Monday, 3 May 2021
Family dinner provided the perfect opportunity to open up the very last book in the recipe book challenge:
I started the challenge in May last year, so it's taken almost a year to get here! 44 books later (and one book smuggled out the door ), and I've finally made it. The recipe book shelf has gone from this:
To this: (I also got a new phone with a better camera):
Looking at the shelf now I'm not sure how the BBQ book survived, or Stephanie Alexander's very boring book. And astute observers will notice that some books have gotten a bit out of order during the challenge. Nevertheless the task is complete. The South Hobart book exchange got some new books, my shelf got less cluttered, and I found some good new recipes along the way.
The final book Nibbled was all about small dishes - good for soirees and high teas. Both of these items (lime meringue tarts and chocolate truffle macaroons) were pretty delicious so this book gets to stay.
So what's next? Well continuing with the food theme I'd like to make a dining table. I have little to no carpentry skills so it's going to e a challenge!
The other day I had a uni assignment due. So I planned to get on with it over the weekend. Just as soon as I ..
went for a run..
Sorted an entire childhoods worth of lego into bags
did a little baking..
and some vacuuming.
With those essential tasks out of the way I could finally settle down to doing the assignment. But by then it was Monday.
All's well that ends well though - as it happens I had plenty of time to get it done during the week so I submitted it it on time.
Thursday, 15 April 2021
On our only full day in Hardy's Bay, I worked in the morning while the kids slept in and Jon did the crossword. After lunch we all went out to various walk sections of the Boudi Coastal Trail. I was keen to walk the full 10km of it, but everyone else was satisfied with 5k. Luckily for us, Shirley was tolerant of our wishes and dropped us off in different places to make our way back to the shack. Over the next 2 hours I had a lovely time listening to podcasts and enjoying the views.
We had well deserved pizza for dinner then were in bed pretty early as we had a relatively early start.
After a great sleep and delicious breakfast followed by goodbyes to our always excellent hosts, we hit the road again - this time heading north. We decided we couldn't face the Blue Mountains road so we went west via Newcastle - it added an extra hour or so, but did present us with a nice opportunity to visit the Dubbo Zoo on our way to Parkes. After 6 hours of driving we made it to the zoo entrance by 2pm, just as everyone else seemed to be leaving despite the zoo not closing until 4pm. Unfortunatly the bike hire place had shut, so we had to get around the 5km loop on our legs which would have been harder if we hadn't been able to stop for icecreams half way around.
Zebras. And Humans.
How cute are those meerkats! And the elephant that refused to take Zali for a ride.
We left Dubbo after 5 and had another hour to our cheapo motel at Parkes, which despite its dodgy appearance, was pretty spacious on the inside. We met Andy for dinner of hamburgers, the first of a run of 4 straight days of takeaway meals - something I don't think we've ever done before!
The next day the orienteering didn't start until the afternoon so we had time for a visit to the Parkes Dish:
Then it was out to some forest near Eugowra where we all had fun running the NSW middle distance championships. The rocks were very big..
Driving back to Parkes we drove under this huge flock of bats circling a group of trees - the sky was practically black with them. It was so amazing we pulled over to watch them for a while.
That evening we had free-choice takeaway (I got noodles, Jon & Jett had Thai, Andy had Indian, and Zali had Dominos), and watched The Dish on the dvd player in our room - the movie holds up pretty well and even managed to keep the kids watching for the duration - which is quite an achievement for a non-modern movie!
The next day we were back out at Eugowra for the NSW Long Distance Champs. And long it certainly was - I made 10 minutes of mistakes at one control, and took it pretty slowly after that, ending up with a total time of 97 minutes - fast enough to win which was crazy. The terrain was very difficult to move through at any speed, and the technical challenge was very high. All the winning times were very long. Zali and Jett both had good runs on the same course I was doing, and Jon had a pretty good run on his longer course. Unlike the really long day of Easter, it wasn't hot (it was freezing), and there was water out on the course, although suspecting longer times, I carried my own as well.
After collecting our badges (we haven't had badges as prizes for a while!), we drove towards our final night's accommodation at Mt Victoria, stopping to visit some Karst terrain on the way..
