Friday, November 06, 2009

1400 km (b)

IT CONTINUES (remember to click on the pictures for big).

You may remember from the last post that we had just left Ohakune, en route to Palmerston North.

We decided to continue with a theme we started as we left Ohakune, i.e. taking pictures of ourselves next to outsized roadside objects. The next available one on the way to Palmy was at Taihape, the gumboot-throwing capital of the world. What else but a giant gumboot?


It's made of the now seemingly ubiquitous corrugated iron, the material of choice for rejuvenated small towns New Zealand-wide.

We stopped at the DC-3 in Mangaweka, which were slightly disappointed to find was closed for upgrading. Good place to stop though, I'm sure they're still trying to get the biscuit crumbs out of the carpet.

No pictures taken for some reason so here's a FILE PHOTO (Wikipedia):


We got to Palmerston at about 5 p.m., bang on time for Rach's cousin Shaun to let us in to his mum's place, where we were staying. Greta is Rach's mum's sister, and we were made to feel very welcome by her, her husband Paul, and their daughter Mandy.

We had such a relaxing time there that we forgot to take very many pictures. Here's Greta (with Betty in an unusually relaxed mode):


They have a lovely dog called Tara, whose nose you can see poking its way into the picture. Ella had a great time playing with her, and even Betty (who is sometimes even scared of the cat she's known her whole life) warmed to her.

Mandy works as an early childhood teacher, so of course we just dumped the kids on her. Not really, she obviously loves her job, and the kids loved hanging out with her, jumping in bed with her in the morning to watch cartoons.

Here she is, returning the favour by jumping into their bed:


By now it was Saturday, and quite windy. It's been windy every time I've been to Palmerston North - the locals reckon I've just been (un)lucky. WHAT EVER BRO. I had made a ballsup and not packed any jerseys, so we had wander around the central city on a fruitless search for one.

Having had a good look at the city, as well as the newly-extend Plaza (looking and feeling frighteningly similar to Gayfair), we went to see Rach's cousin Dawn.

While it may seem to the casual observer that Palmerston North is 36% full of people who are related to Rach (and therefore to Ella and Bethan), this is not really true.

It's more like 40%.

Dawn is Jan's eldest daughter. Jan is Greta and Rach's mum's sister. Dawn is married to Wayne, one of the nicest guys on the planet. Dawn is about 10 weeks younger than Rach, and in a nice bit of symmetry, her and Wayne's daughter Lucy is about 10 weeks younger than Ella.

They also have Austin and Jack, twin four-year-old boys. The kids all got on fantastically, so much so that we went away and came back for dinner.

Clicking on this picture of Ella and Lucy will take you to a set of pictures of mostly the kids doing their thing:


Sunday dawned bright and early, with us heading to church with the rest of the family. HA HA NO IT DIDN'T but I did go for a run. Yep, I've turned into one of those.

Once I'd regained what little fat I'd burned by eating 18 rounds of toast, we took off to Ashhurst, where we didn't stop.

Instead we drove over Saddle Road to Woodville. Woodville wasn't our main goal either - we stopped in the middle of Saddle Road to look at the wind turbines.

It was raining and, quite frankly, fucking freezing, but none of that could detract from the majesty/beauty/general amazingness of these things. There are far more of them than I ever realised, literally hundreds.

Driving up the road and seeing them loom out of the hillside is like being in some slightly surreal sci-fi movie.

You can park directly underneath one at the top of Saddle Road, and it's only then that you realise that not only are they awesome/eerie etc. - they're also bloody huge.

Due to the horizontal rain (dunno how it wasn't sleet or snow with the temperature being so low), photos were a bit tricky. Here's a lucky good one of Ella and a turbine:


It mystifies me why there are people who don't like and don't want these things around.

After the shock and awe of the turbines, we went to see Rach's cousin Errol (Dawn's brother) and his wife Carla before sodding off to Wellington.

Which I'll write about next time.

