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Gaudi’s Casa Mila

Before hubby and I visited Barcelona, I’d never heard of Gaudi, but I challenge anyone to visit this vibrant city and leave without learning about this famous architect.

Gaudi was born on 25 June 1852 and died on 7 June 1926 after being struck by a tram during his daily walk. He’s best known for his design of the cathedral in Barcelona – Sagrada Familia. I’ll post photos of the cathedral another time, but today my photos are of Casa Mila, a building designed between the years 1906 – 1912.

This was a controversial design, as was most of Gaudi’s work, and it reminded me of the buildings in the cartoon, The Flintstones. In 1984 the building was declared a World Heritage site. It was built for a married couple, but the husband died in 1940 and the wife sold the building in 1946. The building was restored after being left to deteriorate and is now open to the public.

Casa Mila, Barcelona

Casa Mila, Barcelona

The chimneys at the top of the building are often photographed, and you’ll see them on many Barcelona brochures and postcards.

Chimneys

What do you think of Gaudi’s style?

Arc de Triomf – Entry to the World Expo

Arc De Triomf Barcelona

This magnificent arch is the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona. It was designed by Josep Vilaseca to celebrate the 1888 World Expo. The arch was the entrance to the exposition, and it’s built of red bricks.

I liked all the detailed carvings, and this one below is my favorite. I couldn’t find anything in my guidebook, but I call him Batman.

Barcelona Bat

A lot of travelers enjoy visiting museums, and I’ve seen a fair share since my first childhood visit to the Auckland War Memorial museum. I confess to a low boredom threshold when it comes to museums, and I pick my visits carefully. An hour is usually enough for me, and luckily my husband and I mesh when it comes to sightseeing in museums.

Are you a fan of museums? Do you have any favorites, and what types of exhibits do you favor?

Ginger and Pepper Biscuits

I found this recipe when I was flicking through a cook book by Allyson Gofton, a chef who used to be a familiar face on New Zealand television. The combination of ginger and pepper sounded interesting, and I decided to give them a try. The result was a crisp and moreish biscuit (that’s cookie to you Americans) that goes perfectly with a cup of tea or coffee. I’ll definitely be making this recipe again.

Ginger Pepper Biscuits

Ginger and Pepper Biscuits

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 teaspoons ground ginger

3/4 teaspoons mixed spice

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

250 grams (8 ounces/1/2 pound) butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup of golden syrup or treacle

2 Tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon vinegar (I only had spiced vinegar in the cupboard so that’s what I used)

extra sugar for sprinkling

Instructions:

1. Heat the oven to 180C (350F)

2. Line two baking trays with baking paper

3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy then add the egg, golden syrup, fresh ginger and vinegar.

4. Sift the flour, baking powder, ground ginger, mixed spice and cayenne pepper into the mixture, combine and chill the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes.

5. Place the additional sugar in a small bowl.

6. Roll biscuits into teaspoonful size balls and roll in the sugar bowl. Flatten a fraction and finish the flattening with a fork.

7. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

8. Cool before storing in an airtight tin.

Shelley’s notes:

1. Ms. Gofton also suggests coating half the cooked biscuits with dark chocolate or pressing a piece of crystallized ginger or a hazelnut in the top of each biscuit before you cook them. You could also sandwich them together with frosting if you wanted to.

2. The biscuits are very gingery and have a slight “bite”. Hubby liked them as much as me.

Fast Train to Shanghai!

Fast Train, Shanghai

When we visited Shanghai everyone in our group was eager to experience the fast train. It’s a high-speed magnetic levitation train.

The train travels the 30 km (18.6 miles) in seven minutes and twenty seconds. All I know is that it was incredibly fast. The scenery blurred and the speedo inside the train went up to 431 kilometers. I didn’t feel safe, but then I hate speed. I’m much happier when my feet are planted firmly on the ground. I was very happy to get off at the other end.

Later today (12 Feb) I’m doing a chat about at Coffee Time Romance at 9.00 pm EST. I’ll be talking about my Middlemarch Mates series (feline shifters) and my upcoming Middlemarch Capture series.

I’m taking part in The Romance Studio’s Valentine’s party. You can take part here and win some great prizes.

And finally, don’t forget to enter my contest in the Share the Love blog hop. You might win an Amazon gift certificate!

Have you traveled in a fast train? Do you like speed?

Recipe: Delicious and Fluffy Raspberry Souffle

Hubby and I are trying to eat healthily at the moment and I grabbed a copy of 100 Great Low-Fat Recipes by Rosemary Conley from the library. We’ve tried a few recipes from this book, and they’ve been very successful. Last night Mr Munro made a raspberry soufflé. It was quick and easy and best of all, it tasted great!

souffle

Ingredients:

225 grams (8 oz) frozen berries e.g. blackberries, raspberries

25 grams (1 oz) caster sugar

3 egg whites

150 grams (5 oz) caster sugar

fresh fruit to decorate

Method:

1. Cook the berries and 25 grams of caster sugar in a small saucepan. Gently simmer for 10 – 15 minutes until the fruit reduces to a thick paste. Pour into a mixing bowl and cool.

2. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F)

3. In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites along with a pinch of your caster sugar. When the egg whites start to peak, gradually add the rest of the sugar 1 dessertspoon at a time. Allow about 10 seconds between each addition of sugar. Continue until you’ve added all the sugar.

