenne and Taylah for their emails. And congratulations also to Paige, Angel and Portia for texting the correct answer for the braille message which read why not! Go Jade!! Go Whakatane Intermediate. The visit to Whakatane Intermediate was made possible by product sponsorship from Pams and RJ’s Licorice. Brian Skilling from Little Orchard Preschool was responsible for hosting me in Whakatane as well as transporting me to and from Dunedin!
Our West Coast adventure My 17 year old son Sebastian had gone camping in Nelson with my sister Amanda, and brother in law Russell along with their 16 year old son Alex. Amanda usually flew her boys home from Nelson but we agreed instead to come up the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand to pick them up and bring them home down the east coast, back to Dunedin. I hadn't been to the West Coast since my childhood which I hated to discover was over 30 years ago! Ha! So, my husband Ron and I set out, by car, from Dunedin a few days after the mayhem of Christmas.
At the end of each day when Julie was finished seeing the sights of the West Coast she collapsed into bed - but not before she wrote her sensory diary. And here it is...
Saturday 29 December, 2012 Dunedin to Okuru on the West Coast. Smell: the water at Thunder Creek Falls Hear: the sound of the rain on the motel roof! Taste: central Otago cherries Touch: the slapping of our skin to rid ourselves of sandflies!
Sunday 30 December, 2012 Okuru to Hokitika Smell: that possum! Hear: the guy in the bar at Hokitika who once he discovered we came from Dunedin said “Dunedin, can’t stand the place!” Taste: crackling with the roast pork! Touch: the bush walk under my feet
Monday 31 December, 2012 New Year’s eve – Hokitika to Hokitika Smell: the familiar McDonalds Hear: the blowhole at Punakaiki Taste: the whitebait pattie Touch: the rippled effect of the rocks at Punakaiki
Tuesday 1 January, 2013 The tree top walk in Hokitika Smell: socks at the museum! Hear: the raging water at Dorothy Falls Taste: Bad cheese and tomato sandwhiches for lunch! Touch: the leaves of the rimu at the Tree tops walk at Hokitika
Wednesday 2 January, 2013 Hokitika to Nelson Smell: pies at the General store in Blackball Hear: window wipers in the car Taste: Blackballs from Blackball! Touch: the wet metal ropes on the Buller swing bridge that really did swing!
If you’re looking for a challenge 125km south of Dunedin then the Papatowai Challenge is the one for you. The annual pilgrimage to this South Otago’s settlement made by over 400 walkers and runners every year has gained a reputation not for just its terrain; but also for its pikelets! Its 15.5 km course takes you through the beach forest, along the beach front, up a four wheel drive track, then up a big hill before going down the other side for a 2km flat stretch to the finish line. The word challenge is quite accurate as that’s exactly what it does. Challenge you. Crikey! From the protruding roots of the forest trees to the 60 degree angle of the soft sand to get up to the four wheel drive track, this is an adventure you will never forget. It’s the seventh time I’ve done this event with my sighted guide Jo and the small piece of pink rope that connects us.
The weather this year, Saturday 2 March, was perfect for walking. Overcast, a slight wind with underground conditions relatively dry. But I haven’t told you about the best part of this challenge yet! Leaving from the event organisers holiday home in Papatowai, Wayne Allen has been hosting this event for 17 years, along with his wife Bev who makes the most famous afternoon tea; pikelets with jam & cream accompanied by saveloys! Woo hoo! Worth stumbling over tree roots for! Here’s my sensory diary for the day: Smell: Pooh! The smell of dead sheep as we weaved our way up the extended hill. Not just one, or two, but three dead sheep! How did I know? Because my guide Jo grew up on a farm and recognised the aroma!
Hear: the pounding sea as I got to freedom walk along the beach with Jo on the left hand side of me and the sound of the waves on the right, this time using my white cane and the sounds around me to keep me going in a straight line. Both of them acting as my compass to go in the right direction. How liberating!
Taste: Pams giant jelly beans to get us up that hill as well as the pikelets and saveloys after we made it over the finish line! Woo hoo!
Touch: (Not with my fingers but this time with my feet) The hard tar seal of the road, the raised tree roots along the beach forest, soft sand, harder sand, hard sand, uphill sand, little rocks, grass covered rocks and rocks to roll your ankle on rocks, divots full of grass, seaweed and shells; my feet had a very exciting time.
If you would ask me what the best part of this challenge is, apart from the afternoon tea, I’d say “when it’s done!” If you’d like to challenge yourself in 2014 keep the first Saturday in March free! I’ll see you there! From my world to yours. Hugs J
In June I was asked to represent Dunedin at the Meetings NZ event held in Auckland. I travelled as the “blind ref” and supported the Tourism Dunedin team in promoting the cocktail evening later that night! How did we do this? Why with “nude blacks” of course – it’s a bummer being blind! I get all the lousy jobs!
27 June is Helen Keler Day and this year the Foundation of the Blind in Dunedin celebrated her 142 birthday by hosting a morning tea. I took my melodica along to play Happy Birthday to Helen and met loads of wonderful people, including putting my nose and mouth to the test at the taste and smell stand. Remember Helen Keller had just three senses to receive information with: smell, taste and touch. Look at what she did with them! Inspirational!
“I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do something I can do.”
In 2007 NZ adopted the Unified English Braille Code, an update to the existing code which would see all English speaking countries use the same braille code. Up until then there were various takes on the braille code which meant swapping resources internationally was difficult. So I thought it was about time I did my part in keeping up with the changes in braille and would therefore have to learn the updated code. OF course for me I’d only learned braille in 2001, so being a reader for 11 years meant that I wasn’t as familiar with the code as others my age who had been learning since they were kids!
Not letting that put me off, I went out to the Dunedin office of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind and together with two other people who have been reading braille for years, began to learn the updated code. One of the changes included leaving a gap between the words “and”, “for”, “OF”, and “with.” Previously there was no gap between those words in order to save space. Now with the new code it is attempting to emulate print more so just as there is a gap in print, there now is too in braille. Take a look at our instructor Paula checking two sets of homework at once! What a wiz she is!
In July I got to go and spend a night in a castle! Larnach Castle is situated on Dunedin’s peninsula and was the vision of William Larnach. With the castle’s interior being sourced from Europe and the exterior being sourced locally, NZ’s only castle is truly worth a visit. Ron surprised me with the sleepover and it was stunning. We got to eat dinner in the castle, after learning all about the unhappy life of William Larnach and his dysfunctional family. In complete contrast there is the current custodian Margaret Barker and her family who have dedicated years and years in restoring the castle to it’s former glory. Check it out at www.larnachcastle.co.nz
Dunedin is exploding with accessible arts! Between the Experience Access Trust and the Fortune Theatre it’s gone crazy!
In July we got to go to the Fortune Theatre to see the play “In the next room” otherwise known as the vibrator play! We experienced audio description throughout the performance through a portable sound box with an ear piece which I placed in my ear and at the other end was Claire Adams narrating the non verbal parts of the play! We also got to go on a pre show touch tour! Woo hoo! Check it out!
Dunedin Public Art Gallery has been making itself accessible too, this time with a sound exhibition. Look at me talking to the plants! Ha!
I wanted to say thank you to the Experience Access Trust and the Dunedin Art Gallery so at a recent Arts Access Meeting I presented both the trust and the Gallery with their very own Braille biscuit pictures. The yello one said “Experience Access Trust is cool!” while the blue one read “Dunedin Public Art Gallery rocks!”
At the end of August I visited Outram School, just outside Dunedin. Outram Primary School held a night with me doing a Cooking Without Looking demonstration, you guessed it: making those …… truffles again!
Look at what they said was the best thing about being blind!
“you get to travel all over the world!”
You get to learn braille”
“You don’t have to watch Coronation Street!”
You can’t see what your boys are wearing!”
“You get to learn lots of new things”
“You get to go to Paris!”
“otherwise you wouldn’t have learned to say why not!”
Thanks to all those smart kids who texted me my secret braille message on the form saying “why not” – Georgia, Cait, Hayley, Caitlin and Bailey!
