One Year Ago

1Holy Guacamole, Batman! It’s been 365 days since I left Hanoi! 365 days since I left my home for more than 3 years, my full time ESL job, my gorgeous duplex with beautiful red sofas and glorious balcony, my lovely friends, my amazing hair dresser, my hilarious xe om driver, the most talented tailor in the world (who I snaffled for PHO sizzle), my students and my fiance…well, he left a few weeks after I did and we met up again in Senegal last December.

So, yeah, this is going to be one of those ‘reflective’ type posts, be warned! I can tell you this – 1 year ago I didn’t think I would have a clothing brand that I would dedicate most of my time on. Seriously, PHO sizzle was perhaps in the deepest caverns of my brain a year ago, but it certainly wasn’t planned. I thought I would come back to Melbourne for a little while, go to Senegal, then, probably find a country where me and my fiance could live together easily. After job searching and realizing we probably should have stayed in Vietnam or moved to China, I decided to pursue another interest, as, quite honestly, ESL was boring to me. You get to a certain level in any job and you realize there is no where else you’d like to go. No higher that you’d like to climb, and that was how I felt with education. I think when you get to a certain level of experience then you are expected to move into these other roles instead of just teaching. And, after 7 years of teaching and experiencing all the little niches of ESL (general, kids, business, actual niches like teaching shop assistants, academic) I think I was expected to want to move into either curriculum development, assessment and testing or IELTS stuff, PD, student support type roles, or, (a gazillion shudders) management. And, you see, fuck that! I like teaching! Not the mumbo jumbo wank and corporate jargon, just TEACHING.  And I’m damn good at it! So, I figured I’d take a break for a while and then, voila, PHO sizzle was born. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do still casually teach ESL in Melbourne a few days a week, but, it is just that. Casual Teaching. I come in, I do a great job, I go home. No work plans. No pressure (well, very little pressure) .

So, I’ve got the best of both worlds now. I can do what I wanted which was pure teaching with no bullshit and work full time on my brand. If only a decision would be made on my fiance’s visa then I’d be the happiest gal in Christendom!

3 4 5 2Dress: custom made in Hanoi Hat: Dotti Shoes: thrifted Sunnies: Jay Jays

One year is a long time, especially when you’re waiting on visa approval, but, this post has made me realize, it also isn’t that long, and hopefully if I keep concentrating on my brand and work hard, before I know it, my fiance will be next to me in Australia. :)6

until he comes though, I have Hugo to make me smile.

Happy hump day!

xox Jacqui

Aussie Curves – Secondhand


Last year for the Secondhand week for Aussie Curves I dressed in head-to-toe thrift and loved it but I figured it would be kinda boring if I did that again. You see, if I have to draw a pie chart of my wardrobe (which I’m highly tempted to do now cos I love me a good pie chart) it would comprise of about 1/4 secondhand. Half of it would be custom made clothing from when I was in Vietnam and the final quarter would be typical fast fashion evilness that is  intent on destroying our local designers with their low low prices, shoddy manufacturing ethics and horrible ‘sales’ culture. Ha! That escalated quickly! But seriously, I’m trying to eliminate that final 1/4 and build it into ‘small businesses whose clothes I like and want to support’ instead of buying those cheap basics on sale from brand x.

Anyway… as I was saying before I began ranting, since 1/4 of my clothes are second hand, it made this challenge rather easy and I thought instead of picking 1 thing that is secondhand, I’d pick 3 items that I care so much about and explain their magic to you. Also, you may also be wondering about my epic glasses in these pictures, and well, yes, if you ever find yourself pretty soused at Section 8 at 4pm in the afternoon, (not that I would know what that feels like) there’s a gorgeous lil shop in Chinatown called Pink. They were $15. That is all. Onto my treasured second hand pieces!