We decided to spend the night at Mt Victoria to avoid the traffic surge heading back to Sydney on the Sunday night. It turned out to be a good decision as the holdups started right after we turned off to our somewhat fancy hotel. Our 3rd night of takeaway was Indian from one of the Katoomba indian places - and it was great - although we did have to wait for the traffic to clear before going to get it.
The next morning we had fancy breakfast (part of the tariff), before packing up and heading down the road to Evan's lookout.
From Evans Lookout we set off on the 6km Grand Canyon hike, which was completely awesome although my phone struggled a lot with the low light.
If you only do one walk in the Blue Mountains this would be a good one to do.
Without rushing we got around the circuit in about 90 minutes, well less than the advertised 3-4 hours. This meant we still had some time to kill before our flight, so we went to the obvious place - Ikea! It was good timing actually as we were all pretty hungry by the time we arrived, so we had a great Ikea lunch (not quite as cheap as breakfast though), then checked out the store and the neighbouring sports store Decathalon. Then we still had time to grab an Ikea icecream before going to the airport. Our flight home was smooth and we were kindly picked up by Clare (saving us $ on parking which was good as we spent so much money on takeaway!).
What a holiday - it was fantastic to see our friends again, we're lucky that we could do that!
Thursday, 8 April 2021
After a relatively easy drive back to Sydney, we had a lovely evening with more old friends then spent half of the next day in Lane Cove with Tracy and Paul. After heavy overnight rain we headed out early to do one of our old regular runs around the Lane Cove River:
Down from Paul and Tracy's house
Around the golf course
Through Fairylands - the site of a long lost amusement park
Back over the river at Epping Road (hello Sydney!)
Back down by the river before climbing up the hill to home. It was delightful.
After we stopped sweating buckets, we headed out to check out the upgraded Lane Cove Shops - we stepped out of the new carpark into another world - one where the daggy old carpark had been replaced with lots of trendy shops and green space and play areas - even BBQs. The 'old' Lane Cove was still visible at the edges but it was pretty disorienting at first. Very nice though!
While we did that the kids went to IKEA - without us!! Tiia has her Ps so they went off together with only a few navigational hiccups due to there being two Ulm streets in Sydney. Thankfully the other one wasn't too far away and they made it home eventually. I think they were pretty pleased with themselves and their purchases!
Even Tiia's very cool pet lizard Dave seemed pleased with the purchases:
After a snack and a repack, we left for Hardy's Bay and arrived in time for a swim before dinner. It turned out not to be such a great idea though as the beach and the water was covered in junk from the recent floods. The water was also pretty rough. Zali advised us against swimming but we did anyway while they watched and contemplated their new lives as orphans..
We survived though!
After a late flight to Sydney, we stayed our first night out of the state since early 2020 in a dodgy yet perfectly located hotel in the Blue Mountains - it was just a 10 minute stroll down to the 3 Sisters lookout which we went to check out while the kids slept off our 12:45am arrival of the previous night.
Then it was onto Orange. Slowly! With the alternative route closed due to floods, all the traffic was driving the way we were, which made for some VERY slow going until the Lithgow turnoff. Nevertheless we made it to the first event of the Easter orieneering carnival - the family relay - with plenty of time to spare.
I'd been looking forward to this for a while - with Zali running elites, I regained my spot in the team and only had to run the short leg, while Jon and Jett managed the long and medium legs respectively.
None of us made mistakes which had us finishing in a very respectable 6th place overall (in a very strong field), and an even more respectable 3rd place on handicap which was super cool as we won an Orange themed tea-towel as part of our prize pack! Our trip had paid off already!
The next 3 days are a blur as we competed in 3 tough days of travelling and orienteering in hot weather, interspersed with swims in the lake and hanging out with our friends. It's been so long and it was so lovely just to have time to relax and be together!
Our drive each day took us past this section of old road which I found really interesting!
Orange is a really pretty town - particularly as the tree-lined streets turned to gold. There were lots of lovely parks and places to swim - including Lake Canobolas (above).
