All Aboard!!

 

When I was growing up, we’d look out our dining room window and see the smoke from the steam engine on the railway line out to the Oamaru stone quarry at Weston. Once, earlier, this line ran all the way out to the coal mine at Ngapara. Sadly most of New Zealand secondary railway network is long defunct with the rails ripped up and recycles for their steel. Some of the routes are still accessible as cycle-ways – which is cool – but few of the actual lines still exist.

One exception to the rip it up model is the line that runs from Taumarunui on the Central Plateau to Stratford on the Taranaki Plain. Withdrawn from railway service in the late 90s due to the high number of derailments, it somehow escaped being stripped for its steel. Now, once again, you can ride those rails…

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Based in Taumarunui (opposite the New World), Forgotten World Adventures has taken a  30 year lease on the line, and runs daily trips between Okahukura and Stratford and points in between…

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The journey starts with a short (10 minute) bus ride from the Forgotten World base to the rail head at Okahukura. It would be nice to be able to start the ride from Taumarunui itself – the rail yard is only a few hundred metres from the office – but in addition to obvious issues sharing the main trunk line with the ‘big kids’ the railway bridge that connected the side line to the main trunk was removed a couple of year ago to make more room for over-height loads on State Highway 4.

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Every rail journey starts with tickets…these ones are big and flash and great souvenirs…we only did the first leg to Matiere but the full day “21 tunnel” runs through to (the former Republic of) Whangamomona…and with the ticket cones the safety brief…

The carts operate under the normal Land Transport rules…imagine them as little cars…so…

No alcohol.

Seat belts are mandatory as are car seats for small children.

Don’t dismount the cart unless your guide has OK’d it: there’s not much clearance off the side of the track in many places and there are loads of bridges, drains and trenches alongside the tracks.

Maintain a 3-4 cart space between carts – while steering is not negotiable, you do control the speed and the brakes and it’s uncool to rear-end the cart in front.

Attach bags and cameras and the like to you or the cart: if it goes over the side it’s most likely not going to be recoverable.

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The day wasn’t that tidy but this is a great activity for those less than stellar days…the valleys are narrow enough that even quite low cloud doesn’t really obstruct the views. The carts are open but even on a quite wet day like this, we didn’t need to drop down the plastic sides. Each cart has blankets but again, even on this damp day we’d weren’t tempted…the speed of the cart isn’t enough to generate a cold draft…

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There are five tunnels on this leg: most short like this one but the longest is a mile-long S under a hill: very dark inside!!! And a testament to the land navigation skills of the builders who had no GPS, lasers or even decent maps _just an excellent sense of where they were and where they were going…

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90 minutes brought us to Matiere and lunch…

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…in the community hall…

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…with strong links to its past…

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Couldn’t fault lunch at all!! Hot soup, fresh bread buns, home-baked fruit slice and caramel crunch and juicy fresh mandarins with tea and coffee for those who wish….

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Meantime, the the ground crew is busy outside: very ingenious and so well-balanced that one person can turn the carts…

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And then we were homeward bound…funny, after lunch we didn’t seem to be going as fast…dscf0572

…tunnels…dscf0578

…bridges…dscf0627

…the occasional curiosity…dscf0621

…sometimes almost like trundling through someone’s garden…dscf0632

Carts range from two seats to six but next time we’ll be in for a pedal:

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Much appreciated to the team at Forgotten World Adventures for hosting us and providing a great day of travel, entertainment and fine food…

Forgotten World Facebook                               Forgotten World TripAdvisor

Morning | The Daily Post

For this week’s photo challenge, publish a new post with an image that means morning to you.

Source: Morning | The Daily Post

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Fresh and clean now after the rain…” Is that from War of the Worlds..?