My Nana’s ‘Mourning’ Tartan Cape

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 The Stewart Clan (meaning my immediate family- Hahah) actually have two very similar capes with Stewart Tartan prints on them, both made of thick thick wool that make you feel like you’re wearing a blanket. I prefer this one cos it’s reversible and I LOVE anything reversible.  My Dad’s mother owned these and handed them down to her daughters and daughters-in-law and then finally they trickled down to me. MWA HA HA! My mum calls it the ‘funeral tartan’ cape as she said that many tartans with black in them are the mourning version of the tartan, and since one side has Royal Stewart tartan, then the other prob has mourning Royal Stewart, so, you know, you can just reverse it when you’re at a funeral… this is all unsubstantiated hearsay at this stage, but I am trying to find out more about ‘mourning tartans’ as I type. Right! A long amount of time and a deep wikipedia binge has happened between those 2 sentences!!!  I have found out the reverse side of this cape is merely called Black Stewart Tartan, not mourning tartan, but no where have I found when you are meant to wear it… So, I’ll conclude by saying the purpose is for me to wear it during Melbourne winter and withdraw my hands inside against the wind and thank my Nana for having such good taste in capes!

Other posts featuring this gorgeous cape:

My Dad’s Alpaca Wool Cardi from Peru

9 10Mum and Dad went to South America and the Caribbean after they got married but before they had kids, you can see some pics of them in my post That 70’s Inspiration: My Parents. Somewhere along their journey of teaching and touristing Dad picked up this extremely warm cardigan made from Alpaca wool. Its obviously hand-made with tribal and Aztec designs. Dad wore it a lot when we went camping to cold places when I was little and as well as handmade ‘thumb holes’ that Dad probably made for easy ‘cold mornings fishing’ purposes, it’s obviously been fed to evil moths over the years of hiding in a closet because by the time I got it earlier this year to take to Adelaide it had many moth holes and was falling apart! I was so sad that I went to the local knitting shop near my house and asked the kind lady there whether it was salvageable. She found me a wool that would suit the colours and explained to me how to fix all the holes. I’m really happy I fixed it because now it will last a lot longer and hopefully I’ll be able to hand it down to my kids one day. I also kept the thumb holes. :)

 Other posts featuring this amazing cardi:

My Great Grandmother’s Red Riding Hood Cloak

8 7My mum found this cloak in her grandmother’s closet when she was 17. Her grandmother had used it as a dress-up for red riding hood costumes at some point. Mum, being a radical teen growing up in the late 60’s snaffled it and wore it all through her university years at La Trobe. It was, in her own words, “part of my signature look. People saw me and I bet they thought, ‘who’s that short-arse blonde with the weird glasses, red riding hood coat and peace sign pendant round her neck?” The fact that this cloak is, as I’ve said before in other posts featuring it, probably from the 1920s means it is probably close to 90 years old. Isn’t that so amazing? And my mum wore it continuously for her time at uni and now, this past winter I’ve been wearing it too. I have to fix the sleeves a bit with some very careful hand sewing when I have time, but what a beautiful heirloom! If I have children I’ll be passing down this beautiful velvet cloak to them, even if it is just for dress-up parties.

Other posts featuring this lovely cloak:

So, there you have it – My three most treasured secondhand pieces that mean a lot to me and my family and that I will keep and hand down to my children. Don’t forget to check out the other Aussie Curves ladies second hand posts! And thanks to my Mum for taking these and reminding me of the history of these garments.

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3xox Jacqui

Anastasia Screamed in Vain

7So I woke up this morning and was editing the blog post I did earlier today about How to wear African Wax and I gotsta listening to Guns N’ Roses…as you do, and then Sympathy For the Devil happened to come on…as it does, and suddenly I found myself reflecting on the lyrics about St Petersberg and Anastasia screaming in vain, and, before I knew it I had gone on a pinterest binge about Russia Tsar Fashion and was teasing my hair into an insane beehive type thing to try and look like the long lost Princess Anastasia…as I DO! Hahahah! So, yeah listen, don’t be all judging me on my lack of historical accuracy here, I used what I had at hand and may have almost teetered too far in Moulin Rouge territory to be able to pull myself out, but, voila here is my take on Anastasia screaming in vain. One line in a song and I’m dressed up like a long lost Tsarina! Sheesh!

4Here it is. Here she is. Screaming away.

Anastasia screamed in vain.

And now, the rest…

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Aaaand, that is why I like blogging, cos I can play dress up.  Did you dress up like a Moulin Rouge version of a long lost Russian Princess as well today? Wouldn’t that be a coincidence! Hehehehe.

