Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Australia Day and Lamingtons!

Okay.  So I have a confession.  I don't really remember too much about Australia Day last year.  We didn't really do much.  I think that's why.  All I remember is we did watch the ferrys race by from our place (yeah we were wicked spoiled with the view).  Here they go...

Then we went to Kirribilli club, ate meat pies and had schooners and called it a day.

This year was much more eventful.  We headed out after a morning run to a BBQ in one of the inner west suburbs.  We took a ferry to get there... always a nice way to travel.

Dinner at our favorite Japanese place.

And I made these.  As mentioned in my last post, I have a love hate relationship with the lamington.  Actually, up to this point, it was more a hate relationship.  I just had never had one I really liked... until this recipe friends.  Oh yes, it is that good.

In theory, all lamingtons should be delicious.  A piece of cake that is rolled in chocolate then rolled in coconut... um yes please.  However, like a good chocolate chip cookie in the states, it is hard to find a good one.  They have the packaged stuff at all the markets and most bakeries do them as well... just with very mixed results.

When I got my new issue of Delicious Magazine (think Aussie Bon Appetite) and there was a recipe for strawberry swirl lamingtons, I knew I had to try it.  Better yet... the recipe is from Curtis Stone.  Who is that you may ask... let me tell you.  1. He has a show (or had?) in the states called Take Home Chef where he would ambush (usually women cooking dinner for their hubbies/partners) an unsuspecting shopper in the market and offer to help cook dinner.  Yes, most of the women freaked out... understandable.  2. He hosts Top Chef Masters.  And I love anything Top Chef.  3.  His partner is Lindsay Price... she was on Beverly Hills, 90210 and really I shouldn't need to say anything else about that awesomeness.

Therefore, I concluded, he must have a good lamington recipe.  I was right.  Here it is with a few minor changes.


Strawberry Swirl Lamingtons

Thursday, 24 January 2013

New Zealand Adventures Part 2- South Island

 The South Island is what you picture when thinking of New Zealand.  Vast open spaces with stunning mountain ranges, turquoise water, green hills... really it felt like every five feet we were stopping for photos.  It was that beautiful.  Not that the North Island wasn't very scenic as well... it to me just seemed to remind me of many of the places I have been to... a strange mix of Ireland and Hawaii maybe?  The South Island was unlike any place I have ever been.  Per our usual vacations- it was action packed.

We left Wellington on the ferry that takes a bit over 3 1/2 hours.  Fantastic views of Wellington as you are leaving and then of the Sounds when getting to the South Island.


Just as we were leaving the North Island on the ferry.

It was cold, windy and the water was a bit choppy... this is the only picture where my hair wasn't completely out of control.

Once arriving, we spent a few nights in the Marlborough region.  There are lots of wineries there, so we spent a day doing some tastings and relaxing.  The Queen Charlotte Sound is also close by and we did a half day trek there.  This is one of the longer treks you can do (for days) but they do shorter portions as well that you can either walk or take a water taxi to. 


Here was one of the busier and more picturesque wineries- Cloudy Bay.  
I could have stayed in that chair for hours.

Another view of the vineyard.

The hubby on the day of our trek along Queen Charlotte Sound.  There were a ton of showers around, but luckily the weather held out for most of the day.


Just several pictures snapped along the way.

This was the view from behind the bed and breakfast where we stayed.  Sunset on the last night.

They had this pizza oven.  We didn't have a chance to use it as we just grilled while there.
I needed a picture though since this is my dream to have an outdoor pizza oven.

From there we headed to Hanmer Springs where we spent New Years.  It was (besides Queenstown) my favorite part of the trip.  So quiet and peaceful... it reminded me of the White Mountains in NH in a lot of ways.  It helped the place we stayed was super nice.  This pic of the hubby was during one of the walks we did in the area.

This is what happens when the hubby has the camera... lots of pictures of me walking down paths.

View from the hotel room.  Yes.  Awesome.  And there was a private hot tub outside too.  
Ahh I want to go back.

Little cafe in town- since I'm all Aussie and drink my hot cappuccinos on hot days now.  
We liked this because they stole the Harley logo.

We found a mini-golf (or putt putt) place.  Fun times, although I was really rusty and wanted to throw my club several times.

Dinner at the lodge on New Years Eve.  Very low key compared to our time in Sydney the year before... but just the perfect way to cap off the year.

New Years Day after breakfast from the lodge.  

After leaving Hanmer Springs, we headed to Christchurch... it has been several years since the earthquakes, but you see it everywhere.  There is a huge red zone still in the city center with building either gone or with pieces sitting next to the building itself.  It was a strange place to visit while on holiday as you really did feel a sense of sadness while walking around.  The city itself has some truly amazing architecture and garden areas with a small river running through the city.  I think it really will be a beautiful city again in the future.