A crisp sunny morning after a night of rain, everything does feel fresh and clean…a spider’s labour framed in dewdrops…time to start the day…

Share Your World – 2016 Week 36

I sincerely hope you enjoy my questions for this week and find the questions interesting enough to play along.   You don’t think a lot about these questions, unless of course it is FUN for you.  Simply dream and just let loose, or you let your alter ego answer if you want.   Have a fabulous week everyone!! With your answers, please remember we are in the Share Your World world which may not always match our reality.

If you were given a boat or yacht today, what would you name it?  (You can always sell the yacht later)

I’m sorry but I’d be boring…it would be simply The Boat, not even anything wannabe-ish cool like Das Boote…I thought about this when Lotteries NZ used have the Big Wednesday draw that included a boat, rather a flash one, as part of the prize package. It always turned me off more than tempted me to buy a ticket…I mean, some guy just drops a boat off in front of your garage and drives off…what? Gee, thanks, all right..maybe I could put the chickens in it…then it would be The Coop: would that be better…?

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…but my parents used to have a yacht…

Which of Snow White’s 7 dwarfs describes you best?  (Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey) Plus what would the 8th dwarf’s name be? 

The analysis here pretty much mirrors my take on each of the dwarf’s personal attributes – I’ve included the link just for those readers who have not yet explored the deeper darker recesses of my mind – and I would have to opt for Grumpy, the protective one who tends to act when he senses a need for action…doesn’t mean for one second that he’s right, just that he sees a need for action when his protective gene goes off…

An 8th dwarf..? Do I sense the subtle stench of sequelitis…? The 8th dwarf already has a name and it’s Snow White…clearly she’s assimilated into the dwarf hive and sees herself as part of it…blonde or otherwise, if the other dwarves called her anything behind her back it would probably be Ditzy…

Name a song or two which are included on the soundtrack to your life?

The Mummer’s Dance. I first heard this as an Erich Kunzel cover. I misread the CD cover and always thought that it was from the soundtrack of Prince of Eqypt until my younger daughter corrected me during one of our music nights a couple of years ago…Regardless, it has become of of those soundtrack tunes that is always running in the back of my mind ready to burst to the surface in unguarded moments…

Many years ago, TVNZ adapted Dusty Springfield’s I Only Want to Be With You as a promotion for TV2. The first version of this that I owned was on the Vonda Shepard soundtrack from Ally McBeal…hence the version above…

They always played it just before Babylon 5 screened and I came to associate that catchy tune with the B5 ethos and culture…the last best hope…do the right thing…sacrifice…dedicate…go the extra mile…fighting the good fight…II Timothy 4-7…and who personified those more than Susan Ivanova

…as above, Grumpy with the over-active protective gene…

…and this is what started it all, the original TV2 promo clip…

Complete this sentence:  I like watching…

Amsterdam Nov 13-013.JPG…people…sitting outside with a good hot coffee, watching, wondering, imagining their back stories…why is that one hurrying? Why does that one appear happy, sad, flustered, angry…?

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I’m grateful that I listed to my muse and committed to the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care course at Hillary Outdoors last week. I wasn’t sure at all that getting back into this world would be a good thing for me. Muse said it would be and that I should just do it…right again, Muse. like usual…

I enjoyed the pre-course study, getting in, exploring and researching. I loved the course – I’d already done some stuff with Henry and Budgie from  Peak Safety before so no worries there but on any course, you’re never quite sure about the course itself until Day One. This course rocked…an eclectic group, for sure, but one that jelled really well, lots of laughs and good to train with…for me the mark of any course is whether I want to repeat it and I would do PHEC again tomorrow, even as a consolidation…

I was worried that my previous training might be out of date or too narrow: while some things have changed and some of the new technologies are sci-fi compared to what we used to have, a good ninety percent was still relevant after I dusted off a lot of cobwebs…so where to from here..? Not sure…I’m wondering whether the local Fire Brigade would be a good venue or whether there’d be more and better experience getting into the eventing circuit…? Lots of questions…

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If only firies still had engines as cool as this…

I baked for the course and am also grateful that went down well; and this this time my orange cake worked, although my banana peel cake wasn’t as deep or as rich the the previous one – not sure if that is down to subbing out the butter with coconut oil, or maybe the peels were not as well pureed as last time..?

