Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Living Legends

Living Legends is located within Woodlands Historic Park, a place for retired champion racehorses to rest on their laurels and enjoy visits from their adoring public!

We've often driven past but decided to visit on Nissa's last morning with us, en route to the airport (just six minutes away).  It was very pleasant, wandering about in the sunshine for about an hour.  We are not racing followers but very much enjoyed meeting so many beautiful horses (and smooching with some too)!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

To Tooborac!

The countryside changes markedly as we drive around our local(ish) area.  The variations found within short distances is really very interesting - and continues to amaze us.

Although we have visited Lancefield quite a few times recently, we hadn't ventured any further North - so were delighted by the huge boulders!
Geocaching led us along some lesser-used back roads, where we admired the creativity (and engineering) of some locals, who built their private Stonhenge-like structure!  Wow!  Of course, the boulders in their natural state were equally impressive.  We had a good look at some that were just beside the road.  Elmer looked  small in comparison!
We made a quick stop at the former Emu Flat Public School, which still had wooden shingles visible beneath the corrugated iron roof of the entry area!

I've done some quick research this morning and the school was built in 1875, then moved by 22 horses to it's current site in 1902.  It operated from then until 1943. 

You can read more of the school's history (and that of the neighbouring Uniting Church) here, from page 4 onwards.

Friday, 26 July 2013

BBQ at Hanging Rock!

Nick and I made a brief visit to Hanging Rock back in April.

It was a cold, wet day and Nick was working that afternoon, so we vetoed walking in favour of sitting in the café for a little while - enjoying their fire - before heading home again.

It is rare for us to go out without provisions for (at least) tea/coffee making and in spite of the café fire, we were sorry to have left our beverage case and thermos behind that day!

Another (longer) visit had been on the agenda, so we scheduled it for after our gravitational anomaly experiment.  En route, we picked up fresh bread from the Woodend Bakery and collected some gold coins for the BBQ.

Soon after arrival, Erin and Nissa cooked our Diamond Creek sausages, purchased on the way home from Maroondah Reservoir the previous day. We had yumions, too!  We enjoyed a lovely lunch and as we were eating many crimson rosellas visited. One very cheeky fellow sat at the end of the table to eye off our fruit!  There were kookaburras also, who appreciated a few sausage tidbits.

(Since our visits to Maroondah and Hanging Rock, I've purchased some wild bird seed and packed two small containers to carry in the cars). 

After lunch, we spent some time looking at the static displays in the Discovery Centre and then headed off for the Summit Walk. 

To say it was steep is an understatement. We could have used the help of a gravitational anomaly for sure!

We made it though - just - and the views were wonderful, even on a cold, cloudy day.  No doubt there will be other BBQs, though I'm not sure how often we will exert ourselves for the full bushwalk afterwards!  

Gravitational Stupid Thing!

You don't need to spend a lot of money to have fun!

I've been hanging out to visit Straws Lane, near Woodend since one of the mothers mentioned it at a school excursion.

Cars rolling uphill?! We had to try that!

There is a reference to the spot (near Hanging Rock) in this article - as well as similar places around the world.  Very interesting!

We decided to save the experiment till Nissa's visit.  It is fair to say she was quite sceptical when I mentioned the outing!  I did some YouTube research and with Nick's assistance, we entered the co-ordinates into the GPS, then set off.

What a hoot!  Elmer Fudd, all two-tonne of him, very definitely rolled uphill - three times!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Hot water on tap!

Maroondah Reservoir was recommended to me as a place where there were lots of wild birds, used to being hand-fed. 

We called in for a picnic with Nissa, after visiting the nearby Healesville Sanctuary (courtesy of our Zoos Victoria memberships).

Not long after arrival, Vaughan was very happily sitting with a small group of crimson rosellas.  He seemed oblivious to the cold but the rest of us were definitely aware of the icy wind - and very appreciative of our hot beverages! We are well-equipped for picnicking and didn't really need to avail ourselves of the free hot water on site but we did, cos it was novel!

It was a pretty spot and definitely warrants further exploration - on a warmer day!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Duck, duck, goose!

We are still settling into Hamby Home(in)stead, doing local-ish day-trips due to time constraints of feeding our calf, Tea. 

As much as we particularly enjoy more bushland environments, this lovely little spot fairly close to home deserves a mention. 

We've visited several times and were greeted noisily by the resident ducks and geese on each occasion.  Their antics cause much amusement and spending time with them while enjoying some morning or afternoon tea is a pleasant interlude.  It was one of the first places we took Nissa when she visited!

I wondered who Walter J Smith was.  It seems he founded the local fire brigade in 1904.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Gluten-free Date Cake (thermal cooked)

It's another (not) fine day for thermal cooking experiments.  We have guests arriving later in the day and as they are a gluten-free family, I'm trying some more experimentation.