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Have a lovely Sunday!

xox Jacqui



How To Wear African Wax Cotton

imogen1Many times when I’m at Rose Street Artists’ Market selling PHO sizzle threads in Melbourne Town, people will say to their friends or even to me, about my colorful African Wax Cotton clothes, “But what would I wear it with?”

 Now, as someone that truly believes you can wear anything and rock it if you have confidence, obviously I find this question troubling cos I wanna shout, “wear it with ANYTHING, it’s YOU that makes the outfit, not what you pair it with!!!!!” and then whoop like Zoidberg and run out of there sideways. But, I don’t know if that answer is really what people are looking for, and I realize they probably aren’t be down with the stall owner hollering clothing mantras at them so early on a Sunday, so, I answer, “It usually works with denim”. And THAT answer is what made me write this, to show the good people of Australia, and in fact, the world, what they can wear African Wax Cotton with easily and without much effort, without being intimidated by its bright and bold colours, and certainly without buying anything new to go with it.

So, here’s a run down of what I’ve worn African Wax Cotton with so far in my blog, most of it is obviously PHO sizzle, but not all of it. Just click on the picture to be taken back to original post.



By far the easiest thing to wear African Wax with is denim. If you’ve got a colorful top, pairing it with a neutral denim skirt or jeans will place emphasis on the top as being your key piece, which in many cases is why you bought it – as a feature piece, so let it shine by having denim to compliment it. Also, if you have a colorful wax cotton skirt, pairing it with a denim top, vest or jacket has a similar effect. This look is simple to achieve, and honestly it manages to look casual, fun and fresh at the same time.


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Similar to denim, another surefire way to compliment something as bright as Wax Cotton is to wear it with black. Black goes with everything and it again makes your African Wax piece the centre of attention. However, If you feel like the wax piece you have is too bright and you don’t want to actually bring more attention to it, I would suggest denim instead of black. Denim seems to counteract while complimenting the brightness, black basics just make the brightness more noticeable, so it depends what look you are after. Also, if you find black is too dark for a summery look, plain white tees or white cotton works in exactly the same way but makes your look instantly summer and vibes of beach! Finally, if you’re looking for a more formal way to wear your African Wax Cotton, then, black is the way to do it.



To elaborate on the ‘pair wax with black’ tip, I would suggest finding clothes that are similar colours to your African Wax piece and working them into your outfit. Amazingly, by adding more colours of similar tones into your outfit, you are drawing attention away from the brighness of your wax piece. In two of the above posts, I’ve paired wax cotton with a black crop and then added other colors which have similar tones to the cotton. In the third outfit directly above, I’ve picked out the complimenting color of the top and worked it into my outfit (in this case my shoes) and then used fawn to tone down the bright yellow of the top. If you’ve got a vast array of colours in your wardrobe, it is relatively easy to do this maneuver, and makes a change from the denim, black or white basics tip.


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Most of the African Wax cotton that PHO sizzle sells is actually in a matchy mc matchy twinset! Why? Cos twinsets rock! And when you wear it together, well, you can truly stop traffic! Ha! Obviously I’d only suggest the full set if you really like being noticed, which is why i divided everything up to sell separately (and cos ppl like me who are a size 16/14 don’t like having to buy 2 sets of everything just to get sizes to fit my different sized top and bottom) cos, man, the two piece African Wax sets are rather bright, but perfect for a beach party or summer look.


1 2You didn’t seriously think this post wouldn’t end with this heading, did you? Hahahah. Obviously, wear it however you bloody well want and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t! I just thought I’d provide some helpful tips, but in the end, any way you wear it will look amazing when you exude confidence. Pattern clash the shit outta that African Wax if that is what you wanna do, the more colors, the more patterns, the more amazing it’ll look! ;)

So, I hope this has been useful if you are trying to figure out how to wear your super bright African Wax piece you bought and are now staring at scowling and hissing. Ha, funny image right there. My tip – start with denim or black and work it up from there.