Looking forward to next week? I’ve ordered one of these:

…and expect it to be delivered Monday or Tuesday. I’m on a seven day roster next week but hope to get some simple experimentation underway on a couple of nights…just simple stuff to get the basic principles under my hat. Maybe I’ll start by just making my porridge with it each morning and it looks like it can operate as a super-slow cooker so maybe it’ll be time for another round of beets and rice..?

I Miss My Mate

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Today, it’s been a year since my best mate, Kirk, passed away from cancer…it’s been a year and I still miss him so much…

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We raised him from a puppy…because I was able to take him to work with me -rank really does have its privileges – I guess he bonded more closely with me…I don’t think he was really that interested in doctrine or lessons learned but he clearly loved coming on base with me.

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He was always very dignified…

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…but not always the sharpest “Hey, look! I got up on the trailer…but now I can’t get down…” And in a situation like this he would cry and cry, not bark, just cry…

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Puppy poses aside, Kirky really was very dignified…he would play with other dogs but I really think he thought of himself more as a person and, apart from Lulu his sister, he would associate with other dogs more out of politeness than anything else…

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Kirk and Lulu snuggle time…

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Nowhere was Kirk’s association with people clearer than in his favourite past time: watching TV. This started with a growing interest in It’s Me or the Dog and we soon realised that he would only take notice if the sound of dogs was live/genuine and not canned…it grew from there and his favourites were David Attenborough and B grade science fiction, especially the BBC rubber costume genre…

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I used to leave the TV on for him when I went out. This had to stop after the polar bear incident: a few years back one of the banks had an ad that featured a polar bear leaping ‘out’ of the screen. Kirk left three deep scratches on the screen where he ‘defended’ himself against the attacking bear…

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Watching TV with Kirk was often like gettinga  seat at the movies behind the guy with the Afro hair style…

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He may have looked big and scary to some but he was really just a gentle giant…so careful around small children…and all he really wanted was to be with me…if I went away he would sit by the front door and pine til I came home. The sole exception to this was when he went to the Creature Comforts kennel in Sanson – just at the end of the runway at RNZAF Ohakea, handy for me – I think Kirk was a little bit in luff with Irene one of the ladies who ran the kennel: normally he would get quite agitated at free-ranging stock (it probably offended his German sense of order) but at Creature Comforts which had free-range everything…chickens, pigs, sheep, alpacas, etc…he only had eyes for Irene and never batted an eyelid at the errant wandering stock…

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A rare Happy Meal treat…

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Running free…wherever he is…

Banana Peel Cake Take #2

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It was so good, it was all gone before I thought to take a photo…

A couple of months back, I experimented with cake from banana peel. It didn’t come out as well as I would have liked…a little solid and quite dry…Challenged to feed the troops at work, I had another crack at it.

I’ve done some learning since that first attempt and have two knew tricks to keep my cakes nice and moist: the first is to remove the cake from the oven when it is still a little underdone. The normal wisdom is that the cake is done when a skewer comes out clean: the truth is that it is already well done by this stage: the time to remove it from the oven is when just a few crumbs still stick to the skewer. The second trick is to store your cakes in a proper sealable cake tin i.e. not just on a plate on a shelf or in the fridge where it will quickly dry out.

My experiment with blending banana whole i.e. skinned has been going well: the only hiccup has been that fresh banana skins are a little too fibrous to blend smoothly. Ripe and frozen bananas go through the blades no problem. If in doubt, I place any under-ripe peels in a container in the freezer where they start to break down. They only seem to semi-freeze which is probably why they still ripen while ‘frozen’ and only need 30 minutes if that, before they are soft enough to puree. the thawing process can be hastened by soaking the skins in water.