Feel free to comment your arses off, you know you want to.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

1400km part 1

[click photos for big, or visit flickr for too many photos]

The original reason for going to Wellington was to see the F1 exhibition at Te Papa. We flew down last time, but this was when Rach was working in Wellington, as well as Bethan being under two, so able to fly for free. Two extra airfares meant that it was going to be cheaper to drive down.

This also coincided with me getting a week of long-service leave. Yes, I've been there 10 years, yes it might be time for a change, yes I'm doing something about it.

Never mind all that though, I had to use this leave all in one go, so we decided to do a road trip to Wellington in the school holidays. It was also long overdue that we visit all Rach's family in Palmerston North, and while we were at it, why not go to Ohakune on the way down and have a bit of a ski?

So, Thursday 1st October, we left (relatively) early. Surprisingly, we had such a small amount of crap packed, I was able to see completely out the rear window of the Volvo.

Memory's fading as it was well over a week ago now, but I'm pretty sure Te Kuiti was our first stop, for a coffee and some kid snacks. Then it was onto a favourite town of mine, Taumarunui. My liking of this place was reinforced by the free wifi outside the Taumarunui Public Library.

We stopped next at Raurimu, home of the famous Raurimu Spiral. We'd looked for this in the past, but never managed to find any of it. This time, though, we found a path directing us to the lookout. There's a sign in case you forget where you are:


There's still very little of the spiral itself visible (perhaps it's better with a train on it?), but they provide a handy model on a big tall pole as high as the lookout:


What's that? The spiral's not exciting enough for you? OK then, here's a picture of us in the Raurimu bus shelter:


After our leisurely drive down, we went straight up to the Turoa skifield. It was late in the day, and quite miserable, so we just had a quick look, checked if the hire place had boots to fit Bethan (they did), then drove back down to our palatial accommodations at the Mountain-View Motel:


Doesn't look that flash you reckon? Check out how they fold the towels!


We very quickly made ourselves at home (i.e. strewed our crap everywhere):


then headed out to eat, at a restaurant, much to my surprise. We went to a place called The Bearing Point (not Breaking Point as I first read it). It had pub prices, combined with (for us at least) an upmarket menu, and crucially, a kids menu too. It was great, and I'd put a link in if they had any discernible internet presence whatsoever.

Quite swanky inside too, which you can only just see in this photo of us before we got kicked out:


No, we didn't get kicked out! The kids were models of good behaviour. The same can't be said about me - I went for an entree and a main, which turned out to be too much. So much too much that not only could I not face dessert, but I couldn't even go for the ice cream at the dairy that the rest of the family opted for.

We'd booked a time in the motel's spa, which the guy had apologised about for being old and not having bubbles. No bubbles? Dude, it's a freakin' spa, we don't care! It was hot and had jets, and was perfect on a cold Ohakune night.

Next morning it was skiing time! Picked up some rentals for Rach from Station Lodge Rentals, and got me some cheap ex-rental poles while we were at it too.

Up the picturesque Ohakune Mountain Road

View Larger Map

to Turoa. A smashing bloke let me drop the girls off, then park miles and miles closer than everyone else - thanks very much indeed! I joined them at Turoa rentals, picking up skis for Ella, and hilariously cute little miniature ones for Betty:


Ella had a go at skiing last year, so she got straight onto the skis and seemed to remember everything she'd learned last time. We'd booked her a lesson at midday, so she did a solid couple of hours.

Meanwhile, I skied down holding onto Betty, which she enjoyed as long as she was moving:


As you can see, the cloud kept coming in, but it didn't stop us.

Ella ended up having a one-on-one lesson (the teacher didn't believe she was six at first) - next year I'm determined to take her up a bit higher. Rach too - she loves skiing now. How lucky of us to have found a nice cheap family sport.

I had a single run from the top, but by the time I got there the cloud had completely closed in so it was a bit of an invisible ride down to meet the girls in the bottom cafe.