Have a lovely Sunday.


xox Jacqui 

It’s Driven Me Before

2I was driving in my car the other day and Drive by Incubus came on. Now, I would argue I know this song quite well – it was played on repeat during a summer late in my teenage years and is still a favourite of radio stations, but, for the first time I listened to the lyrics as I belted them out at the top of my lungs. So good. So fitting. The allusion to choosing fear as a familiar and comfortable vehicle to travel in instead of taking control and facing the fear and controlling your own destiny and not being led by fear. Yeah, wow. I mean, I’m sure there are many books, songs and what-have-you that grasp this similar concept, but, this song just really struck me. It might even make it onto my top 5 motivational song list one day!

This outfit has nothing to do with that, it was just an ootd that I thought I’d share! :)



Skirt: thrifted Shoes: thrifted Top: I HAVE NO IDEA! HA! Pearls: Street side shops in Mui Ne, Vietnam

So, a bit of a quick post from me today and very reflective what with all the song lyrics, but I have to plan tomorrow’s lesson a bit more carefully.

Happy Thursday, and go listen to Drive again! You’ll know what I mean!

xox Jacqui


Aussie Curves – Then and Now


This week’s theme for Aussie Curves is ‘Then and Now’ and is meant to look back at your style and reflect how it has changed. When I first saw the theme I desperately wanted to do movie fashion from Now and Then, but, honestly, I’m too busy.

Yesterday at the market selling PHO sizzle threads I was reflecting on this blog and thinking about how long I’ve had it for, and what its purpose is… In terms of remembering outfits I’ve done in the past, Fashion & Pho has always done birthday and anniversary posts, in fact it just past it’s third birthday recently and I blogged about that with lots of ‘flashback outfits’ so, I don’t want to repeat that, but you can check out that post if you like here.  But, I guess I was wondering if I should continue my blog, especially since I have so little time with my part time ESL work and my full time PHO sizzling. This blog has been my creative outlet and what I do for fun, and,since coming back from Vietnam, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to have an income out of it through affiliate advertising and, in a lot of ways, it did push me to create PHO sizzle, but I was musing all of this when suddenly I met a nice woman at the market who bought some PHO sizzle stock for her daughter. She said she read my blog and that she really liked it and that I shouldn’t stop blogging, and, I swear she was reading all of those thoughts! Hahaha! I was so flattered and excited to meet someone who reads this, and even happier that she believed in me enough to buy some clothes for her daughter. It made me realize that while this is only my hobby, it does actually really make me happy doing it, and I love hearing that other people love it too. :)


So, how is this outfit ‘then and now’ you ask? Well, I’m wearing high high heels with an itty bitty heel, a fear I conquered quite recently and a kaftan that I received as my first blog ‘freebie’. I blogged wearing it here.

8So, the ‘then and now’ component of my post today is remembering the things I could NOT get easily in Hanoi which were namely – knits and insane cool embellished things like this kaftan. Remember, all my clothes (and shoes) were tailor made, which is awesomely awesome! Seriously, it is perfect for learning what suits your body type, but, it meant I couldn’t find sweaters or anything that couldn’t be easily made. So, for this ‘then and now’ theme I’d like to celebrate being able to wear knits and kaftans, AND be able to internet shop! Vietnamese postal services weren’t so good at delivering parcels…did I tell you about the Easter package I received in October? But, that was good cos at least it turned up! :)

4 9 5 7 2Kaftan: Kashkha  Heels: thrifted a Roses in Hair: shop that closed down on Brunswick Street Earrings: borrowed from my sister

So, that is all I have to say about reflecting on my style, in fact it hasn’t changed much but blogging for 3+ years has made me more confident, experimental and made me realize I need this blog, and thanks to the kind woman who said the right thing at just the right time :)

Don’t forget to check out the other Aussie Curves ‘then and now’ posts.


xox Jacqui

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Aussie Curves – Sparkle

2Yeah, who remembers last year when I said I wasn’t into sparkle? Shine? Shimmer? Glisten? Glow? Sequins? Nothing has changed. Still can’t really handle it. And since I have worn all things that sparkle before in last year’s challenged for Sparkle (in an awesome festival fashion ‘i love hanoi/quest’ style post) and for Sequins,the only shiny sparkly magic I had left was this silver metallic top you’ve seen me in a gazillion times before, but, meh, that’s what I based this outfit around. Throwing it with my cog skirt and new green fedora, I think it made quite a pretty outfit.  Hey guess what? PHO sizzle is in Fashion Journal this month! Yay! We also went to an awesome festival in Bendigo, I wrote about that in PHO sizzle’s blog if you wanna read the news. Anyway, a small happy dance at how my business is going. I’m so happy with it and the team I have, and just hope that the energy we all pour into it comes across and rewards us. :) But, honestly, it already is and that is amazing!