Unimpressed with the original banana peel recipe that was hideously over-sugared, I decide to use Nadia Lim’s base recipe for kumara cake and just sub out the three cups of kumara with three cups of pureed banana peel.I added some water – maybe a half cup – to the peels when pureeing them and this made that task and lot simpler and easier. I ‘greened’ up the recipe a tad by using 50/50 raw sugar and coconut sugar, and a 25/75 mix of home-ground wholemeal flour and store-bought high grade flour.

What came out of the oven was a lush rich uber-tasty cake that everybody thinks is ‘normal’ banana cake. They are amazed at the actual key ingredient. I like this recipe because a. it taste good and b. it reduces waste in the kitchen – sure, I’d only be composting the peels anyway but using banana peels in baking reduces the waste from a banana to just the very ends.

But wait!! It gets better. I reprised the healthy coffee icing I used on my colourful beetroot cake. To stretch the cashews I subbed in one third walnuts, soaked these overnight and followed the same recipe. I upped the coffee by half a teaspoon and it really kicks butt – an even healthier coffee hit. I can’t do too much about the sugar but will reduce it by half next time as the coffee flavour dominates and the base cake is pretty sweet anyway…

 

DIY Almond Coconut Milk

My green journey began after the reducing dairy conversation with Bubble…my initial resistance was based on the impossibility of life without cheese, yogurt or ice cream, all of which quickly found dairy-free alternatives for…”Plus think I have mastered the bannoffee breakfast drink now and must have milk for that!!” The comeback “Sometimes milk is needed (e.g. nice cafe latte) other times vanilla almond milk is great (smoothies, cereal and instant coffee!)” set me on the path of alternative milks.

Until this point, I had only associated alternative milks with soy which I never much liked: that there might be other options out there was total news to me…I always pushed obliviously past those shelves at the supermarket. I started out with prepacked almond and coconut from the supermarket but was never that comfortable with all the big words in the ingredients panel on each package plus each empty package = waste…

It didn’t take much Googling to learn that making my own almond, coconut or almond coconut is actually quite easy, actually so easy that I wonder why anyone would bother with the store-bought packs..? I’ve expounded the benefits to a lot of people online and in real life and I thought that it’s probably past time for a bit of a tutorial…

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I have a dedicated blender for milk making…it was only $24, heavily discounted at Briscoes…the advantages it brings to the game is that it has the capacity to hold the nut and 1.2 litres of water, and I can pulse the mix every ‘while’ as it sits.I used to use my bullet blender but had to amalgamate the mix in a separate bowl.

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The raw materials: I buy the chopped almonds in 3kg lots from Happy and Healthy, and the coconut chips in 1kg lots from Bin Inn or similar bulk stockists. I add a cup (approx 100 grams) of each to the blender and cover it with boiling filtered water – our water here is all rain water, but we’re well into the filtering habit and it doesn’t do any harm…

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Pulse the mix of nuts and boiling water for a minute or so…I think that the boiling water helps bring out the oils and flavours from the nuts…

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It’ll look something like this..DSCF0453

Top it up to the Max mark with cold filtered water – you could use more boiling water but I don’t thing it adds anything and you would need to be a lot more careful pulsing the mix until it cools down…

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Let the mix sit for a few hours or preferably overnight, giving it a quick pulse stir up every time you walk by or get bored…

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After sitting overnight, the milk has separated into the meal at the bottom and the oils and good stuff has risen to the top…the same happens in the bottle hence the good shake before use…

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Spread your filter cloth over the target bowl. My filter cloth is polyester voile I bought as a bulk end lot from Spotlight ($12 for 5+ metres)…I just sliced off a half metre square and find this much easier to use than nut milk bags which are also more expensive and harder to clean.