Because we headed to Europe in September I didn’t get to do the half marathon this year! Boo hoo! However, I did get to do the Marafun with my sister Amanda instead. The Marafun is held two weeks before the half marathon and is a 5 km walk or 10 km run twice around Dunedin’s Logan Park. I won a spot prize! Lucky me!
On August 31, 2012, Ron and I began a European adventure which took us from home to Rome. Five countries, Four languages, six hotel rooms, two ship cabins in 32 days!
I began the adventure by transcribing into braille hello and thank you in all the languages of the countries we were going to. Before we hit the country, my fingers hit the braille so I could at least say hello and thank you to the locals.
First up Rome with a visit to my third wonder of the world the Coliseum.
We arrived at the site of the Palatine Hill, the Coliseum, and the Roman Forum. Our guide, Marco, took us through the history of each interspersed by brisk walks. We covered quite a lot of ground over difficult terrain. The steps were nearly two thousand years old and as a consequence very uneven. Hanging onto Ron’s elbow I planted each foot down with trust. Occasionally Ron would march on, leaving me and my foot behind as it found its way stuck between the cobbles. I had to let go of his arm otherwise the pressure would have been transferred to my foot. I rolled my ankle a couple of times but in the main I survived the ancient steps. Marco described to us how the gladiators faced the wilder beasts in front of a crowd of 50,000 Romans. My heart began to sink at the thought of the gladiators facing their death or even worse – the wilder beasts facing death! Our guide then turned to us and said “We are now going up 56 steps to the first story of the Coliseum, you can take the lift” he ended with.
I presumed he was talking to me so I replied “I’m fine thanks, I’ll take the stairs”
He replied back this time in his strong Italian accent “No, you can-a take-a the lift-a.” I know he thought I wasn’t up to taking the stairs but for me it was the one way I could walk the same walk those thousands of Romans had walked hundreds of years before. I repeated “I will take the stairs thank you.” At which point he must have shot a glance in Ron’s direction. Ron must have rolled his eyes because then came his comment “She is an independent woman, she makes up her own mind” like I had some sort of feminist disease! At that moment I was tapped on the shoulder by an American lady in our tour group. “Oh she said, damn it, if you take the stairs then I can’t take the lift!” We laughed and climbed our way up the 56 steep marble steps to the top of the Coliseum! Only now did I have an idea of the enormity of this place, its height, its strength and its history. I could now tick off my third wonder of the world.
The next day we set off on a 12 day cruise on the Celebrity Equinox, a ship carrying 2500 passengers and 1500 crew! We sailed around the Greek Islands and Turkey, stopping at Mykonos for Greek cakes, Istanbul for Turkish delight, Santorini for marble streets and Pompeii for Canneloni!
12 days later we caught a train up to Venice, a real highlight for me, finally getting to have a ride on a Gondola with a real gondolier! Antonio was his name and steerring that canal boat was certainly his game! We hopped on a speed boat going over to the islands Murano for glass and Burano for llace before returning to tick another bucket list item off, eating a real Italian pizza in Italy! Bella!
Another train took us to Cinqueterre to put a padlock with Julie and Ron in braille on the love fence at Rio Maggiore before a three day respite in Florence. What a magic place Florence is. The Ufizzi Gallery, spaghetti with clams and Gucci coffee filled three glorious days!
Then a flight from Rome took us to Split in Croatia where we began a 7 day cruise along the Dalmatian coast, island hopping into Makarska, Trstenik, Dubrovnik, Korcula and Hvar! I climbed the 800 steps to get to the top of the fortress in Dubrovnik, the stunning wwalled city that hosts 1 million visitors a year, having an ice cream as my treat at the bottom and fried fish later that night in an alley way restaurant for tea!
To top it off I spent my final night in the Diaclesion Palace in Split with my Prince Ron.
After going on an open top bus tour on our last morning in Split, we were heading back to the hotel to pick up our bags when we were approached by what sounded like a middle aged female vendor. However she was not wanting to sell us anything, instead offering to buy Ron for 60 Kuna. This converts to around $12 NZ so I was tempted. “I could do a lot with 60 Kuna” I informed the happy woman. I could have negotiated her up I’m sure but I chose instead to keep my Ron with all his flaws and we bid her a fond farewell.
Ron wore one of the Captain’s hats into the hotel reception area at which point I announced to our new friend Mile, the hotel receptionist “Meet the Captain of Croatia” He laughed out loud before saying “You make me happy.” I thought he was talking to Ron but as soon as Ron said “She makes me happy too” I realised his compliment was directed at me. I thanked him for his kind words, in Croatian of course, Hvala!
On a flight back home, Ron pulled out the Airline magazine and began reading the quotes out to me which he knows I enjoy. I particularly enjoyed the first one he read. “The purpose of travelling is for you to see the world and for the world to see you!”
OMG! I was so focused on seeing the world I didn’t think about the world seeing me! Then I thought about the American lady at the Coliseum who I made walk the stairs. She saw me! And Mile. He saw me too! Wow! The magic of travel.
If you caught my last newsletter you would have noticed that on 27 March, 2012 I was about to throw a party to say thank you to all those people who had helped me in my first 15 years as a blind person.
And I did!!!
The invite read “What’s blind pink and happy?” ‘that blind woman’ at her 15 years blind 15 minute party!
It seemed only fitting to fill fifteen minutes not with silence, but with celebration and what better celebration noise than ABBA! Well with a bit of a twist – the sound of ABBA played by that blind woman on the melodica!
And don’t forget no celebration would be complete without those bloody truffles again! This time the braille on the card read thank you! And a special thank you to my two little pink helpers, Karen and Margaret.
If you want to check out the party on Youtube you can find it here.
Not long after I’d been blind for 15 years I found myself in a hot air balloon! My husband Ron’s golf trip had got it’s dates muddled so we were left with two return tickets to Wellington. Ron’s problem became Julie’s opportunity as I discovered it was the perfect time to start filming the documentary about me by documentary maker Mel Edmon.
Mel had contacted me after hearing an interview with Jim Mora on Radio NZ National. Mel’s husband Tom heard the interview and said to his wife “You’ve gotta listen to this!” Mel did and then rang me to say she wanted to make a documentary about me.
On March 30 we began filming with interviews, clothes selection and yes those …. Truffles again and on 1 April I got to tick something off my bucket list! To cut a long story very short, I got another why not moment. To go up in a hot air balloon! A once in a lifetime opportunity and thanks to our good friend Allen Little and Mel and Tom, on April 1 Ron and I hit the skies in a bright yellow balloon!
With the sound of mooing cows and barking sheep dogs in the distance, we rose to 1200 feet on a beautifully calm Sunday morning. It was so calm I couldn’t even tell if the balloon had lifted off! The only way I could tell we had moved away from the ground was the lessening sound of the mooing cows! And the main reason I knew we were approaching the ground again was more mooing and barking.
We landed in a paddock, only to be greeted by a farmer in her pyjamas! After gaining her permission to land there we safely hopped out the wicker basket! Yes, it really is just a basket! Amazing!
But my work wasn’t over – I then had to help fold up the hot air balloon! While it was deflated of course!
I instructed Mel not to film me from behind but we’ll have to wait for the documentary to find out if she obeyed that instruction or not!
Towards the end of March I was lucky enough to get involved with a fund raising campaign through Campbell Live. As well as a rucking big truffle, I made loads of little “rucking good truffles”, all to sell when John Campbell came to town. See Me Here
The truffle making featured on Campbell Live loads of times throughout the fund raising effort. The rucking big truffle sold on Trademe for $350
with the winners of the auction donating the truffle to our local Idea Services.
The rucking good truffles sold for $350 in the Octagon and then again in Burns House here in Dunedin. All in all the truffle total was over $700 which when matched $1 for $1 by local businessman Eion Edgar and friends, a cool $1400 was made for the small creditors of the Otago Rugby Football Union. The nationwide effort, spearheaded by Campbell Live was half a million dollars! Woo hoo! Go Campbell Live! Go Eion Edgar! The small creditors were all paid off with the larger creditors getting the first $5000 paid with 50 cents in the dollar for the remaining amount owed. Go you guys!