1 7 4 8 6 3Skirt: custom made in Hanoi by my tailor who is now my business partner Shoes: EOS Top: I don’t actually know – but I think it is from the 7 Angels Factory Outlet on Swanson Street ? Belt: thrifted Cardigan: Cotton On Hat: closing down sale of a shop on Brunswick Street – either 210 or 214. Lipstick: Russian Red by MAC

Anyway, sorry I can’t put in more of a sparkling effort, but I swear, I don’t know what I’m going to do next year when it comes up again! Hahaha! Don’t forget to check out the Aussie Curves ladies sparkling outfits.

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xox Jacqui

Summer Vibes

5Today’s the first day that I was hot. Prolly cos I was wearing this faux suade skirt that I haven’t put away into my ‘winter clothes wardrobe’. I had to drive to Design A Space, PHO sizzle‘s main bricks and mortar stockist to deliver some stock and I was so hot I turned on the air con. I mean, wow! Summer is coming! Another wow would be that I have almost been back in Australia one year now. I left Hanoi on October 29th last year. Man, this year has been so busy and turbulent, and hard because I miss my fiance so much, but I’ve just been pushing all my energy, all my feelings and all my time into my brand, and I think that that is the best way to survive the horrible long-distance-visa-application-limbo-mo-fo that we are going through at the moment.

Recognize the top? Heheh, yes, I bought my own stock because I really like this fabric and I am partial to these kinds of collars, hence designing it!  You’ve seen me wear the skirt here.

6413Top: Gone Fishin Crop by PHO sizzle Skirt: custom made in Hoi An Shoes: Target

Thanks to my Mum for taking these pictures, and of course, Hugo had to be in one.


Tomorrow I take my brand up to Bendigo for Laneways Unleashed Festival. It’s going to be awesome and I look forward to selling my threads in another city. :)


xox Jacqui

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Aussie Curves – Pajamas

2One thing I loved about moving to Hanoi was the Pajama style of the residents!  I was so relieved after living in Istanbul, where you couldn’t leave your house without being appropriately dressed, and occasionally given double takes if you left the house in flip flops, Hanoi was a fucking paradise! I could wear anything I wanted outside, and was only given stares for being a Tay and not cos of what I was wearing. YAY!  I had a fair amount of work clothes from Istanbul (teaching Business English at their offices will do that to a gal) and obviously had A LOT more made in my 3 years at RMIT teaching Academic English, but, the vibrant street style of Vietnamese women’s pajama fashion captured my heart. I wanted to be part of it, but alas, I wouldn’t fit into their pretty ensembles and I couldn’t really justify getting any made purely to fit in… I wasn’t gonna fit in anyway. But realizing I was living in a city that would let me wear whatever the hell I wanted was one of the most liberating feelings – finding my tailor who made my dreams into reality helped too. So, for this week’s Aussie Curves challenge, I thought I’d pay homage to the PJ style of Vietnam, with a pair of banana print pajama pants I bought last year from Bras n Things (and wore all over Senegal when I was there) . I’ve talked about my love of Vietnamese Pajama Fashion before here, and a quick google search came up with this blog post that talks about it too, but really if you google search images, you’ll see the amazing Vietnamese Pajama fashion in all its beautiful glory.  So, here’s my homage:

1 5 3 6 7 4Pants: Bras N Things Crop: Jay Jays Cardigan: Cotton On Sunnies: Glassons Shoes: NO!Shoes Earrings: I think I got them from Diva Necklace: Sapa in Northern Vietnam Bracelets: gifted

You know I actually have 2 other pairs of lightweight pants that are officially pajama pants, but, I can honestly say, I’ve never worn them that way :) .