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Pour the mix into the centre of the cloth…

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Draw in the edges and let the bulk of the liquid drain through into the bowl…

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Hold the top of the filter cloth and twist the ball of meal so that the tightening cloth squeezes the remaining liquid into the bowl…

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Voila! one litre of almond coconut milk, fresh as with no big words or other additives. This will last in the fridge for a week. It will settle and will need a shake before you use it. I use this any place I would previously have used milk except for cheesemaking where it probably will not work (haven’t actually tried that) but may still be doable for dairy-free cheese (also not tried yet – with this milk)

I save the leftover almond coconut meal to use in baking. I generate a lot of it and so dry it over the fire or in the oven after baking (I switch the oven off and let the residual heat do the drying) and store it in a sealed container until I need it.

I use the meal in bread (1/2 a cup into every mix), almond coconut cookies, as a substitute for flour-heavy recipes and also recently used it to absorb the additional fluid when I put too much milk in the mix for my roast baby armadillo recipe

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Mirror | The Daily Post

This week’s challenge is all about reflections. Show us a mirror. You can take this photo challenge literally, and find reflections in mirrors, or in the stillness of a natural body of water. Or, use this challenge to take a photo of yourself in the mirror. Self-documentation is important, especially for those of us who are usually behind the lens.

Source: Mirror | The Daily Post

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Purakanui Inlet, on the coast (obviously), just north of Dunedin on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

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Lulu loves the wind in her face…we finally got her to accept that it was a better idea to keep her feet inside the car. She’s an old dog now, but still loves going for a drive..she’s not quite up to getting up on the deck on her own now so we have a little loading ramp in the garden for her to board and debus…

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The prototype Fisher XP-75 in the old experimental hangar at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio…a memento of a brief era when a highly-polished surface equalled a few more miles per hour in maximum speed…

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I have no idea what this building is but it is opposite the Thon Hotel in Brussels. I always preferred to stay in town when working in Brussels: yes, it was a 30 minute bus ride to work each morning but the evenings, we explored all the eateries, bars and alleyways around the Borse…

Orange Walnut Cake

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I forgot to photograph the process and this little bit was the last remaining piece by the time I remembered…good texture, just a little overcooked…

I’m always looking for new ways to reduce waste and to make the most use of each ingredient. After the success of my lemon icing experiment last month, I thought I’d try the same with orange zest. I looked at a lot of recipes but I liked this one for orange walnut cake from Don’t Forget Delicious as it wasn’t too sugar heavy…

I changed the recipe slightly using half and half combinations of raw sugar and coconut sugar, high-grade flour and home-milled whole flour, and manuka honey and coconut syrup.I didn’t read the instructions properly and baked it in a loaf dish which was too deep to allow the centre to cook at the same rate as the outside: it needs to be baked in a flat pan (I realised this just now as I was checking the recipe). It took three small oranges to around a tablespoon of orange zest…I might aim for a little more next time

Because I used the wrong baking dish, I had to leave it in the oven longer to bake the whole way through and so the final result was a little scorched on top and generally dry inside. Lesson learned for next time.

I wanted a Greek yogurt icing recipe as I had a lot leftover after our beets, feta and rice dinner the other night  and found this one:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of icing, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon of orange zest – maybe a little more next time for a stronger orange flavour – I only had quite small oranges (took one to contribute about a teaspoon of zest) so using bigger ones next time should sort this

Instructions

  • Whisk all ingredients until they become a bit thick.
  • Place in the fridge to thicken even more (at least 30 minutes).
  • Spread on cupcakes.

This tasted really good but the recipe calls for way too much yogurt: even after a night in the fridge to thicken it as per the instructions it was still really fluid, too much so to effectively spread…next time I will drop the yogurt down to half a cup and see how that goes…

I was only able to smear a little of the icing over the top without it running off the sides but it did it help conceal the slightly scorched crust. I took it into work and it still disappeared pretty quickly so it wasn’t a total flop…

Orange zest is now a proven ingredient and I am keen to see if I can make a workable orange curd spread in the same way you can with lemons…

We can make and enjoy nice treat and stay true to our green journey…

Share Your World – 2016 Week 33 – INSPIRING MAX

Source: Share Your World – 2016 Week 33 – INSPIRING MAX

Following Max’s lead again for this weekly challenge…(slightly delayed because I forgot to schedule it to post…)

Would you travel into outer space?