It went by so quick and I failed to take many photos, but in the end Jon was third, I was second, Jett and Zali were both 4th - a commendable effort from everyone given how physically and technically demanding the competition was. We all enjoyed it (in hindsight!) .
Thursday, 25 March 2021
We've had fantastic weather this autumn. In fact I even went swimming after our Pittwater training session on Monday..
I made a point of it actually because I felt a bit guilty for not taking advantage of the beautiful day we had the day before at the Randalls Bay orienteering event:
The mainland rain finally hit us yesterday which made for some good waterfall action today.
The left was a snickers cake for Denny and Toby, the right is an orange and dark chocolate cake for.. well you can guess.
I'm only doing one subject this semester so it feels quite cruisy. Pinto and I quite like our Wednesday night lectures.
Tuesday, 9 March 2021
We're just back from our usual March long weekend in St Helens. And as usual it was lovely. We went orienteering each day:
We went to Binalong Bay for a sunset BBQ with our friends:
and the next day we returned after orienteering for a swim in the rockpools:
We relaxed in our rented house which overlooked the township:
We had fish and chips from the fish punt, and Jett and I went riding on the new trails:
I'm already looking forward to our next visit.
Sunday, 28 February 2021
I like rogaining. Sometimes. At least for the first few hours. I then alternate between loving it and hating it for the next 8 hours. By the end I've pretty much decided I hate it. I like it again when it has stopped and we get to eat the delicious food that is always provided when you get back.
Despite my mixed feelings, the Bruny Island Rogaine seemed like a good opportunity to see some Bruny Island sights we rarely get to see from the usual visitor spots, and since it was only (ha!) 12 hours I figured it wouldn't be too bad on my body. That turned out to be wrong of course!
Jett and Paul and I formed our team fairly late (on the last day of entries), when Jett's other options fell through and Paul realised that entries were closing. Unfortunately Jett's youth prevented us from being able to enter appropriately decrepid age class and we had to settle for the mixed open category - something we didn't have a chance in hell of winning. Luckily we weren't in it for the prizes. In the meantime Jon entered with my former paddling buddy Ian, and Zali teamed up with two friends.
So we went to Bruny Island on Friday afternoon and set up camp (unfortunately in the middle of a rainshower) so that we didn't have to get up too early the next day. The event didn't start until 11 but you get given the maps at 8:30 and it takes a while to plan a route and get packed with lunch and other supplies.
After the blink of the eye we were off and running. Well, shuffling. The downhills. For everything else we walked briskly.
The terrain varied from open farmlands, to bracken, to forest, to fences. So many fences. I didn't take a photo of a single one but I think we would have crossed around 80 and I'm not exaggerating. In the above photo Jett is running with a rolled up bit of cardboard that we used to avoid most of the barbed wire. By the end of the race it was completely shredded.
I haven't been rogaining with Paul before - it turns out he's not as keen on sitting-down breaks as Jon is, but after 2 or 3 hours we convinced him that we could at least sit down to take our sandwiches out of our bags, even if we still had to eat them as we walked. I took mine out reealllly sloooowly.
Near the top of one of the hills we encountered Jon and Ian running the other way. Moving signifcantly faster than us they actually managed to visit every last control and cover 67kms, and they even finished with more than an hour to spare - no other teams got close to this.
The day stretched on with more hills, forest, farmland and fences until we eventually found ourselves about to cross the main road near the ferry terminal about about 5.30pm - just over halfway in time and 26km covered. We refilled our water and set off for another 15 or so km stretch to the next water stop. I didn't take as many photos in the 2nd half but I had to get a photo of this section of waist high thistles we had to go through. My legs are scratched up today and I wore gaiters - I'm not sure how Jett coped!
We eventually made our northern most planned point at around 7:45pm / 38km. We stopped to refill our water, eat another sandwich (we were allowed to stop this time), put on our head torches and turn for home. We'd saved a lot of high scoring controls for the last 10 or so k and we were looking pretty good time-wise to still get them all. Unfortunately after getting two of them, Paul's stomach started to cause him trouble and he started to slow right down. In the end we just had to abandon our plans and head down to the main road to walk the last 7km home. This was a bit boring but we did get to see lots of wildlife on the way back and we were all pretty exhausted so Jett and I didn't really mind!