Don’t forget to check out the other Aussie Curves ladies Pajama Style.

8xox Jacqui

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The Mistress Of The Copper Mountain

So, hooray for the first ALTERNATIVE CURVES blog hop! I was so happy when I saw this months theme of Alternative Fairytale too! :) Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I’m into mythology and fairy tales just a teeny bit. I’ve dressed up as a fairy, rusalka, qarinah, lost mermaid and white witch. So, for this I felt the pressure to do something new, but also something that people didn’t know much about.

I remembered living in Perm, Russia in 2009 teaching ESL and reading Pavel Bazhov‘s book called Malachite Casket: Tales from The Urals. It was based on folktales from around that region, and I pretty much fell in love with many of the stories. A key character in many of the tales is The Lizard Queen/The Malachite Maid/The Mistress of Copper Mountain. So, I thought I’d try to take pictures being the Lizard Queen in the first mention of her in the first story: The Mistress of Copper Mountain. I apologize in advance for how freaking LONG this post is but I am retelling a fairy tale and I felt it needed the embellishment and quaintness that is in the original for it to come across well. Anyway, enjoy:



One day two men from the village went to take a look at the hay on the other side of Severushka. It was a Sunday and real hot. Both of them worked in the mines, on Mount Gumeshky. They got malachite, and the kind of stones you call Lapiz Lazuli, and sometimes nuggets of copper and anything else they could find.

One was quite a young fellow, not married yet, but all the same he was pale and tired, with that green look about him from working in mining. The other was older and quite worn out, his eyes and cheeks were sunk into his head and he never stopped coughing.

It was sweet in the woods and walking in the sun felt nice upon their backs. They got as far as Krasnogorsk Mine and lay down on the grass under a rowan for a nap. Both of them slept far past sundown from exhaustion and perhaps the comfort of being away from the mines.

But, all of a sudden, the young one – it was as if someone had nudged him- he woke up. And there in front of him he saw a woman sitting on a pile of rocks. She had her back to him but you could see she was a fair maid. Her hair was a fascinating colour and she was constantly fidgeting – couldn’t sit still a minute! Like a bit of quicksilver, she was, and all the time she kept on talking and talking but in what language it was you couldn’t say. All the time she had a laugh in her voice and seemed real merry.


   The lad wanted to say something, then all of a sudden it hit him like a blow over the head. Mercy on us, why, that’s the Mistress herself! That’s her robe- why didn’t I see it at once? Her malachite robe, it looks like silk and changes colour from green to red, but is really stone! Oh, it was that hair of hers that I kept looking at…


Here’s bad luck, thought the lad. Can I get off before she sees me?… He’d heard, you see, from old folks that the Mistress, the Malachite Maid, like to beguile folks and fool them. But, he had barely given that a thought when she turned around.


She gave him a look that could set a man to stone, but then laughed merrily and said jestingly: “How’s this Stepan Petrovich, will ye stare at a maid’s beauty and give naught for the looking? For a peep ye must pay! Come here, closer. Let’s talk for a bit.” 

The lad was frightened all right, but he didn’t show it. He took hold of his courage. She might be a demon, but all the same she was a maid. Well, and he was a lad, and a lad must think shame to let a maid see him faint-hearted.

He went up to where she was standing and saw a lot of lizards. More than you could count. Some were green, some were light blue, some very dark, every shade and colour, and some were like clay or sand with golden specks. And some shone like glass or mica, some like withered grass and some had all sorts of patterns. The maid just sat and laughed. “Don’t tread on my soldiers, Stepan Petrovich,” she said. “Look how big and heavy you are, and they’re but tiny.” She clapped her hands and all the lizards cleared a path for him, running this way and that. He walked right up to her and looked her in the face, she smiled and clapped her hands again. The lizards rushed back filling every empty piece of ground, like a patterned rug on the floor around him, moving all the time over his shoes. He looked again and he even saw a cooper lizard dart past. “Now there’s nowhere ye can tread,” she said laughing, “for if ye crush my babies it will be bad.” 