Absolutely…we can’t stay on this little blue ball forever…when I was ten I not only wanted to build this but believed it was totally possible..

moonbase ufo shadoWhich country/city in the world (that you have never been to) would you most like to visit and why?

I pick two…

My first pick is the same as Max’s…I’d love to visit Iceland, the ultimate mix of ice and volcanoes…

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My second pick is an ice chapel somewhere in Japan…one of the girls I worked with a couple of years ago told me about this place and I’ve been curious about it ever since…

ice chapelI’m not sure if this pic is that exact location – the one she showed me looked pretty classy but most of the pix I could find online looked like alpine versions of a Nevada wedding mill…

What could you do to breathe more deeply today?

I’m not sure really…it was a day off so I started with my normal stretching routine (days on are generally a little more challenging organisation-wise)…then I got called into work to resolve a technical difficulty which was easy enough…then I go some potentially really good news from one of my lawyers and that was cause for some deep breaths to keep calm to confirmation one way or t’other comes through next week..all in all I think my breathing was appropriate for the day I had…

Complete this sentence:  This creamy peanut butter sandwich could really use some … Tabasco sauce…I don’t really like peanut butter except as a baking additive and Tabasco sauce is my solution to any food I don’t like…tastes like Tabasco…

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m really grateful that my annual performance review interview last week went in a direction that I totally did not expect and left me with great prospects for the future; I’m looking forward to a week of solid study before I go on course the week after…

 

‘Cado, pineapple and ‘mato salad

Last night, I mentioned that, I was still searching for a suitable side to go with my Kumara curry and salmon hash browns…after five years, can you believe it? I’ve been getting by with rocket salads but I kinda hate rocket…if I’m absolutely honest about it…

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So, on Wednesday afternoon, I sat down with a lot of coffee and considered the problem. What textures and flavours would complement but not compete with the textures and flavours of the hash browns and salmon. There is just a hint of curry in the hashes, mixed with the salt of the salmon and smooth cheesiness of the sour cream that holds the stack together. Overall it’s quite sweet and smooth.

It all came together quickly after I thought of an avocado base….smooth and sweet…with pineapple, sweet with a fibrous texture…with diced tomato…more tart and something else to bite into. Originally I was going to warm this mix in the microwave – it is winter after all – but opted for a natural heat from a sauce derived from the fried avocado tacos at The Guardian by blending all these together:

1 cup of sour cream

2 small chillies

2 gloves of garlic

1 tablespoon of lime juice

1 bunch of coriander

a smidgen of salt and pepper

The black rice was an afterthought left over from the previous night’s beets, feta and rice…I wasn’t really sure what to do with it otherwise but it worked well in our salad.

The first night I only used a teaspoon-sized dollop of the sauce on the salad – wasn’t enough to appreciate all the flavours. I had one hash stack left over plus about a cup and a half of the salad and other stuff in the fridge from a  week of cooking that I needed to consume to free up fridge space.

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So this is Take Two: one curry kumara salmon stack reheated in the microwave (it was already cooked: normally, I would keep the hash mix uncooked), with a goodly amount of greek yogurt on top, with the salad accompanied by a decent-sized dollop of the coriander and chili sauce, topped with feta from the beets and rice dinner…

Mmmm…primo!!!! A great blend of flavours and textures, with bonus points for good use of left-overs…less points for unused salmon which I just remembered is still sitting in the fridge…

…so tomorrow’s challenge may involve smoked salmon, streaky bacon, feta, sour cream, greek yoghurt, a tomato and an avocado. The rest of the pineapple – all fresh here no canned stuff – is destined for smoothies with banana, chia seed, coconut milk and tumeric…

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