We arrived back at 10:30pm - half an hour before the deadline, after which teams lose 10 points per minute they are late. All up we covered 47k. We did pretty well in the overall standings despite our last few hours - if we'd got the points we'd planned to we probably would have broken the 50k mark which would have been something! I'm really happy with our overall route choice - it was pretty spot on and we made almost zero navigational errors which always helps things stay on track!
Paul went straight to bed as soon as we got back, while Jett and I went to refuel at the food tent with a very late dinner! While we ate we watched the last of the finishers come in (at increasing speed as the time ticked away!). It was nice to debrief with everyone else afterwards.
Paul seemed to be completely fine the next morning which was good. My knee is sore and my legs are scratched. My running shoes will never be the same after tromping on so many strands of barbed wire!
Zali and her friends covered about 35k and won their class. They also had to walk past a lot of controls when one team member got a jack jumper bite and they had to head back for treatment. To their credit after having some dinner and putting some stingose on the bite they headed out into the dark to get some more points!
So it was all good fun(ish). The whole time we were out there, Clare was back in Kingston experiencing pangs of disappointment, as the whole rogaine on Bruny Island was her idea - although she had to pull out of the organising committee before it was held.
Will I do another one? Yeah - dunno. Depends if I've forgotten how hard this one was or not by then!
The topic of tent ownership came up during our campsite discussions on the weekend. In particular the question of how many is too many?
As it happened, the weekend was also the first outing for our 2 newish pop-up tents that we bought perhaps a little too hastily when we got back from Europe. We'd had such a good time car camping in our European versions that we wanted to duplicate the experience at home. When we ordered them we must have forgotten that when we are in Australia we aren't really driving from campsite to campsite for weeks on end. Despite being spacious and quick to put up and take down, they take up a bit of room (although they pack flat under everything else in the car which is handy) and you'd never want to carry them too far away from the car. We donated our European ones to the campsite at Bohinj, where they now live a life of being rented out to campers.
Jett in Slovenia
Big Agnes (left) & new pop-ups on right
As the kids decided that a pop-up tent each was appropriate, we also took our new hiking tent that we got for the South Coast Track. It's called a 'Big Agnes' and it weighs 1.8kg compared to the Macpac Minaret weight of 2.4kg while being twice as spacious and having two doors so you don't have to step on the head of your tent-mate each time you leave it. I love it. It is also the most expensive in our tent fleet.
Adding to the tent tally is my battered and leaky old Minaret that went on my first trip to Europe in 1990, and my new Minaret from 2015. Rob took the new one on the South Cape Track and it was perfectly good for him - essentially it's a heavy one-person tent that can survive a storm.
We also needed to buy Jett a solo person's tent for the South Coast Track as he wisely decided not to share with Uncle Paul. It's pretty light (1.4kg) and quite tight! Jett's is the front one, and my New Minaret is in the background below:
Then we have the family tent we bought when the kids were too small to be by themselves. We never went with a huge multi room tent, but we do have the large one-room + awning model that we haven't used for ages - I think the last time was Jon's last Overland Track run in 2017. It's a pain to put up and take down but you can stand up in it, and you can just fit four sleeping mats side by side with no floorspace in between. The awning is very nice in bad weather and it would still be good for a multi-day car camping trip.
And that just leaves the 2 Denali cheapo hiking tents that were used on the kids ill-fated non-adult camping trip:
Heavier than the Minaret (2.8kgs), these were much cheaper ($200 rather than $500) and more spacious and for those reasons, once we saw we had a good weather forecast, we took them on the Overland track in 2016 (Bjørn borrowed my Minaret on that occasion). Through lots of use over the years both of ours are getting pretty battered and the floors are riddled in small holes from a corby worm attack when they were used in our garden overnight one birthday party.
So. That makes 9 tents. To be fair, three of them (the 2 Denali tents & my old Minaret) are probably not very useful anymore except for maybe at a music festival when it doesn't matter when someone falls on them and busts a pole! I'm keeping them for parts though.