Moving from sports to the arts, the audio described performance of Red was not to be missed by the blind! Anna Henare from the Experience Access Trust in Dunedin teamed with the Fortune Theatre to bring the blind and partially sighted community accessible theatre through audio description.
What is audio description? It’s where the blind person has an earpiece and a transmitting device with the audio describer explaining the props and sets on the stage to the blind person. Plus, when there is no dialogue, and the actors move or do something non verbal, then the audio describer will explain what is happening on stage.
Red was a play about the abstract expressionist artist, Mark Rothko, a dramatic assortment of dialogue which filled the stage with tension and paint! Mainly red paint after which the play is named.
The wonderful thing about Anna Henare being the audio describer is that Anna is also an actor. It was like having another actor on the stage, but instead in my ear!
Go Anna Henare, Fortune Theatre and the Experience Access Trust!
Thanks Altrusa Mosgiel and Sue for handing me a cheque! Go Gay Clarke!
Check out my visit to the Homai campus of BLENNZ – Blind and Low Vision Network of NZ in Auckland. Here I am with the blind students based at James Cook High School. We got to spend a whole hour together after they had finished their bake off in the adaptive daily living kitchen! Remember guys – the only one whose stopping you from doing great things is you! Don’t forget to write your own rules and don’t be limited by the limited imagination of others! You can do it!
Finally after a huge amount of work from Sarah Bond, not to mention patience, the NZ Herald finally published her story on our trip to Hong Kong last Friday! If you want to check this feature out you can find it here in my media room.
* Earlier this year I was listening to Radio NZ National when an advertisement came on for an upcoming programme about a volunteer in the prison libraries. I tuned in that Sunday lunchtime and heard all about the work of Patricia Morrison, an ex book shop owner who lived in Karori and now got her book fix from helping the prisoners access books through their prison libraries. I was surprised to learn that the most popular section in the library was the self help books and the art books. Having written a self help one myself, I emailed Patricia and offered my book to the prison libraries around the country. She replied with a request for 20 “if I could spare them.” Considering this to be the exact purpose of my book, I posted them with glee!
So, picture NZ prisoners chilling out on their prison beds , reading all about “How to Make a Silver Lining.”
* As part of the Otago Volunteers Centre holiday programme I got to go along and bling some canes! Yes, the common old white cane got a going over by the 10 – 12 year olds present at the school holiday programme in late January. It’s always amazing to watch what can be done with limited time and resources but with massive imagination. Check out the winning entry here!
* This year’s birthday was spent at Madly British! 1 February, I not only got to air my interview with the amazing blind pianist Julian Lee which you can hear here. I was also surprised with a high tea at Madly British, the local Dunedin restaurant who are raising $50,000 for breast cancer. If you have a coffee at their place, 286 Princes Street, Dunedin, then $1 will go towards this awesome cause!
* The beginning of the academic year was slightly different in our household in 2012. Sebastian has started year 12 and tolerated me taking a photo of him in his Otago Boys High School uniform.
Zac on the other hand started his academic year with a different kind of uniform!
* My husband Ron has the misfortune of marrying a woman who’s birthday is 3 days after their wedding anniversary and 13 days short of Valentines Day. This can prove costly for poor Ron – oh poor Ron is right – but what he came up with was the most amazing Valentines Day surprise I’ve ever had! I’ll cut a long story short but he took me to our local Turkish restaurant, brought Italian wine and gave me an Italian flag. He presented me also with Turkish Delight and then pulled out a CD player and played a car leaving, then a plane, and then a cruise ship! ,,What the??? By this time I was perplexed and becoming somewhat irritated. The last straw was a wrapped gift, which upon opening felt like something you would put in the back of a computer. I held it up and said “what the?”
“It’s a cruise ship” he responded, “I’m taking you to Rome!!!!!!!!
We leave August 31 for Rome, visit the Colliseam, the third wonder to visit, then head down to Turkey and Greece on a cruise ship, returning home via Florence, Milan and Venice!
Why not indeed!
On February 25 I got to do my sixth Papatowai Challenge, 15.5 km on the South Otago coastline. Gorgeous, unless you’re doing it!
Operation Truffle strikes again – this time Te Puke Intermediate, near Tauranga! School number 16!
Meet 'Biscuit' the Te Puke Intermediate cat.
“you get to experience new things”
“You get to go to lots of cool places!”
“You get to use your other senses!”
the feedback I’ve had from the students can be encapsulated by the following email.
“Hi Julie its Shanae Brown from Te Puke Intermediate School.
I just wanted to say that i have worked out the secret braille it is Why Not. I believe in this saying and use it in the future instead of No.
Also Thank you for coming to our school and i hope we will cross paths again in the future.”
* And then the next day I spoke to Tauranga Zonta at their breakfast for international Women’s day!
Perhaps their feedback can be summed up by Maureen who attended the event:
“you are indeed a woman of courage and inspiration”
Go Tauranga Zonta!
Go the Cambodia Trust!
* * Lastly Campbell Live rang me and asked if I’d like to be involved with a fund raising event to raise money for the small creditors of the Otago Rugby Football Union. Of courseI said “why not” so this week has been full of making rucking good truffles (in the shape of little rugby balls)
and a rucking big truffle which is being auctioned on Trademe.
Look at me with John Campbell – it’s a bugger being blind!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulusthebrit/6853185066/ - Click on this link to see The Naked Rugby Referee in action at the ORFU small creditors fundraiser in the Octagon, Dunedin on March 20.
Wow – what a spectacular year 2011 has been.
A huge thanks to all those who have supported me in 2011 to be the blind person I want to be! I always end each year with a roundup of achievements so let’s not make 2011 any different – and how about giving it a go yourself. It will really help you focus on the transformation that has taken place in your life throughout the year – it’s truly amazing – and if you’re not amazed at what you’ve done – then you have the perfect opportunity to make 2012 spectacular!
Here goes my 2011 list –
* Got married!
* Presented with Zonta’s Yellow Rose for services to the Community.
* Presented with the Local Hero medal as part of New Zealander of the year awards.
* Made 1000 truffles for Canterbury kids, attached notes from Intermediate pupils around the country to each truffle and delivered them to Intermediate Schools in Christchurch affected by February’s earthquake.
* Received the Five Year medal for Papatowai Challenge (15.5 km beach and mountain walk).
* Interviewed by ABC Radio in Australia regarding my Cooking Without Looking.
* Featured on Attitude TV, Close Up, and many NZ print media publications.
* Attended National Speaker’s Association of NZ conference in Melbourne independently.
* MC at the launch, and Comedy showcase, for the Dunedin Fringe Festival.
* Refereed the game of nude touch rugby between the nude blacks and
* Received my first standing ovation on June 26 at Community Patrol national conference!
* Spoke to the Hong Kong Society for the Blind.
* Walked on the Great Wall of China.
* Hosted a business event for Rugby World Cup called “What are ya – blind or something ref?”
* Walked my seventh half marathon.
* Visited school number 15 out of 119 as part of Operation Truffle.
* Attended the Close Up Christmas party.
What a blast we had at The Close Up Christmas Party! If you want to check it out – do it here
* Extra special thanks to Margaret Jackson, Air NZ,, RJ’s, and Pams for helping with Operation Truffle.
* And a huge and special amount of gratitude to Pams for sponsoring the Cooking Without Looking Show on Otago Access Radio. You guys absolutely rock! What a thrill it was to take out that Supreme award – I couldn’t have done it without you.
You can catch the best of the Cooking Without Looking Show over the holiday by tuning into Otago Access Radio on Wednesday’s at 1 pm on 105.4 FM or streamed live at www.oar.org.nz
* In early November, the Cooking Without Looking show went on the search for NZ’s best truffle. An expert panel of judges was established to pick the winning recipe. Out of the 15 recipes received, 5 were made by the judges, and a winner selected from a very tough job of selecting between the truffles! It’s hard being me!