I've previously adapted a few of my favourite recipes by substituting Aldi's gluten-free flour, so am doing that today with this recipe.  I've actually made a few substitutions.  We don't have walnuts and I'm saving the last of the macadamia nuts for something else.  I only have self-raising gluten-free flour, so used two cups of that rather than one of SR and one of plain.  We have run out of butter and olive oil spread, so I used a tablespoon of olive oil.  What else?!  I added two teaspoons of ginger.

The mixture was less dense than yesterday's carrot cake, so I used one of my weights to ensure the cake tin was touching the trivet inside the large pot. Once I transferred the large inner pot to the insulated outer pot, I swapped the 500g weight for the smaller weights - so I could close the lid(s) properly!

Update:  According to the recipe, the cake should have been done after two hours of thermal cooking. 

Sadly, it wasn't ready then, nor after an extra half an hour but we sampled it anyway - tasting the cooked parts.  The flavour was lovely but the gluten-free texture detracted from our overall enjoyment.  I think another attempt with normal flour is definitely warranted - stay tuned!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Cutting the cake ...

We've been out tonight - enjoying lovely food and company.  It was late when we arrived home again. 

By that stage, the carrot cake had been in the thermal cooker a bit over 10 hours, which is double the recommended cooking time.

I was curious to see how it fared, so pulled it out and inverted it onto a cooling rack.  Nick and sampled a small piece each with a glass of port.  The texture is definitely more pudding-ish than cake-like and future servings will probably be served with custard.  It's pretty good though and overall I am quite pleased with the day's experiment.

Carrot Cake (thermal cooked)

It's a drizzly wet day outside.  A good day for thermal cooking experimentation!  Nissa and I have made thermal cooked cakes but our early efforts weren't documented - and I can't remember making a cake since the Yowah Christmas Cake that Vaughan and I cheffed. 

I revised the method by watching this YouTube video and referred to a printed version of the recipe.  Once all the ingredients were assembled, there wasn't much effort required to mix them together. 

The cake was simmered on the stove for a little over 30 minutes (as I was supervising Vaughan's cleaning efforts in his bedroom).

It was then transferred to the insulated outer pot, where it will stay till much later tonight.  Stay tuned for the end result!

NB:  I substituted macadamia nuts for walnuts, cos that is what we had on hand.  I don't think the video mentions cinnamon but I definitely included it (as per the printed recipe).

Monday, 8 July 2013

Blackhill Reserve

My slosh-proof soup was very welcome by the time we stopped to eat it. 

Being a weekday, we had the Blackhill Reserve picnic area to ourselves, though some walkers said hello when returning to the carpark - and a rock-climber stopped to seek directions.  As you can see we were rugged up but still felt cold when the clouds drifted over the sun, so warming soup and hot beverages were enjoyed before Nick, Vaughan and I set off for a bushwalk. 

It was too cold for Erin, who stayed in the car till we returned.  She missed some beautiful country - huge granite boulders along the ridgeline (where the path was mostly sun-bathed and much warmer).  Vaughan was quite gleeful as he slipped easily through "short-cut" crevices that presented more of a challenge to Nick and I! 

Slosh-proof soup!

I made another batch of "fridge soup" in my thermal cooker late on Saturday night.  It was still steamy hot very early on Sunday morning but I gave it an extra boost on the gas hotplate before filling our two Stanley food flasks (in preparation for a day at our field archery club).

We were out again today, so I reheated the remainder of the soup - but decided it would be less fiddly if I transported it in the thermal cooker, rather than decant into (wide-mouth) thermoses.

A few weekends ago I discovered how to prevent sloshing between the large and small inner thermal cooker pots while in transit.  I described the method but remembered to take photos today.  As you can see I put a cloth into the boiling water in that top pot and then used a tea-towel between the lid of the top (inner) pot and the outer insulated lid.  I am pleased to say that there was no water transfer between the two inner pots, so our soup remained undiluted - hooray!

I have been a fan of picnics for many years.  The red-check material pictured is actually a tablecloth I made when I was at Uni.  In those days, my picnic set was very traditional red and white.  Twenty five years on, the setting is long gone but the tablecloth is still used on occasion!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Relaxed River Red Gums

We've driven past Woodlands Historic Park quite a few times since our relocation - always too busy to stop. 

We fully intended to explore it though, so packed a picnic and set off for some school holiday adventuring.  What a beautiful place! 

The huge river red gums grow along a creekline and some of them seem to have decided to abandon vertical growth in favour more relaxed horizontal efforts.  Seriously, they looked as if they were lounging along the ground!

There was frog-song as we walked along - and many small birds also.  The landscape changed as we walked away from the creek, opening into grassland.  I startled a bird and it flew up from it's hiding place, less than a metre from my foot!  A small mob of kangaroos watched us and hopped away when Vaughan ran towards them.  They reached a fenceline, halted briefly and bounded over from a standing start.  Amazing!

We would have explored further but hunger set in and it was a long walk back to our picnic.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the reserve though and will certainly return as there is so much we haven't seen.