“So, do ye know who I am Stepanushko?” asked the Malachite Maid. “Don’t be afraid, I’ll do ye no harm.” Stepan bristled back at her, angered that a maid would accuse him of being afraid. He shouted at her that he worked in a mine and was afraid of naught! The Lizard Queen smiled and told him she needed a man like him.

“When you go down to the mine tomorrow the bailiff will be there. Tell him that the Mistress of the Copper Mountain has ordered ye, ye stinking goat, to get out of Krasnogorsk mine! If you break my cap of iron there, I shall sink all the copper in Gumeshky so deep ye’ll never find it again!”


She looked at him hard.

“D’ye understand? You work in the mine and fear naught ye said. Then tell the bailiff what I bid ye.” 

She jumped up and ran on all fours towards the cliffs of the mountain side, turning back once, with her robe of ever changing malachite on, to look hard at Stepan Petrovich again.


“Don’t forget Stepanushko, what you’re to say. The Mistress oders you, ye stinking goat, to get our of Krasnogorka…Tell him that and I’ll marry you.”

She ran further along and Stepan saw a tail flip into the mountain side.


“Ugh – a reptile!” The lad spat in disgust. ” Me – marry a lizard!?”

The mountain cackled around him and  he heard her voice while he couldn’t see her.

“Be it so, we’ll talk about it afterwards and maybe ya’ll think different of it.”

Stepan wakened his companion and they set off back towards their village. All the while walking Stepan was thinking about his encounter and what he was going to say the bailiff. What she has asked was no small thing, and it was true, the bailiff did stink, as if there was something rotten inside him, but he was fearsome too. But, she was the Mistress! Did he dare not do what she requested? He took courage and decided to do what she had ordered.

The next day at work, the miners silently lined up with their caps off as the bailiff walked past. Stepan repeated what the Lizard Queen has told him. The silence was deafening. The bailiff’s goat whiskers shook with rage.

“What’s this?” He shouted. “Are ye drunk or daft? What Mistress? Who d’ye think you’re talking to? You – I’ll make you rot in the pit!” 

Stepan was flogged and sent down the pit. The bailiff ordered to feed him dog oats to keep life in him but give him full talk, with no easement.  He was made to work on the worst job they could find. It was a wet and damp tunnel with no good ore, it should have been abandoned a long time ago. They fastened him to a long chain, so he wouldn’t run away. But you know what it was like in those days – serfdom, they abused folks all they wanted. The overseer jeered at him “Ye cool down here a bit. Your task is to find pure malachite!” The amount he named was out of all sense or reason, but naught to be done. So, as soon as the overseer had gone, Stepan started swinging his pick, as he was an able young fellow.

He was real pleased with what he saw from the wall. The malachite came tumbling down as if some one was throwing it, and the all the water and dampness drained away. “Well,” he thought, “that ain’t bad – seems like the Mistress hasn’t forgot me after all.” 

And then with a flash of light, suddenly the Mistress herself was standing in front of him in the dark tunnel.


“Well, you’re a lad of mettle, Stepan Petrovich. Ye can be proud of yourself. Ye weren’t feared by that stinking goat. Ye spoke well. Come and see my dowry. I too stand by my word.”

She ordered the lizards to unchain Stepan and to continue mining the malachite for him while they walked along the tunnel to a wall. She was frowning and had an air of sadness about her. “Come, my betrothed, and see my wealth.”

Wherever she turned the wall opened in front of her, and they walked deep into the mountain. The chambers were huge, with precious gems and stones embedded into the walls. All glowing different colours, much like her robe. Some were rich deep orange, some coppery red, some deep green like the finest malachite. After walking some time, they finally stopped in a huge malachite chamber, far more beautiful than the rest, the green stone glowed throughout the room and the copper tables and chairs shown brightly. They sat down and the maid looked sadly at him. “Now ye have seen my dowry.”


“Aye, I’ve seen it.” He replied.

“And what do you think about marrying me?”

Stepan didn’t know what to say. You see, he had a betrothed maid already. A good maid, an orphan. Of course, if you put her beside the Mistress she was nowhere for the looks. Just an ordinary maid like you see everyday. Stepan stuttered and stumbled, and said, “Your dowry is enough for Tsar, but, I’m just an ordinary plain fellow, a worker.”