So that leaves 6 functioning tents. 3 for hiking and 3 for car camping. Is that ok? Maybe? If I was forced to reduce our stock to just two, I'd sell them all except our new Big Agnes and use the money to buy another Big Agnes for the kids to share as it's the perfect combo of being spacious enough for car camping, and light enough for hiking.
During this challenge I've accumulated a pile of recipe books that aren't going to make it back onto the shelf. I wasn't sure what to do with them (particularly after my damming writeups!), but I've found the perfect solution..
I park in South Hobart when I drive to work, which allows me to take a nice 20 minute walk down the hobart rivulet track. It's really nice. It also goes past a little serve-yourself book exchange:
So I've been bringing in my books and dropping them off. Not one single of my books has been there when I walked back past the hutch in the afternoon. This was Friday's offering (the bottom shelf was almost empty so I displayed my two books there):
and for the first time I made a withdrawal:
Thursday, 18 February 2021
The other day I made myself scrambled eggs for breakfast. It should have been yummy but I'm always too impatient to cook them slowly and the result was rubbery and tasteless and so much worse than when Jon makes them for me that I was totally disheartened.
So when I saw a scrambled egg recipe in the latest book:
I thought it was a good chance to redeem myself.
The recipe actually wasn't that cheesy as it was just a small amount of spreadable cream cheese - but it was the perfect amount and the end result was great.
The rest of the book features a wide variety of fairly simple and healthy recipes with pictures. There was one interesting bit of food styling I noticed - does anyone else think that the caramel sauce is actually levitating above the plate here?
Overall it's a nice book though, and I might put some cream cheese in my next batch of scrambled eggs. It's certainly up to the usual Womens Weekly high standard unfortunately showing it to Zali is not likely ignite a passion for healthy eating, so I'll pass it on to someone else.
Filled with relief at seeing the Scandinavian horror-show book walk out of the house, I jumped back into the next challenge just a few days later with a classic recipe book:
Now this book is huge, so rather than spend ages sifting through it, I told myself I'd make the recipe on whatever random page I opened it to (provided it was vegetarian). So I was pretty pleased with myself when I opened the book straight to Oeufs à la Neige .
On paper this looked delicious - meringues floating on custard - yum! And hardly any ingredients - yay! It was a bit hard knowing what I was aiming for without any pictures so I googled some and it looked doable. The recipe was quite clever actually - making custard from scratch involves a lot of otherwise wasted egg whites - so what better use for them than meringues. They did require being poached in water which was a bit weird, but aside from that the recipe was straight forward:
One thing noticed when I googled Oeufs a la Neige was that most recipes poached the meringues in milk, whereas Stephanie's version was just water. Unfortunately this made those delicious looking floating islands actually taste gross and poached eggy. Ugg. The custard was okaaay, not amazing - but the meringues were slimy and unpleasant. Jett took two spoonfuls and abandoned it. I had the custard only.
I did further research and it seems that the original recipe has developed over time and is now more like this:
i.e served with caramel sauce or toffee or roasted nuts and the meringue is poached in milk which I imagine improves them. So basically the simple version I made was a failure.
So this puts me in a dilema- after 15 years of barely using this rather heftly (and critically acclaimed) book, the only recipe I've made from it recently has been a dud. Hmm..
While I've been disciplined about doing all the recipe books in the exact order they happened to be on the shelf at the start of this challenge, there is one little book I've been conveniently shuffling further and further down the line:
I've always said there's much to love about scandinavia, but in my opinion, the food is definitely not one of them. Check out a page from the index above. Mmm.. Herring. I admit that someone who loved fish might find something good in here, but it seems that even the simplest of recipes has some sort of nightmarish scandinavian 60s influence twist to it - like mayonnaise in an omelette or pancakes with peas.
I really don't know how this book found its way onto the shelf in the first place - I certainly didn't bring it into the house. Even in my most optimistic moments I haven't found anything I've been interested in making, so I was more than happy to let this book sneakily slide out of the house (no doubt similar to the way it arrived) courtesy of a family dinner guest. Thanks Greg!