Thursday, September 27, 2007

Birthday Celebrations

Well for thouse that don't know I was in London last week (more photos to follow) but as part of that I celebrated my 27th Birthday. As part of the celebration I went to the Hinds Head in Bray, just outside London. It is owned by Heston Blumenthal, who also owns the Fat Duck (two doors away) which was vosted best restaurant in the world in 2005 and runner up in 2004, 2006 and 2007. I went along with Robin, Shawn and Shanna (who were in London with me) and Matt & Bridie.

After a short train ride from Paddington Station, we caught a taxi to the pub. After being seated, we were confronted with a very interesting menu. I started with the rabbit and bacon terrine,
Shanna had the goats cheese onion and red pepper tart and Shawn and Robin shared the house tea smoked salmon.

For main I had the Gloucester Old Spot pork chop with pease pudding, Shawn, Robin had the whole sea bream, and the rest had the rump steak with bone marrow sauce. It was all delicious, especially the sauce with the steak.

For dessert I ordered the poached pear in red wine and spices. Matt had the quaking pudding, which is a recipe that dates from as early as the 17th century. It's basically a cross between an Italian panna cotta and a french flan but with traditional english spices (such as cinnamon and nutmeg). Bridie ordered the banana eton mess both Shanna and Shawn got the treacle tart. Finally Robin ordered the chocolate wine, another recipe dating from 1710. It's basically a chocolate and wine drink, enriched with eggs and spices served warm.

Paring the wonderful food with wine, including a delightful sauternes with dessert made it one of the best meals I have ever eaten. Thanks again to Matt & Bridie for organising the sojourn, Robin for shouting and Shawn and Shanna for helping me make the day special.

The Hinds Head from the outside

The Fat Duck, just down the street.

The group outside the Hinds Head. From left to right: Robin, Shanna, Shawn, me, Bridie & Matt.

Here I am still excited after the meal.

Shanna asking, "What do we do now?"

Monday, September 17, 2007

New Mexico

On Friday 3 of us from Inspire went to New Mexico to do some teacher training. We flew into El Paso Texas and hired a car and drove to Berino New Mexico which is just over the boarder. There we set up our activities then drove to Las Cruses where the hotel was. We went to La Posta for dinner which was great Mexican food (and drinks). That area is a very beautiful area with mountains and valleys and desert scrub with cacti and grass trees. Actually reminded me quite a lot of western Queensland around the Longreach area. Of course the houses were very different, and everything had a distinctive Mexican influence. Just wonderful.

We did the training on Saturday morning and had to head straight back to the airport after lunch. Would have been good to see more, but that was the last flight of the day that got us back in that night. It was a good 4.5 hours of flying time with a connection in between. We had fun, though, us girls. I have put in some photos of the area.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Aussie Party

We had our Aussie party on Saturday afternoon and evening. Of course after a week of fine weather it rained and stormed all day Saturday. It was just enough to not be able to sit at tables outside, but light enough to sit out under a garden umbrella at times. So everyone crowded into Robin's house. It was cozy, but fun.

We had been cooking for a week beforehand and Macon and Adam had raised our lamb that we got done and Llew and Philip cut up on Wednesday. For afternoon tea we made pumpkin scones, ordinary scones, lamingtons, anzac biscuits, and vegemite sandwiches. For dinner there was roast lamb 2 ways (front legs with dry rub, back legs with garlic and herb marinade), lamb cutlets, lamb loin and lamb sausages, beef pies, grilled marinated vegetables, rice salad, corn and tomato salad, potato salad, bread rolls, and home made mint sauce and tzatziki. We also provided plenty of Fosters (the only Aussie beer you can get here) and Yellow Tail wine (which is also in vast supply here).

The only thing we asked of our guests was to come dressed as something or someone Australian. Some people did and it really added to the evening. Llew was Dame Edna and it was fabulous. We also had a quiz that some of the more willing filled out.

We ended with a showing of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert after many people had left. It got pretty good reviews.

The day and night were exhausting, but it was worth it becasue everyone had a good time. Alice was great to take photos of the time. The short version with captions can be found on her blog here. Alice and Steve.
The longer version without captions is here.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mammoth cave

The photos from Mammoth Cave.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Kentucky: a night out

So Saturday night down in Kentucky, we wanted to go out for food, fun, and of course, beer. We were driving along, past a lot of those funny places again, and then saw a sign that said, "cold adult beverages". We did a sharp turn, managing not to lose Robin who was following, and found this place. This is Joe, standing in front of Joe's diner (not his of course). It was a real, old-fashioned diner with all the trimmings inside. Exactly like you see on TV!

To add to the fun, there was putt-putt, so after a few coldies we joined the characters on the couse.

How many engineers does it take to sink a golf ball?

Shawn hit the ball, nice and hard.
Perhaps a little too hard. "Where did it go?"
"I found it!"

The last part of the fun night was kareoke. Shawn and Joe sang two songs, but none of the rest of us were game enough.
Between a couple of the songs, they put on some classic Kentucky country music - and this was the result!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Kentucky: town and country

So on the way to Mammoth cave we saw some of the sights of Kentucky. First stop was just over the border in Louisville.

This was the 'town' part of the trip. The river is the border.

Lots of fine town buildings.

And a couple of odd buildings.

There was an international parade on at that time.

Louisville is the home of the 'Louiville Slugger' which all pro baseball players use. We went into the factory where they make these bats and had a look around. We did not get the tour, but could see through the window them making the bats. They also made this impressive beast.

Next stop was lunch in a place with a horse out the front.

So we left the 'town' for the 'country' and had to take a photo of the hills. We have not seen these for 6 months in flat, corn and soy filled Indiana!

One strange thing about Kentucky is this. Kentucky Down Under is a zoo plus other things, but they have Australian animals. It was $20 each, so we did not go in, but bought a couple of souveniers. The web page looked more interesting than the place anyway!

Then we got into real crazy country Kentucky! These photos may not be self-explanatory, but I can't actually explain them!


This place is beyond comprehension (and it is NOT the biggest shop in the world, Wal-Mart still wins that one). We had to pay the $1.06 (remember tax) to get into the mystery house and it was well worth it.

Shawn sure thought it was good!

Outside the Mystery House, was Big Mo. Hmm.