* In early December The Cooking Without Looking Show panel of judges reached a decision and judged this recipe to be NZ’s best – and it came all the way from Don White in Canada! What the! NZ’s best truffle from Canada! Plus it was the only entry from a male! Oh well – looks like the Cooking Without Looking Show has gone global!
here it goes-
¾ cup peanut butter
1 cup icing sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup coconut
1.5 cups rice crispies (rice bubbles)
Combine and form into balls. Refrigerate before dipping into chocolate.
* A few Sunday mornings ago our phone rang. Art South Otago annual exhibition and TrustPower art awards were coming up in Balclutha and they wanted me to be a judge! Crikey! Me, a blind woman, a judge of an art award! You know what my response was right? Why not!
Besides, my husband Ron was the main judge, I was just to judge one section “Art to Die for” So on Tuesday November 15, Ron and I travelled to Balclutha to judge the awards. For two hours I followed Ron around the exhibition, observing his rating system, at the same time focusing on what I could do, mainly listen. Ron described the art works to me and how he was scoring them. From his scores and my observations we hit upon the painting I most connected with.
First was it’s title “Dreaming of Money”, something blind people are good at, dreaming and using their imagination. The second and important point was that even though the artist possibly wasn’t aware, Monet himself went blind later in life. This gave me an even greater connection with the painting. And for me, connection is the main aim of the game when it comes to art. So congratulations went to Sue McPhee who took out the Art to Die for Award in 2011!
Thanks Art South Otago for the opportunity!
Yu guys rock!
* Received the Supreme award at the Otago Access Radio Air awards 2011. What a privilege it was to take out top honours in the Otago Access Radio 105.4FM Air Awards, held at Burns Hall, First Church in Dunedin on Saturday, November 19.
I was presented with the PSA Supreme Award by Hills Radio Trust chairman Pieter van de Klundert for my programme ‘Cooking Without Looking’
which airs on Wednesdays from 1pm-2pm.
‘Cooking Without Looking’, features live-to-air cooking demonstrations, interviews and guest recipe spots, had earlier in the evening topped the ‘Special Interest’ category in the Air Awards.
The OAR FM Air Awards are held biennially in conjunction with the Otago Community Broadcasters Society, to celebrate the achievement of the Station’s many locally based programme makers.
An audience of around 100 people were entertained at the event by Tui award-winning Dunedin three-piece folk band Delgirl, and local singer/songwriter Matt Langley. Guest presenters included Labour Party MP for Dunedin South Clare Curran, Dunedin-based National List MP Michael Woodhouse, Dunedin City Councillor Jinty McTavish and Labour Party candidate for Dunedin North David Clark.
In addition to the Air Awards presented across eight categories, Russell Campbell and Marvin Hubbard, two long-time Otago Community Broadcasters Society (OCBS) members, were presented with honorary lifetime membership badges by OCBS chairman Ian Loughran.
A full list of winners in the Otago Access Radio 105.4FM Air Awards
Community Group: ‘Write On’ – Vanda Symon from the Otago/Southland branch of the NZ Society of Authors – 2nd Wed each month, noon Community Support: ‘My Money’ – Shirley Woodrow from Dunedin Budget Advisory Service - Wed, fortnightly, 10am
Schools: ‘The Dino Show’ – Otago Girls’ High School (Sophie Kemp, Esther O’Laughlin, Sophie Lester, Charlotte Grant).
Special Interest: ‘Cooking Without Looking’ – That Blind Woman Julie Woods – Wed, 1pm
Spiritual/Religious: ‘Light of the World Radio’ – Theresa Cleary & Therese Joyce – Sun, 4pm
Music: ‘Portil Presents’ – Alastair Addis - Mon, 9pm Special Achievement in Music: ‘Phil’s Trucking Show’ – Phil Rogers – Fri, fortnightly, 5pm Listeners’ Choice: ‘Tapestry Clubhouse’– SF Otago –Thurs, fortnightly, 1.30pm
Volunteer Award: Russell Campbell.
PSA Supreme Award: ‘Cooking Without Looking’ – That Blind Woman Julie Woods.
* Finally at the latter end of 2011, I was moved to send Pyke River CEO, Peter Whittel a thank you card in braille. In it I wrote “Thank you for your inspiring leadership” and I meant it.
With the Royal Commission finding fault with Peter’s handling of things that took place at Pyke River at the time 29 men were killed in a coal mining disaster on the west coast, I wanted to remind Peter of the courageous leadership he had shown at the time of the disaster. In my mind Peter deserved an honour for the way he faced the media with such courage, strength and composure. Every night we would watch the news and wait for his composed words that helped a community and a country navigate their way through such a national disaster.
I really did admire the way he handled everything, and I hoped that my simple braille words would convey my message.
Turn’s out they did – here is his response.
I wish I was talented enough to write you a nice Braille response but I am sure this will be read to you anyway.
Thank you so much for your lovely card and message and for the effort to send it in the first place.
It has been a very long ordeal but from day 1 I have been buoyed and encouraged by the many king thoughts and words of everyday Kiwis as well as many military and business leaders who have written to lend me their support.
I fall into a small category where I have not sought notoriety (political or artistic) nor have I done anything of particular note to warrant it. But in doing my job and standing up for my team and for myself, I seem to have connected with many people.
This aspect of the whole tragedy has been and continues to be a very humbling and pleasant experience.
I have heard from and spoken to many wonderful people.
In the same mailing as I received your card I also received a lovely card from an 86 year old woman who has been widowed 3 times, several other men and women and a priest. All with kind and supportive words.
I am very proud of the greater community in which I live.
Thanks again for the card and the message Julie.
Thanks Peter – may your 2012 be full of great things for you and the community in which you live!
This years annual appeal for the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind was centred around ‘Baking a difference..’ This shifted focus from a street side collectors to people volunteering their time in the kitchen to bake something which they would go on to sell at their workplace, with the profits going to the Foundation of the Blind. I was asked to bake a difference with TV 1 filming me. I thought about what to make, truffles were the obvious choice, but instead we decided upon “Pink Lady” cake, a recipe my mother made for us when we were growing up.
You can check the crew interviewing me here.
My mother ttold me afterwards that my Pink Lady looked rather “electric!” (she meant very pink! – ha)
The Air Awards are Otago Access Radio’s annual awards, which this year are being held on Saturday 19 November at Burns Hall. The “listeners choice” award is one you can vote in! If you’d like to vote for the Cooking Without Looking Show in this section simply send an email to Otago Access Radio firstname.lastname@example.org saying “I’d like to vote for the Cooking Without Looking Show in the ‘listeners choice’ section in the upcoming Air Awards.”
Votes will be taken until 11 November, 2011.
Attention all truffle makers!
The Cooking Without Looking Show announces its search for NZ’s best truffle!
Since Julie Woods went blind in 1997 she hasn’t stopped making truffle now she’s on the hunt for the country’s “best truffle!
Email your best truffle recipe to Julie@thatblindwoman.co.nz by 2 pm, Wednesday December 7 and have your recipe be crowned “NZ’s best truffle”
A mystery judging panel will choose NZ’s best truffle from the recipes entered into the competition.
All recipes will be entered onto that blind woman’s Facebook page with the winning entry being made on the Christmas Cooking Without Looking show on Otago Access Radio on December 14.
The winner will be invited into the Otago Access Radio studio to watch that blind woman make their truffles from their winning recipe.
The winner will also receive a CD recording of the radio show that day along with a gift wrapped box of truffles made from their very own recipe.
+ A “NZ’s best truffle” crown of course!
= Recipes are to be emailed to Julie@thatblindwoman.co.nz by 2 pm, Wednesday 7 December, 2011.
= We reserve the right to publish the recipe on facebook and in any future publications!
= If you are using a recipe from a known source – please name the source and we will disclose this.
= If you are unable to make it to the studio on December 14, you can do the interview by phone.
Circulate this information to all budding chefs, cooks, cafes and blind people you know who are ‘real’ truffle makers!
Help us find NZ’s best truffle just in time for Christmas!