She frowned until her brows met.

“My friend,” she said, “Stop hedging and speak out. Will ye marry me or not?”

So then Stepan just said plain and straight: “I can’t. I’m promised.”

He waited. Now she’ll be really angry, he thought.

But she seemed sort of pleased, even.


“True heart, Stepanushko,” she said. “I praised ye for the bailiff, but I have double praise for this. You didn’t snatch at my wealth, you didn’t give up your Nastasya for a maid of stone.” It was quite right, Nastasya was his sweetheart’s name. “And now, here is a gift for your lucky maid.” She gave him a casket of malachite, inside jewels, ornaments, a tiara, earrings, rings and beautiful stones of every sort that not even the richest maid would have. She shrunk the box to make it very small, reassuring him it would come back to real size once he was out of sight of the overseer and bailiff. She fed him a delicious lunch, the way the Russian custom is at feasts.


When he’d finished she said, “Now, fare ye well, Stepan Petrovich and see you try to forget me.” And there she was in tears! She held out her hand as the tears fell and upon hitting her palm they turned into precious gems. “Ye’ll live in plenty riches with your young wife, only beware – see ye don’t get thinking and remembering me after. That’ll be my third test.” She reached out and gave him her tears, turned into the richest stones. “Much money is given for these, you will be rich.”

He took them and bowed as she sent him back through the chambers to where the lizards still worked mining malachite. The overseer returned and was shocked and amazed by what Stepan had mined. He moved him to an even worse place but the same thing happened. Stepan could always find the best places to mine. After a few weeks Stepan made an agreement with the bailiff that if he mined a huge slab of Malachite, large enough for the church at St Petersburg, then he and his sweetheart could be free people and no longer serfs. The bailiff, thinking it was impossible, easily signed the contract.

After his freedom, all the riches of Gumeshky vanished. Never another sign of copper nuggest or malachite. Worse still, the water started coming in until the whole mine flooded. Folks say the Mistress was angry that her malachite had been used for a church, for churches she had no use for at all.

Stepan was never really happy though. He married, and there were children. He built himself a house, everything was right and fine. You’d have said he’d all to make a man glad, but he went about moping and pined away. His health and strength went with him.

Sick as he was, he took it in his head that he wanted to hunt and would spend long days out in the mountains, naught coming home with a thing. Then, one day in autumn, he didn’t return.

The search party found him, lying beside a large rock with a smile on his face. The ones that got there first reported seeing a lizard, larger than normally seen in those parts lying beside him. It was sitting there by the dead man, with its head up and tears flowing down its face. But as soon as they came close to the rock it ran away fast.

When they brought Stepan home, they noticed his hand was gripping something tightly, and as they unfurled his fingers, they were surprised to see a fistful of copper emeralds.

“That’s a fortune he’s left you Nastasya!” Where’d he get them from?” The village folk remarked. She said he’d never told her a word about the stones. The Malachite casket he’d given her before they were married, it had many rare things, but no stones like this! They started getting the stones out of his hands, and what do you know? They crumbled and turned to dust.

After that the village people tried to dig around Krasnogorka again, but with no luck. Finally an elder in the village confirmed that those stones were the tears of the Mistress of Copper Mountain. Stepan had kept them and let none see them, and when he died he took them with him. Aye.


And that’s what she’s like, the Mistress of Copper Mountain. It’s a chancy thing to meet her, it brings woe for a bad man, and for a good one, there’s little joy comes of it.



This story is adapted from Pavel Bazhov’s Malachite Casket – Tales from The Urals. Story 1: Mistress of The Copper Mountain.

While there are many stories in the book that feature the Lizard Queen, I like the introduction story about her the most. Sorry this post was SO FREAKING LONG, but I wanted to tell the story properly. WELL DONE if you read it all!!!

Also, obviously my photos are trying to give the grainy sense of Stepan’s point of view, and we were also doing them at night, so the quality isn’t the best.

Don’t forget to check out the other lovely bloggers stories for this challenge!

xox Jacqui

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