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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?

Following the Steps of Our Ancestors Up River

Mr. Munro and I like to explore our city, and yesterday we did a boat trip from Z Pier in central Auckland, up the Upper Waitemata harbor to the historic pub at Riverhead.The Riverhead was established in 1857 and holds New Zealand’s second oldest liquor licence. Incidentally, we visited the oldest one—the Duke of Marlborough in Russell, Bay of Islands—a couple of weeks ago.

Shelley at Z Pier

This is me, sitting on the top deck of the Red Boat and waiting to leave on our adventure. Central Auckland and the Sky Tower are in the background.

Harbor Bridge and City

Our boat traveled under the harbor bridge. Two New Zealand flags were flying on the bridge yesterday. The flags change often and honor different countries. For example on the US Independence Day the US flag will fly along with the New Zealand one.

Property on the way to Riverhead 

We traveled in the footsteps of our ancestors who used ferries and boats on the upper harbor as a means of transport to head north. Lots of gorgeous properties lined the harbor and this is one of them. A big lawn to mow!

Red Boat at Riverhead

This is the Red boat. It tied up at the jetty and we climbed up lots of steps to get to the pub. The view was gorgeous from the terrace and lots of people were dining in the restaurant. Mr. Munro and I chose some bar snacks, beer and wine and spent time in the public bar. The people watching was awesome.

Although children and families are welcome, the management like the children to remain under close parental supervision. They had these cute signs everywhere relating to children, and the one below is my favorite.

Riverhead Children Sign

We had a fun day, although we were tired out when we arrived home. I can’t wait for our next local adventure, whatever that might be.

What is your favorite way to spend a lazy Sunday?

Bread and Sugar Paste

I’m visiting Maria Zannini today where my post is about Cinderella Breaking Bread.

My cupcake course was a bit different from what I’d thought it would be. I don’t know why I thought I’d be piping icing. The lesson was with sugar paste and was lots of fun—sort of like reverting to childhood and dabbling with play dough.

Sugarpaste Materials

These are my materials. I’ve rolled my sugar paste into pea and marble shapes ready to make my snowman.

Sugarpaste Figures

Here are my final creations. I have a snowman, a pine tree and two roses and a leaf on the cupcake. An octopus on the biscuit. A fish that looks a bit like a tadpole Smile and my cake pop hedgehog. You need to use your imagination with the hedgehog. The photo didn’t do it justice!

I hope to see you over at Maria’s blog.

ANZAC Day

Tomorrow it’s ANZAC day (25 April) where New Zealand and Australia remember those who fell at Gallipoli during World War 1.

A few years ago, Mr. Munro and I visited ANZAC Cove and Chunuk Bair in Turkey. We walked from ANZAC Cove up to Chunuk Bair. It was sweltering hot and we were exhausted by the time we reached the top. We didn’t have packs. We didn’t have people shooting at us. I don’t know how the soldiers managed during the heat of battle.

Every year they hold a special service at ANZAC Cove where Australians, New Zealanders and the Turkish people remember.

Here are a few photos. (They’re scanned so the quality isn’t as good as it could be)

Trenches_ANZAC Cove

This is taken from Chunuk Bair and is of the view out toward ANZAC Cove. You can see the trenches in the foreground.

Chunuk Bair

This is the New Zealand memorial.

ANZAC Cove 

This is ANZAC Cove (click to enlarge photo)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

From Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen, written in September 1914

Please take a moment to remember the fallen from past battles. Without their sacrifices our lives would be very different.