When my husband Ron asked me “Do you want to play 10 pin bowling!” there was only one answer I could give! Why not! After putting on the compulsory bowling shoes (do these match my outfit?), the girl behind the counter offered to put the gutters up. This means the bowling ball can not go down the side gutter! Wicked!
Check out the score! It’s one way of wiping the smile off a husbands face!
The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind had an Open Day in Dunedin as part of Blind Week at the end of October. They asked me to go out and make some of those ….. truffles to which I said why not! One of the joys of being blind is meeting other inspiring blind people. This day was no different.
Spot me here talking to Edna McLaughlan, one of the members of the Foundation of the Blind, Edna lives on her own and is happily Cooking Without Looking. We compared truffle notes and she was most impressed with the use of my slow cooker to melt chocolate!
And I was most impressed with Edna – coz she’s 93 years of age!
Go Edna! I’ve asked Edna to be interviewed for the Cooking Without Looking Show so watch out for that coming up!
The Dunedin Art Gallery is currently holding an exhibition entitled “Gymnauseum” which was opened up to the blind and vision impaired community on November 1. A special tour was organised for us with tour leader Lynda Cullen from the Art Gallery. It’s a good job we were the only ones here: what a hoot! We laughed and explored our way around the exhibition as only bblind people could – completely uninhibited and with a great deal of humour!
Thanks to Jane Venis, the artist, who created an exhibition that was “OK to touch”
Thanks to the Dunedin Art Gallery for removing the “Please do not touch” signs for the day!
You can check that exhibition out at the Dunedin Art Gallery in the Octagon in Dunedin until 11 December.
If you are wondering who the woman in the hat is in the side car in this photo it’s Karen McCormick, my new P.A. Karen joined the team on October 17 and if you think there looks something special about Karen then there is! Karen’s legally blind. She has low vision and uses magnification to read, as opposed to me, who uses speech! When Karen approached me about the job I said to her “Crikey – just what I need – another blind woman!.” However, as I also said to her there are many ways of skinning cats and Karen’s skinned so many she could do the job with her eyes closed! What Karen can’t see, she makes up for in attitude. Welcome to the team Karen – can’t you just tell she’s my kind of girl!
On Thursday 3 November, I got to address the pupils at Waimate High School, in South Canterbury. I met many amazing people that night, including the 32 year 13 students who were saying goodbye to the school which had nurtured them in their five years of high school.
Thank you to those students and teachers who have gone on and liked me on facebook since then.
If you haven’t done that yet, hop onto my home page and click on the facebook icon.
One of the fun things about the Cooking Without Looking Show on Otago Access Radio is transcribing into braille the recipe my guests would make if the PM came to their place for afternoon tea. I often give this to our guest as a gift for coming on the show. One day I thought this is my piece of art. Ron might paint, but I braille. I enjoyed writing them and people seemed to enjoy receiving them. That got me to thinking how could I make this more creative. Ron’s always laughing when someone says of his art “Nice frame” which is insulting to an artist but maybe not to me? How could I incorporate the frame into my piece of art work – the brailled out recipe. My mind quickly turned to my good friend and mosaic artist Kirsty Clayton. I asked Kirsty if she wanted to make a frame for my recipes. She responded with “Why don’t I show you how to do it?” Ha! Why don’t you just?????
So, here’s me glueing on glass tiles to a basic A4 picture frame. Little did I know it was about to be presented to one of NZ’s Dames!
When I heard Dame Alison Holst was coming to town to launch her 100th cook book, I knew I wanted to meet her. I chased up the publicist responsible for her national book tour and finally I got a time slot to interview her for the Cooking Without Looking show! From the back of the Gore Paper Plus Alison Holst spoke to me in the OAR fm studio.
Later that evening, when Alison launched her book “Home Grown Cook” at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, I was able to meet her and present her with her recipe for “Crunchy Lemon Muffins” in braille, the recipe she would make if the PM came to her place for afternoon tea.
Earlier in the year I was contacted by one of my subscribers, Fi Wells, asking if she could use me as inspiration for an upcoming workshop.
As part of a second year Bachelor of Social Services paper she was asked to plan and run a group activity at a camp for the first year students.
Here’s what Fi wrote:
Our group was to do a team building activity, and we decided to do a “Trust Walk”. As this involved one person being blind folded and then guided round an obstacle course, we decided to use Julie as our inspiration.
The group was told about a friend of mine who has swam in the Dead Sea, visited Paris, is the mum of two boys, has written a book and makes to die for Truffles! They were also told that there is one thing she can’t do and one thing she must do every day. The thing she can’t do is see and the thing she must do every day is trust. They were then told that Julie Woods That Blind Woman was our inspiration, and that we were asking them to take a walk in her shoes, by doing a trust walk.
The group were paired off and one person was blind folded using Julies fabulous Blind Woman Glasses, and with encouragement and much laugher each pair completed the obstacle course. While they were walking in Julies’ world the group also learnt about trust and leadership.
Part of the beauty of doing a life coaching course is the beautiful coaches you get to meet. Josephine Thomson is someone I heard on a one hour training call. I was so inspired by her I emailed her to tell her! I also asked if she would mind helping me work out my life’s purpose. That day she helped me work out that it was in fact to inspire! Last month,she emailed after I had sent my nnewsletter out to tell me “I continue to inspire and amaze her!” Nice one Josie.
She also shared with me she had established a new website www.josephine.com.au which had on it a downloadable four minute meditation.
So hop onto
On September 3 & 4 here in Dunedin, the Women’s expo came to town! I shared a stall with the Otago Hospice and my good old fund raising friend Lyn Chapman! I don’t mean Lyn is old, I mean Lyn is a good fund raiser who I can now claim as an old friend.
Lyn and I, along with a team of Hospice volunteers manned the stall for two days where we raised over $800 for the Hospice from a raffle that was largely donated by RJ”s Licorice. Thanks RJ”s!
I did a continuous Cooking Without Looking demonstration at the expo, making more of those … truffles!
Thanks to Peacock Promotions for making the public demonstrations at the end of the two days possible.
On September 8 I got to put my rugby ref outfit on and in conjunction with the Terrace Bar & Grill here in the Octagon put on a Rugby World Cup event entitled “What are ya – blind or something ref?”
I got to do a Cooking Without Looking demo, making rucking good truffles this time, and tell them about the day I refereed a game of nude touch rugby!
Special thanks to John MacDonald at the Terrace Bar & Grill for being such a willing partner with this event. Thanks also to Anita Cumming who has been my acting teacher over the winter, helping me get this tale right!
At the beginning of September Ron and I moved into Burns House. I had outgrown my sunroom office and had grown tired of moving work papers to make way for knives and forks on the dining table at night!
So, we are now sharing a space on the sixth level of Burns House, 10 George Street, just north of the Octagon, opposite the Scottish Shop. Our new land line is 03 477 2820 so give us a ring or come up and see us some time!
Ron has a gallery full of art work and I have an office full of space! I love it! Come and check out my two keynote costumes – work out what they are exactly!
Thanks to the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind’s Dave McClintock for getting my computers at home and work up and running with all the idiosyncricies of speech technology. Thanks too to Evelien Hollestelle, Orientation and Mobility Instructor, who is showing me how to get around my new office environment, including navigating my way around the Octagon! This is proving to be quite a challenge. I did ask Evelien “How do people do this?” to which she replied “Practise Julie.”Thanks for the lessons Evelien!
Next weekend, Jo and I walked our 7th half marathon here in Dunedin! Check out the pics
Check me out after the race holding up seven fingers, 3 to go!
It’s been a busy speaking month too. I have spoken to the teachers at Kings High School, to fourth year medical students, at the AGM of Dunedin Budget Advisory Service as well as at the staff meeting of Presbyterian Support Services.
(Me at Kings presenting my book)
(Me speaking to Presbyterian Support Services staff)
It did teach me that people who are so good at looking after others are not always good at looking after themselves so I was pleased with my new workshop “the secrets of happiness” which supports people to focus on what they want to have in their lives.