As it had started properly raining now, we decided to leave. Before we left Ohakune, we did the traditional fond farewell activity of taking stupid photos of ourselves with the giant carrot:




Of course, Bethan is actually licking the carrot in the above photo.

Next instalment, Palmerston North!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Senior Systems Engineer's crumpet

Not Rach. Well, OK, Rach, but also these (cue over-processed photo):

[click for big on the pictures]

I don't know about you, but I furkin' love crumpets. Bung 'em in the toaster, put butter on while they're hot so it goes straight through onto the breadboard, then jam, or cheese, or honey, or golden syrup, or whatever. You just cant beat bread with holes in it.

I've been having a go at making things that you normally only buy. So far, this has extended to croissants (success) and pita bread (was aiming for something different but they were nice anyway), as well as just normal bread.

Crumpets can't be hard, right? Let's see . . .

[photos might be a bit shit as I took them, Ella was otherwise engaged as you'll see]:


Delia Smith's recipe was pretty much the first one I found, and for this second go, I've stuck to it as it works very well. In the future I might try one where you use baking powder rather than yeast. Maybe this one?

Here's the milk, water, sugar and real yeast (not Surebake):


After 10 minutes on top of the dryer, there's a brown froth on top, which I forgot to take a picture of. It looks kind of like the scum you get at the bottom of waterfalls.

Meanwhile, beside me there was some sort of fight going on between Ella and Rach. Not entirely sure what was about, but it seemed to involve about two thirds of the world's supply of cocoa powder:


Betty was asleep so we were temporarily safe from total destruction.

I sifted some flour - here's a better picture of the floral sifter. No-one's asked, but I know that's just because you're shy:


I made a well in the flour:


The whatever-it-was continued unabated next to me, despite my protests:


I added the scum to the well:


and mixed them to a smoooooooooooooooooooooooooooth batter:


I left it on top of the dryer while those other two made pies or something, I dunno:


The batter had to rise for a bit, during which time the almost-solid-cocoa circles went into the kiln and came back out, looking like this:


I think something went a bit wrong, they look all puffy.

We all went off to Chartwell to get haircuts about now. This took longer than expected and I had visions of returning to find a laundry completely filled with expanded batter.

Sadly, this was not to be; it was only this big:


Close-up of the moonscape, glup glup:


I scooped up spoonsful of this (quite difficult as it's very very gluey, kind of like hot mozzarella):


which were then squeegee'd off the spoon and into the frying pan (butter in there already):


Full-on crumpets are meant to be done using metal rings, but the $2 Shop didn't have any, so we have free-form crumpets instead. After a while they look a bit like this:


at which point they get turned over for the other side to cook. This is what they look like at the end:



Not much like crumpets, right? Don't care, they taste bloody awesome, anyway, Delia said they'd be different. I think they're better once they've cooled down and gone a bit spongy, but they're pretty good when hot too.

They look a bit more like crumpets on the inside:


So, that's crumpets (and chocolate muffins), they're in the rotation now. Try it yourself and let me know how you go.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Springfield flowers

Ah yeah, I bloody love flowers, mostly because I'm so old. If you don't like flowers, or pictures of them, you may want to self-censor. Some of the photos include children though . . .

[Click on pictures for big]


This tree flowers about this time of year, huge things, with no leaves on the tree at all. It's quite amazing.




They look like this once the petals fall off:


Hey look there's Ella (and her umbrella):




Ah god help they're multiplying!









Manuka/kanuka/tea tree (pretty sure it's manuka but you tell me):




Weird bush that smells like a tea tree or something:




This one's back, minus pants:


Daphne smells nice (she may be eating it):


I don't know what these are but they're probably weeds:


These are also unknown but are probably not weeds:


Ooo hello saucy:


These ones look like they're made of wax or plastic but that can't be right:


Don't need no umbrellas inside:


Please comment or Bethan comes to your house without pants and eats all your flowers.