4. Place a dessertspoon of fruit mixture into four greased ramekins. Gently fold the egg whites into the remaining fruit mixture. Smooth the top.

5. Place in the oven and bake for 5 – 6 minutes.

6. Serve the soufflés straight away since they’ll collapse once they come out of the oven.

Shelley’s notes:

1. While I really liked these I found them a little sweet. When we make them again we’ll fiddle with the amount of sugar.

2. Our ramekins were a little big. The mixture should rise a little above the top of the ramekin.

3. We used only raspberries, but I think they’d be nice with a mixture of berries.

4. We cooked ours for six minutes in a fan-bake oven and felt this was perfect.

5. Each soufflé is 187 calories and this recipe serves four.

Have you made a soufflé before?

Moon Crazy

Hubby and I have been taking a lot of photos with our new camera. Here is a selection of moon shots. It’s amazing seeing the craters so clearly.

Moon

This is the moon as we saw it from our back yard with no magnification.

Moon1

A little zoom and the shadows and craters are more obvious.

Moon2

Hubby thinks the placement of the craters is why people speak of the man in the moon.

Moon3

And here’s a close up of his face.

Moon4

This one is zoomed up even more, and you can see the craters.

Would you like to fly into space or become an astronaut? Did you want to be an astronaut while you were growing up?

Where Bella Teaches Shelley To Sit

Bella, our puppy is very smart, and she picks up things quickly. She was top of the class at puppy school. Recently she has been difficult when it comes time to go for a walk.

Bella

She likes to go for a different walk each time, and if I head off in the normal direction, she sits down and refuses to move. If we turn in a new direction, she’s happy and bouncy, trotting alongside like a perfectly behaved pet. If she meets “little people” during her walk and especially giggly little girls, she sits down and refuses to move until a meet and greet has been completed.

Color me frustrated.

At first it was funny, and I laughed. Then this stubborn behavior happened every day, and I lost my sense of humor.

I tried speaking in a stern voice.

I tried bribery with some dog crackers.

I tried pulling her. (Can’t do this too hard because her collar sometimes pops over her head, and the last thing I want is a loose puppy on the busy roads)

I tried shouting. (The neighbors twitched their curtains, but that was all that happened. Bella didn’t move!

Finally last week, in exasperation, I sat down in the middle of the footpath and glared over at Bella. She looked at me, and I could literally see the surprise on her furry face. She jumped up and came over for a pat. I got to my feet and our walk continued. Each time she decided to sit, I sat too.

Our outings seemed to go a bit more smoothly, and I got my way about the location of our walk.

I was telling my husband when he got home from work, and he started laughing.

“What?” I asked.

“Don’t you see what has happened?” he said. “Bella has taught you to sit!”

Anyone else have a naughty pet? Also, does anyone have suggestions for natural remedies for dog allergies? We’re not sure what is causing the allergy. There are so many variables.

The Cheeky Fantail

The fantail or piwakawaka is one of our native birds. This year we’ve seen quite a few in our garden and also while we’ve been walking Bella. They’re tiny birds with a tail that fans out—as their name suggests—and they live on a diet of insects. They like to follow people when they’re walking, which gets a bit creepy. I’d call it stalkerish, but in reality they’re snatching up the insects that are disturbed with each footstep. I guess it’s takeaway for birds.

The fantail has a very distinctive cheet-cheet and the birds never seem to keep still. They’re very difficult to photograph because they’re always in motion.

Fantail

Fantail

Fantail

These photos were taken at Christ Church in Russell.

The Maori people consider it bad luck if a fantail flies inside a building. They say the fantail is a messenger and it’s appearance means death or news of death is imminent.

I had one fly inside the house a few months ago, which didn’t make me very happy. The fantail was hanging around outside for days. I’d hear it and shut the door since the bird seemed determined to fly inside our house. I shooed it back outside (they seem fairly smart and don’t divebomb windows in panic like some birds) and waited for news. Thankfully I didn’t receive any news of death.

The fantail is a cute bird, but I do prefer to see them outdoors!

Have you had birds fly inside your house before?

New Zealand Maori Pouwhenua

Maori carvings tell a story, and we have a form of totem pole, called pou or pouwhenua here in New Zealand. They’re like carved poles and were used by the Maori to mark boundaries.

Mr Munro snapped photos of these pou up at Paihia in the north of the North Island.

Pou, Paihia

Pou

Pou. Paihia

Pou, Paihia

Pou, Paihia

I’m not sure what story these pou told, but they were definitely interesting!

Man in the Moon

Edits have kept me busy for the last week. I’ve completed those now, but writing stuff continues to take up my free time—my self-imposed deadlines before I head off to Singapore.

We’re officially on summer time in New Zealand now and losing one hour has kicked my butt this year. I actually went to sleep in my chair this afternoon. The puppy was piled on top of me, and I thought I’d listen to the end of my audio book – the first in the Agatha Raisin series by MC Beaton. The last I remember was learning the identity of the quiche murderer. I woke up when puppy leaped off my knee because hubby had arrived home from work. My audio book had started over and reached chapter three. And to think I used to laugh at my father…

Mr Munro took these photos. He’s since purchased a tripod, but the moon hasn’t made an appearance for a few nights. He’s waiting impatiently for its reappearance.

Moon

Moon Zoomed

What’s happening in your world?