You can check “The secrets of happiness” out more at this link
I had my third game of nude touch rugby last Sunday, 2 October. My sister Amanda picked me up and took me down to the game which was held at the North ground here in Dunedin. Within a short period of time, Amanda found herself in the “unchanging” room whith me shaking the NZ and Irish players hands and her not knowing where to look! “things that blind woman no longer has to worry about!”
Turns out there was another ref, an ex international Irish rugby star named Frank, so I got promoted to touch judge. Well, I promoted myself, but with Amanda’s assistance we managed to get quite a bit of play in. Waving the touch judge flag and giving out a hot pink card for a flirtatious tackle. Plus I got to throw the ball into the line out – not the usual job of the touch judge but this was no usual game you understand! The fully clothed streaker this time was wearing an Australian jersey so they were automatically booed at. The naked cop came on to arrest her, at the same time as pulling her jersey off and stomping it on the ground! The girl underneath was in fact naked and did a twirl for the amusement of the watching crowd!
The nude blacks beat the Irish spuds 10 – 5. A good game was had by all with all the players being victorious on the day!
After that event it was a quick turn around to “Art in the Garden” at Glenfalloch where I got to make those …. Truffles again! See me caught for the second time this month wearing my blind ref’s uniform with my Cooking Without Looking apron.
But the day didn’t end there – for the second time in the Rugby World Cup we got to go to the new Otago stadium and watch a game. With my transistor radio in one ear and my sister in the other ear, I had fun keeping up with what was going on in the game between Italy and Ireland. What an atmosphere.
You can catch me in this photo at the English Romania game a couple of week’s prior.
On October 3, a special pull out travel supplement called “Escape” in the Christchurch Press featured an article of our recent trip to China. Hop onto the Press website to check it out.
A wee while ago Ron got asked to contribute to an international book on calligraphy. The book was to feature his braille art, incorporating words with pictures.
The book arrived in the post last week and to his surprise, his blind wife is now an artist!
See what the book “Learn World Calligraphy” by Margaret Shepherd, says about that blind woman in the section Dots to be read with your fingers.
Braille, a simple system introduced in 1824, makes a set of up to 63 characters by raising dots in selected sectors of a six dot cell. A person who cannot see letters in ink can still feel their configuration of these raised dots with trained fingertips. Although audio books and text to speech technology have reduced the need for braille, it’s alphabet still helps the sight impaired navigate the daily world of elevators, directional signs, and product labels. Thus retired from it’s day job, braille has moved into the creative sphere, inspiring all kinds of artists to work it’s rich texture into designs that can be felt as well as seen. Both blind and sighted artists have invented braille art in media from wallpaper, ceramics, and jewellery to embroidery, food, tattoos, and graffiti.
In this wall plaque, artist RonEsplin’s strategic placed braille dots double as the (o) in focus.
Blind artist and culinery expert, Julie Woods, lines up her braille biscuits to spell “inspired”, then turns it’s letters into hand written anagrams. Oversized dots on the I’s add visual humour.
Thanks Margaret, but I’m not quite sure how that got lost in translation! I’m not a blind artist but maybe I should work on it!
Good luck with the book.
Lastly let’s celebrate the life of Steve Jobs with one of the quotations that came through yesterday afternoon, just after he died. Steve died way too young according to me, but let’s judge his life by his contribution rather than his length of time on planet earth.
I’m going to leave you with his inspiration!
“Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes ... the ones who see things differently ... they're not fond of rules.... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things ... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do”
1955 – 2011
On Friday 22 July I received yet another unique opportunity to referee my second game of nude touch rugby! After speaking at the Community Patrol conference in June where I stated “I’ve never been asked to referee a game of nude touch rugby again” (meaning that sometimes these things are once in a lifetime... well not this time!
I had an email from Dean Matheson who knew Ralph Davies who was organizing another game and would I like to referee?
What else could I say?
Matt Chisholm from Close Up came down to shadow me for the day, following me from walking up Warrender Street to making a rucking big truffle in my kitchen!
Amongst all of that, a game that contained a fully clothed streaker, a naked policeman, a naked woman player and a fully clothed blind ref!
Like the first time I refereed I was once again struck by the spirit of the players who got out there and did something daring! Go them! If you want to see for yourself Fiji play the Nude Blacks then you can see it close up and personal on
One day later, we were on a plane to China...
We had an amazing time. The boys were perfect traveling companions - they ate the food, engaged with the people, opted into customs and traditions that included Chinese cupping as well as walking on one of the 7 wonders of the world - the Great Wall! For me - the most magical moment of the trip!
They particularly enjoyed the “Chinglish” signs that could be spotted around China. “Cherish the relics. No striding” and “Please follow the introductions of your crew”
It's difficult to explain China. Hot, exotic, full of people who sneeze and hoyk like you've never seen before. The music and the laughter, all so loud, I certainly got the impression this country is one that never sleeps.
Our first stop was Hong Kong, managing the MTR, Hong Kong’s efficient train system which took us from Lantau Island, home to a giant statue of Buddha, to Disneyland, a stop that saw more people get off it than at the giant Buddha.
(at the shop afterwards, getting a feel for what Buddha was really like)
Amongst all the sight seeing there was a small window of opportunity to go and speak at the Hong Kong Society for the Blind. We had arranged to meet Emily Chan from the Hong Kong Society at a certain train stop, at a certain station exit at a certain time. Emily told us she was five foot 2 inches and had black hair! “Emily” I announced” “you’ll have to give us a bit more to go on than that!” Fortunately Emily was wearing a green top that day so it made it a lot easier for two blind woman to spot each other, especially with assistance from a sighted husband. Mine that is, not Emily’s, which posed as a great curiosity to Emily. She observed that not many blind woman had sighted husbands in China. It was usually the other way around and that Ron was indeed a rare thing! I had to agree!
I spoke to a group of around 30 English speaking Hong Kong natives who caught on to the concept of why not! I spent about 40 minutes telling them my story and then an hour of sharing took place. It was a magic hour where I got to receive a glimpse of their life as opposed to the 40 minutes beforehand.
For me the blind community can be summed up with the knowledge that there are 13 million blind people in China and apart from the group we saw at the Hong Kong Society for the Blind, we only saw one other. He was blind and begging on the train. This coupled with the question I was asked by a Bei Jing tourist guide in relation to my white cane.
“What is that?” she asked.
“This is my white cane and it let’s people know I am blind” I replied.
“I have never seen one before” replied the guide.
Where are all the blind people in China?
As for the Great Wall of China – it was truly great. 8 metres high, 7 metres wide and 10000 km long. I loved the Wall for its practicality. Its purpose as clear as its steps uneven. The guide found it necessary to apologise for the unevenness of the steps. She continued “they were made a very long time ago.” I wasn’t complaining, more so marveling at the engineering efforts of such a project.
What a magical place it is!
For me, the magic of traveling is often about people rather than places, and it wasn’t until our very last day, on a trip to the Ming Toombes, north of Bei Jing, that I can find a perfect example for you. It was hot and the three boys were instructed to climb up yet another tower. We had just come off the Great Wall so I felt no desire to opt into this latest challenge, choosing instead to sit in the shade with our Chinese guide. We were sitting there quietly when a man erupted into loud conversation with my guide. I turned to her and asked
"What's he saying?"
She replied "he said you don't look blind!"
Tired and somewhat irritated by his observation I said to my guide
Ask him what does blind look like?"
I could tell she was slightly taken aback with this question but I didn't care at this stage. I was tired and it had been a long journey to get to this point.
More exuberant Chinese conversation erupted when my guide turned to me and said "blind people's eyes don't sparkle"
Wow – talk about putting me in my place. I immediately turned to the man, opened my eyes as wide as I could and said "You mean like this," at which point he burst into the loudest laughter I had ever heard!
To me that summed up the Chinese people: The aggressive conversation, their acute observations, their level of insight and extraordinary laughter!
China - thank you for the magic, you make me feel like an Emperoress!