 Just a couple of the buildings... I think these illustrate the point I made about the architecture being stunning.  It was difficult to see the large pieces that fell during the quakes, but there are signs of rebuilding all around. I had read about Addington, an area just outside the CBD that has been developing a lot of new cafes and restaurants.  This is where we headed for diner (and brekkie) the next day, and it was one of the best meals of the trip!

This is at the place we went for dinner- The Pedal Pusher- the hubby was happy to 
have some proper ketchup.

Fun signs on the walls...

Then came the epic day of driving.  From Christchurch the plan was to head to the West Coast to Fox Glacier for 2 nights.  Everything was all booked and ready.  Trouble came with one road to get there and bad weather.  When we started on our way it was a bit rainy, but nothing terrible.  About 1 hour into the 5 hour trip we saw a road sign stating the road was closed a few hours ahead.  We thought to ourselves, eh, when we get there I'm sure it will be fine... and continued on the journey (I believe listening to lord of the rings music in the car, because we are cool like that).

This is pretty much what we were driving into.  Maybe it is that New England attitude of being able to drive in anything that kept us going?

Whatever the case, we make it to the point where the road was closed and it was pretty much monsoon of sorts with sheets of rain spraying you sideways as we ran into the cafe to check for updates.  After a nice cappuccino, I asked one of the staff when we should hear about the road opening.  Her response, "Oh dear, the road won't open today.  It is flooded 3 meters deep just a few kilometers down the road."  Right.

And back we drove.  10 hours later ended up in a random little town of Geraldine.  We stayed at a motel, did a few walks, had a nice brekkie at a cute cafe and were on our way the next morning.  Lesson learned.  If a sign says a road is closed in New Zealand... it really is. 

That was a ridiculous driving day... but in general there was a lot of driving around both islands.  Most of the time was fun with loads of amazing views...

You see a lot of these signs.

And then a lot of cows.

Some crazy sheep that always seemed to be terrified of me.

And if you are lucky, some Alpacas.

Then the dreaded one way bridge. Did not realize what these signs were at first... but tells you which person should be yielding... and the other just goes through.  A bit scary actually.


When driving to our next stop we drove through Kaikoura.  A beautiful town.  There were also John Deere tractors that we needed pictures with.


And here are the amazing views.



There were a lot of seagulls there... this picture doesn't really do it justice.

And a seal colony.

One of the positives about our bad weather re-routing of the trip is we got to stop off at Lake Tekapo... these pictures look fake I think... but the water really was that amazing turquoise color.

The next place we stopped off for several nights was Lake Wanaka.  Also very beautiful... but very crowded too.

From Wanaka we did a day trip to Milford Sound on our way to Queenstown.


Sunrise during the drive out.

Views from short walks we did on the drive out...

Mirror Lake.  It was really that clear.

Random waterfall walk we did... not sure which one this is actually.

This and the following are actually at Milford Sound.  It was beautiful, even though it was a bit chilly and rainy that day.

From here we headed to our last stop- Queenstown.  I didn't get the hype about this place before.  Now I definitely do... the best part of the trip I think.

Even the drive over was pretty.

We got to take water taxis each night from the hotel to get into Queenstown... great way to travel!

View from walking around.

Short (kind of short) walk along the lake/river to get back to the hotel.  
Really just a beautiful part of New Zealand.

Yeah that's right.  Then this happened.  For real.

Really real... 134 meters real.


Why do I look so happy getting my legs strapped together to jump into a ravine? Not sure...

There I go.

View from taking the cable car out to the "station" of sorts... that is really just suspended by cables across this gorge itself.

As with everything in New Zealand... beautiful views.


We all look pretty happy... and I think this is before the jump!  There is our friend who convinced us to bungy on the trip :)

As a reward for being scared out of our minds... we got some epic burgers for lunch that day.

Epic, like US size burger epic.  

Ziplining the following day!

View from ziplining.

You take the gondola to get to the top of the hill/mountain for the ziplining tour.

This was just a pic of one of the restaurants we stopped at one night.  This had really nice wood fire going and really relaxed vibe... great place to relax after a day of thrills... 

Wow that was a lot of pictures and rambling on my part... Getting back to a normal schedule has been not too fun the past few weeks.  But lots of fun stuff including Australia day festivities this weekend and a bunch of visitors over the next few months.  For the many BBQs we have on this weekend, I'm going to try and master the Lamington... recipe to follow next week (as long as all goes well!).