March 29, 2011

Wild Wild West

About 10 days ago, we drove 220 km to the West Coast of the South Island in a 2-car convoy. We were joined by Abdullah, my colleague from the College, and his cute little family. The trip turned out to be one of the best we've ever had cos we got to do some exciting stuff in the span of four days.

The thing that prompted this adventure was Ken Ring's earthquake prediction for Christchurch. This man claims to have predicted both New Zealand's major earthquakes and warned Cantabrians that another killer quake would hit Christchurch on March 20. Initially, I wasn't convinced but after seeing how everyone else was reacting, I began to freak out too.

So. On March 19, we fled Christchurch and headed to the West Coast on State Highway 73.  The weather was a bit cloudy at first but as we drove further, leaving Christchurch, things started to look up. As always, the journey along the Canterbury plains was nothing short of spectacular. My favourite sight was the picturesque sheep farms I saw along the plains. There's just something about those sheep that makes me go gaga.

After an hour's drive, we stopped at Lake Coleridge, a nice picnic site overlooking the Southern Alps. We stretched our legs, took some photos and had a quick Sushi lunch. The place also turned out to be a perfect rest stop for the men cos the bushes gave them enough privacy  to answer the call of nature. Those without the extra bits (like me) would need to suck it up for a while.

The next stop was Castle Hill. Our January trip to the hill was quite recent so we weren't that excited to see the limestones or pose in front of the rock formations. Other than our attire, everything else would have looked the same cos the change of season from summer to autumn is not apparent yet. Because of that and the fact that we were lazy, we decided to stay behind while Abdullah and his family went on a hike.

After Castle Hill, we went all the way to Hokitika, the 'Gateway to World Heritage and Glacier Regions'. It is located on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island, beside the Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps. The town is full of awesomness cos there are heaps of stuff to see and do. Lakes, heritage park, boat cruises, glow worms, jades and glaciers are some of the attractions this place has to offer. Find out more here.

We spent 3 nights at Hokitika Holiday Park, a cute little place close to the town centre. It's not posh but it's clean and cosy. It was quite late when we arrived so we just spent the rest of the day relaxing and barbequing.

The next morning, we drove to Shantytown, which is 20 minutes away from Hokitika. Shantytown is actually a replica of an old west mining town in the 1860s. It looks quite ancient cos there are lots of old-fashioned buildings and memorabilia. Highlights at the park include riding the steam train, gold panning, and having an old-fashioned portrait taken as a momento of your visit. Alden's favourite was the train ride.

The train journey ended at the old saw mill. From there, we walked down to the gold panning area where we panned for gold. I was eager to do it cos it looked fun and the brochure said a small find is guaranteed for all 'prospectors'. After watching one demo, I was ready to strike gold! I panned and panned and panned but found nothing. After some time, I got bored so I asked hubby to take over. Within minutes, he got his, I mean our flakes of gold! Yay!

So tiny, you can barely see it
After our gold panning success, I took Alva for a stroll while everybody else went to that gold sluice thingy. Don't know what that's about but it has something to do with gold mining. *Yawn* Our last activity was taking photos of the old town buildings. It took us an hour to soak it all up and by the time we were done, everyone was tired. These are some of the pics we took.

Losing all track of time amidst the fun, we forgot all about lunch. We rushed back to the hotel and finally called it a day. A very wonderful day.

*As prophesied by Mr. Ring, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake rattled Christchurch that night. 

March 4, 2011

Unambitious Baker

I've been stuck at home for more than a week now and frankly, I'm getting  restless. I mean, it's great to spend time with the kids and watch cartoon all day long but when I think about my thesis, I get so uptight and worried.
To keep myself occupied, I decided to try my hand at baking. When did this happen? Two days ago, when I almost killed myself watching Yo Gabba Gabba. Before last week, the invasion of Yo Gabba Gabba in our household was minimal because the kids didn't watch a lot of TV. Now that the school's closed, they're getting heaps of YGG.

Okay. Let me tell you why I hate it. The show is about 5 monsters and DJ Lance going around teaching kids some positive stuff. The teaching part is fine but the rest is NOT. First of all, the songs are so monotonous and annoying. They get in my head and give me the worst migraine ever. Especially that song "party in my tummy". The person who composed that number is a total moron.  Second reason. The way DJ Lance talks to his entourage is so annoying. His giant teeth and silly glasses are so damn annoying. Period. How about the five monsters who sing and dance with DJ Lance? A-N-N-O-Y-I-N-G. Now, if there's anything in the world I can't stand, it's this show. I don't know why the kids love it so much. Whenever it's on, their eyes are glued to the screen in a hypnotic manner. It's kind of scary.

If you've never seen Yo Gabba Gabba, you should count yourself lucky.

Now where was I? Oh yes. Baking. I had so much fun baking last week that I wanted to do it again and again. To impress hubby, I decided to bake cute litlle cupcakes all by myself. This means, getting a recipe and  starting from scratch. I planned to do exactly that but when I thought about the pain of measuring the ingredients and my tendency of going overboard with the baking powder, I decided not to take the risk. At this stage, my emotion is so fragile, a cup-cake disaster could crush me.

So I did what's sensible and bought this.

Since I didn't own a muffin tray, I had to get one from the supermarket. I was about to purchase a $29.90 cupcake tray and a mixing bowl when I suddenly ask myself,  how often do I bake anyway? The fact is, I'm not really into baking and the last time I did was two years ago. Based on that reflection, I decided to scrimp and get my supplies at a thrift shop. The charity shop at Blenheim Road was a perfect place to start.

My mission was to get a muffin tray and a round cake pan but when I got there, my shopping list multiplied. They've expanded the store and added  heaps and heaps of stuff! For someone whose mom is a hoarder, I found it so hard to resist. 

After an hour  of scavenging, I decided to buy these...

A cake pan and cookie shapers

An old cup cake tray and another cake pan

A serving dish

Everything for $10.00. After that very theurapeutic session, I went home and started baking. Step 1 was mixing packet A with water, butter and egg. Step 2 was pouring the batter into the cupcake liners in the muffin tray. Step 3 was popping the muffin tray into the oven. And then I was done. The best part was spreading the icing on the cupcakes.  

The batter

All done!

Alden getting impatient

Yeah. I had a lot of fun. It kept my mind occupied and it made me forget about Yo Gabba Gabba. I think with a few more practice,  I could pull off that lemon cheese cake recipe Carol was telling me about. Now wouldn't that be something!