A week after we came back from China, my Dad and his twin brother Norman turned 75 years of age! We celebrated as we do every year, at the Waihola Tavern, over a meal and a glass. Here they go enjoying their birthday!
Go Willis and Norman!
Thanks for joining me for another month! Next month there will be more action so stay tuned in.
Just last Sunday the programme Attitude on TV 1, finally went to air. The crew were down in March to film a day in the life of that blind woman, although to do that it takes three days of filming. The 30 minute full length feature covered me Cooking, Walking, radio show hosting, Operation Truffling and more!
On Sunday 26 June, I sat anxiously in bed, waiting for the programme to start. I wasn’t sure how I was going to come across or how it was going to be put together. I think I cried through most of it. I was blown away with the way the team put it all together. I thought it was brailliant!
You can watch the full episode online for free at TVNZ on Demand by clicking here
A couple of hours later I found myself at the Community Patrol national conference here in Dunedin as their closing keynote speaker. When I walked into the foyer, waiting to go in and speak, a lady said to me “I know you – you were just on TV.”
We got chatting and she said “You came across as very relaxed.”
“Really?” I replied.
I was relieved because I found it really hard to concentrate on doing what I had to do, thinking about what I had to say, and to look relaxed and happy! I’m glad I pulled it off!
Thanks Attitude for an awesome reflection of a life in the day of that blind woman.
Here’s what some of you said on ‘that blind woman’s’ Facebookpage –
Brenda Bonner also commented on That Blind Woman's Wall post.
Brenda wrote: "I too watched "Attitude this morning. What a great lady, you put a lot of people to shame. You have such a wionderful attitude and zest for life. Keep up the good work."
Julie Addis commented on your photo.
Julie wrote: "Julie, I watched the show...you were fantastic....and next time we catch up I want some of those rolls ok..."
Kerry Howell posted on That Blind Woman's Wall.
"Hi Julie I saw your program on Attitude this morning Fantastic to see you doing so well and a big thumbs up to Ron and your boys to you are real inspiration to all keep up the good work"
Marie Michie commented on your photo.
Marie wrote: "Hi julie saw you on attitude you were awesome"
And thanks to Marie Sutherland and Community Patrol National Conference for my first standing ovation!
You guys rock!
On Wednesday May 11 we had a Cooking Without Looking Party at Community House here in Dunedin. Keryn from Chef’s Tool box demonstrated her equipment while I supported her in the kitchen. The aim of the night was to purchase an induction hob for the Cooking Without Looking show which we did! See the fun we had and check out that new chef’s outfit!
In the middle of May I went to Oamaru (an hour and twenty minutes north of Dunedin by car) to speak to the Oamaru Coffee Club. I managed to fit in speaking at Oamaru Zonta too so look at the fun we had!
“You are an inspiration for everyone”
“Thank you Julie for coming to Oamaru and inspiring us to do everything”
On 25 May I was fortunate enough to spend the day with Ricky Reeves from Taieri College. Ricky is 14 years old and loves fixing things, like bikes, cars, and his little brothers stuff when it gets broken. Ricky moved down from Christchurch last October to attend Taieri College and this year is in year 9.
Ricky went blind in 2006 after having had cancer. The cancer has now gone so now Ricky is left with many abilities, including how to read with dots, how to write dots, how to use the white cane, using his hands more to receive information. Ricky’s also been on loads of camps including Dunedin, Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch.
Ricky thinks the best thing about being blind is that you don’t see people’s faces when you walk into them. He banged into someone the other day at Pack n Save, when the person turned around and said “Why did you walk into me?” For this reason Ricky’s dead keen to get a Guide Dog and has his name on the waiting list.
In the afternoon Ricky joined me in the studio of Otago Access Radio for the Cooking Without Looking show (105.4 FM)
Ricky was miked up and he got to announce the upcoming songs from blind musicians around NZ. Ricky also got to take home some Jaffa fudge which was made on the show that day.
Ricky also received a special package from RJ’s Licorice. Thanks RJ’s!
I hope you enjoyed spending your day with ‘that blind woman Ricky, coz she sure enjoyed spending it with you.
At Queens Birthday weekend I accompanied Ron to Flock Hill again. This artist’s retreat in Porter’s Pass in Canterbury is a wonderful weekend of art, rest and fun! This time I did the closest thing to creating an art work – planking!
Thanks to David Paterson for not stopping me and taking the photo! He did say to me “How are you going to get up there Julie?” to which I replied – “the same way you did David!”
Dr Susan Jeffers is the author of the top selling book “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” I came across this book in a book review done by one of my coaching peers back in 2007. Susan believes that amongst all our fears there is a grand fear that you won’t be able to handle what comes your way. I often hear people say “I couldn’t cope being blind.” I’ve always replied “Yes you would.” When I heard Susan’s grand theory I jumped in the air, kicking my heels, going “yes!”
Since reading Susan’s book I’ve signed up to her email newsletter. It always contains gems including the following one from last month.
I believe that many of us who hang onto clutter or unused possessions are afflicted with a "poverty consciousness." (Yes, even the wealthy among us feel at some level of their being that there isn't enough!) It stands to reason that the answer to ending the struggle and dancing with life is to release the feeling of scarcity that resides in the most fearful part of who we are…our Lower Self… and embrace the feeling of abundance that lies in the strongest
Part of who we are...our Higher Self. We all need help in moving in that direction!)
If you suspect that you, too, hang on to things because of a poverty consciousness, then I suggest you do as I did. Keep repeating to yourself the following Higher Self words as you begin letting go of the clutter in your life...
I have enough. I am letting go.
I have enough. I am letting go.
I have enough. I am letting go.
So I did just that Susan – but not in the way most of us do affirmations – for me I always write them in braille so I wrote a whole page, just like I would have done in my schooldays writing out lines” “I have enough I am letting go” for a whole page.
Then we took a photo of me reading the braille and I emailed the image to Dr Susan Jeffers herself.
She wrote back –
You are amazing! Thank you for your wonderful e-mail. And thank you for making this world a much better place. I send you and your husband much, much
From my heart to yours…
Thanks Susan – ditto!
If you want to sign up to Susan’s email newsletter – go to www.susanjeffers.com
The world’s oldest man died on April 15 2011 at 114 years.
Here's the world's oldest man's secret to a long life:
— Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. ("Every change is good.")
— Eat two meals a day ("That's all you need.")
— Work as long as you can ("That money's going to come in handy.")
— Help others ("The more you do for others, the better shape you're in.")
Then there's the hardest part. It's a lesson Breuning said he learned from his grandfather: Accept death.
"We're going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because we are born to die.
Thanks for that – I can’t even say your name because well like me, you will simply be remembered as “the world’s oldest man”
On the topic of helping others here’s an email I received in my inbox on June 19, nearly two months after -
"Dear Julie Woods
When I was in Brisbane recently, I heard your interview on ABC Radio, during which you mentioned that you had been responsible for sending 1,000 truffles to Christchurch after the earthquake. I thought that was so touching, and just wanted to say thank you. It was so kind of you to think of us all.
With all good wishes,
Margaret Ricketts, Lyttelton."
Thanks to you all for sending in amazing messages to me. I love getting feedback from you all. A lot of you now place it on Facebook which is fantastic! We’ve created a Facebook page for that blind woman so go on and “like” me and help me spread my “why not” message around the globe!
Finally, on the matter of why not, recently my husband Ron asked me "Do you want to go and walk on the Great Wall of China?" Mmmm now let’s see I thought, it’s going to be hot, I might get sick, there’s going to be so many people, what happens if I get lost, what happens if they lock me up for taking a photo on the Great Wall with my giant truffle"
So parking all of that, I said “Why not!”
We leave on Saturday July 23 so my next load of news will be in Mandarin!
Until then – Kia Makona – Bon Appetit!
If you haven’t checked The Cooking Without Looking Show out yet – head on over to the podcasts Otago Access Radio by clicking here. The Cooking Without Looking Show airs on Otago Access Radio on Wednesdays at 1 pm and is an hour of food that comes in cans – not cannots!
We’ve had some groovy guests on the show – including
Colin Dennison from Evansdale Cheese with a Curd Pie
Keryn Goodsir from Chefs Tool Box with Sticky Date pudding
Hazel Taylor from the book Hazel’s Home baking with Hazel’s biscuits
Tracey Crandall from RJ’s Licorice with Licorice ice cream
They’ve all come on with the segment If I baked for the PM – a ten minute interview along with a recipe that they would make if the Prime Minister came to their house for afternoon tea.
You can check out what they say, and their recipes on www.oar.org.nz/podcasts
Easter was spent this year in the coastal settlement of Kaka Point – 20 minutes east of Balclutha. For those of you in the north island or beyond that’s an hour and twenty minutes by car south of Dunedin which is towards the bottom of the South Island here in New Zealand!
The weather forecast was awful but we didn’t let that put us off. Besides – the motel was booked. Contrary to the weather forecast – the weather was perfect. We started with a picnic and then spent time with my Uncle Norman and Aunty Glenys, enjoying their company and hospitality! To top it off – our local rugby team – the Highlanders – won!
Ron painted Norman and Glenys’s house – a setting he’s been fascinated with since the first time he went there, and we had a gorgeous weekend.
We visited Nugget Point, large rocks in the sea near the lighthouse at Kaka Point. Ron used his own camera to take these photos, so when I asked him to take additional photos with my camera, let’s say he was less than happy. So, when it came to checking out the next morning from the motel, I decided that I wanted a shot from the motel, as it looked right out onto the Pacific Ocean! With the memory of Ron’s response in my mind, I decided to take matters into my own hands and take the damn photo myself. It was, as they say in the business, a light bulb moment. I suddenly thought – it doesn’t have to be perfect – it just has to be taken! How many times do we not do things because we don’t get them perfect. This type of thinking stops me from doing many things like painting, sewing, dancing, all the things that could bring joy into my life. I decided at that moment to let go of perfection and hang onto action! Just do it! So – from now on – you’ll be seeing some less than perfect shots scattered throughout this newsletter and website. They’ll be labelled as such – so you’ll be able to tell the difference! That’s the only way mind!
Let’s start with the view outside our motel window
And here’s the view when we stopped at Surat Bay –
Ha – gotcha Ron!
Shortly after we all got back from our Easter break – we were up again at the crack of dawn. This time to speak to a group of professional administrators at their annual champagne breakfast. If you want to be amongst a group of efficient and organised people – then this is your organisation – AAPNZ –Association of Administrative Professionals of New Zealand. Can you imagine their committee meeting – “Now – who would like to take the minutes!”
And look – they gave me flowers!
Here’s what some of them had to say at such an early hour of the morning –
“Very inspirational –thank you”
“Thank you for your wisdom”
“Your talk was very inspirational – I learned to say Why not. Thank you”
“Fantastic sense of humour and very inspirational”
“You are a true inspiration. Keep it up Julie”
“I think you are an amazing woman and an inspiration to us all”
“Your courage and positivity can not be understated”
“Why not – this will be my new mantra!”
Wow – that’s brailliant – your new mantra!
On International Star Wars Day - May 4 (May the 4th be with you) I got to go to Levin – the home of NZ’s only licorice manufacturer, RJ’s Licorice. I demonstrated to the staff how I made “those….. truffles” and for the second shift I got to make something new. Tracey Crandall, RJ’s Marketing and Promotions Co-ordinator asked me to try a new recipe. It was one she had been sent from America using the RJ’s red licorice and it sounded delicious. Thinking on my feet, and working out how this was going to work, I decided to place handfuls of the mixture onto a baking tray, rather than in a slice tin as the recipe suggested, so they kind of plopped onto the tray. As there was a woman called Dot at the afternoon tea session, I decided these could be named Dot’s plops!
If you want the recipe for Dot’s plops you can go to the podcast of the Cooking Without Looking show as I made them on May 11’s show.
The next day we headed to Levin Intermediate as part of Operation Truffle. RJ’s sponsored this visit and joined me as I spoke to the 330 kids in a special assembly.
Let’s see what one of the students thought –
“Thank-you very much for coming to our School and making some Bloddy Truffles. They were delicious ! I think its amazing how you can still do most if not everything that an average person can do. You really inspire me to take every oppurtunity in life and to never give up. I also really enjoyed your stories about Louis Braille and how he Invented Braille. Thank-you so much. I hope to hear from you soon.”
Jimmy Jamieson – Levin Intermediate
Then I got to hop in the car with Marian Dean from Wanganui Disability Information who had come down to pick me up for the Disability May Day which was taking place the next day in Wanganui. This gave me time to head for Rutherford Junior High and visit them as part of Operation Truffle too!
People often ask me about my worst speaking moment or my worst cooking moment. Up until now I’ve felt lacking in being able to provide them with stories! Until now! Last Thursday at Rutherford Junior High, as I was about to go and stir the chocolate, to see if it was ready for dipping, I accidentally knocked the bowl off the demonstration table! I bent down in the hope that the bowl had landed right side up. Alas – no – and my truffle mix was now all upon the floor! Without hesitation, I swooped it up in my hands, leaving the mixture that was in contact with the floor, still on the floor. Putting the mixture in the bowl, I proceeded to dip the previously made truffles. As I stood in the spilt truffle mix, I finished the demonstration by dipping the truffles I’d fortunately rolled out prior to the disaster.
Let’s see what one of the kids at Rutherford thought anyway –
"Hi Julie it's Lisa here from Rutherford Junior High Intermediate School
The answer to the question is why not. It must have been hard learning how to read braille with your fingers.You are a brilliant cook.
Please write back Thant You"
Wow – Lisa – that’s pretty cool there – and here’s me worrying about what you must have thought!
Then we jumped in the car again and headed round to the Wanganui Foundation of the Blind where I was greeted by Joseph Toomey. We headed into the Wanganui Centre where the Social Club were having their afternoon tea. I arrived in the nick of time to be able to speak to this peer support group for 10 minutes.
On Friday 6 May I had the privilege to speak to 10 schools from all around Wanganui, including Wanganui Intermediate. This brings the total number of intermediate schools Operation Truffle has touched to 10! After another truffle demonstration I then gave away one of my books to the school that could tell me the year Louis Braille was born (1809), One student from each of the schools was lucky enough to receive a chocolate truffle for their question but not before telling me “what the best thing about being blind is.”
“Not being able to see your family!”
“You get to travel”
“You get to learn new things”
Perhaps the feedback I’ve had from the students can be summed up by Caitlin, Bee and Hetal:
It's Caitlin from Churton School! How are you? I hope you are good!
I hope you are getting around ok. Oh yes I nearly forgot the answer to the secret Braille! It was ''Why not'' I'm sorry you got blind. I hope everything is going well! I hope to run into you soon.
Remember always keep your head held high and try and live your life as long as you can because there may be new challenges ahead of you.
Don't turn down things even though they may sound scary but say
Why Not! =)
So please email mYours Sincerely,
“It was amazing how you can read emails without seeing, it even inspired me to do a bit of "blind cooking" with brownies. The good thing was i eventually made them BUT i made alot of mess by accidently missing the bowl and sifted the flour on the floor! Mum wasn't too impressed with that!! I hope that you enjoyed the gifts that my peers made and have a fantastic weekend”
love Hetal Patel
Janes Cook School – Wanganui
And this text from Bee at St Annes School –
The answer to your braille is why not! I think you are so inspiring and I will look up to you forever. hugs galore. Bee!
Go Caitlin, Hetal and Bee!
After the demonstration I did a “walk about” with Marian Dean around the 86 stalls she had at the Health and Disability expo in the Wanganui Memorial Hall. We packaged up some truffles and placed them in an RJ’s bag and asked stallholders for their business card to go in the draw for one of these packs. After meeting a majority of the stall holders, we pulled out two lucky winners. You can see how excited Trego from the Pan Pacific Wanganui Trust Inc. was to receive his chocolate treat!
When I got back on the plane to come home that night – I realised I had spoken to 1060 people in just three days. How lucky am I?