Thursday, May 31, 2012

Weather for next week

May 31
Jun 1
Jun 2
Jun 3
Jun 4
Jun 5
Jun 6
mostly sunny
Mostly sunny
mostly cloudy
Mostly cloudy
rain developing
Rain developing
windy with rain
Windy with rain
possible shower
Possible shower

Chance of Rain5%20%60%90%90%90%40%
Rain Amount< 1mm< 1mm1-5mm5-10mm5-10mm1-5mm< 1mm

Selected Images from Australia

With appreciation to the Australian Broadcasting Commision's Your Photos Gallery for April and May 2012

Waves break over two boats that had broken free of their moorings at Rockingham, south of Perth, during a storm, early May, 2012

Rowers make their way through morning mist in sub-zero temperatures on Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra, May 15, 2012

A cold snap brings snow to Marysville in Victoria on May 25, 2012. A year ago last summer this area was devastated by bushfires.

A rare albino echidna curls up on the ground after grazier John Jones came across it near Tambo in western Queensland, early May 2012.

With winter approaching, people enjoy markets under some remaining autumn foliage in Bright, north-east Victoria, on May 18, 2012.

Images of flowers light up the Argyle cut tunnel in The Rocks, Sydney, during the Vivid Sydney festival of light, music & ideas, May 26, 2012. 

Two black swans and their cygnets swim across a flooded street at Safety Beach on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, on May 26, 2012.

The 'supermoon' rises over Newcastle, NSW, on May 6, 2012. The supermoon gets its name because the moon is the closest it will get to the Earth this year (24,600km closer) and appears around 14 per cent larger as a result.

Black Mountain Tower appears through mist surrounding the bottom of Black Mountain in Canberra on the morning of May 1, 2012.

A bus sits stranded between land and the ferry it was trying to board at Stradbroke Island off the coast of Brisbane, April 29, 2012.

Trainer, Peter Moody, stands with Black Caviar at Morphettville in Adelaide after the champion mare's twentieth straight win on April 28, 2012.

People gather at the Anzac Day dawn service in Clarence Town on the central coast of NSW on April 25, 2012.

Hot air balloons hang over the mist as they come in to land at Coldstream airport on the eastern outskirts of Melbourne on May 10, 2012.

A plane is silhouetted against a spectacular sunset as it comes in to land at Sydney Airport on April 16, 2012.

Jane Trumper, left, runs into Birdsville in far west Queensland on April 10, 2012, after becoming the first woman to run across the Simpson Desert. The 51-year-old mother of three, who was raising money for Bear Cottage, a children's hospice in Sydney, ran 664 kms over 1200 sand dunes in ten days. 

Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

 1 brown onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 stick of celery, diced
1 cup of red and green capsicum, diced
½ cup of frozen peas
1 400 g tin of diced tomatoes – herbed variety optional
1 cup of chicken stock
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of chopped garlic chives
1 400 g of bolognese pasta sauce
500 g of lean minced beef
powdered Parmesan cheese
olive oil for cooking

Sweat onions, garlic and garlic for 2 minutes on medium heat – do not let onion brown.
Add celery, carrot and capsicum and cook for a further 5 minutes
Transfer vegetables to a clean bowl
Add some extra olive oil and heat and add mince, cooking until brown and broken up finely.
Return vegetables to pan and combine well
Pour in tinned tomatoes, chicken stock and pasta sauce. Bring to the boil and reduce to a ‘bloopish’ simmer for 45-60 minutes

KEEP MOIST, do not allow sauce to reduce to pure mince – Add a dash of stock or white wine if necessary

Add peas about 15 minutes from end of cooking and mix well

I like to use "Angel Hair" pasta here as it blends with the sauce very nicely and you don't get big globs of pasta surrounded by sauce.
Boil a quart of water with a pinch of slat and a dash of good quality olive oil. When boiling, hold pasta erect in the centre of the pan and release, allowing it to 'fan' around the edge of the pan.
Add a quarter of a teaspoon of dried mixed Italian herbs
Cook until done to taste and drain, serve into individual dishes and sprinkle with some Parmesan cheese powder
Spoon over the sauce and serve, adding more Parmesan to suit taste.
Serve with chunks of fresh, crusty, Italian bread loaf and a glass of a good red wine - I like Lambrusco.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Heavenly Cheese Cake

Crumb Crust: 
3/4 pound (350g) Scotch Shortbread biscuits
4 ozs (120g) Butter

Melt butter, crush biscuits (use a plastic bag and a rolling pin) add melted butter, mix thoroughly and press into the bottom and sides of a buttered 9" (22cm) springform pan to come 1 and 1/2" (4cm) up the sides.

Place crumbed crust into refrigerator to set firm.

In a double saucepan combine:
8oz (225g) of creamed cottage cheese (Philadelphia cheese)
1/2 cup of sugar
3 beaten egg yolks (reserve the egg whites for later use)
1/4 cup of milk
pinch of salt

Cook for 10 minutes. Blend in:
1 tablespoon of gelatine
1/4 cup of cold water
1/4 cup of lemon juice

Cool the mixture

Beat 3 egg whites, gradually add a 1/4 cup of castor sugar until soft peaks form. Fold into cream cheese mixture then pour carefully over crumbed crust. Refrigerate until firmly set. Remove springform side CAREFULLY and serve slices with whipped cream and strawberries as a dessert or have as a slice of cake with coffee.

Furtive feeds for daring diners

The Rocks Area, Sydney Harbour Foreshores

Its Sunday afternoon, 3 o'clock. A guy who looks like an off-duty kitchen hand is walking furtively, head down, towards some steps off a lane in The Rocks. The staircase hugs the rock and concrete cliff face towering over Walsh Bay. He goes halfway down the stairs to a landing where a couple of cooks are fashioning a makeshift kitchen.

Insider events ... the secret Soupy on Sunday by Full Circle. 
Diners seated on The Rocks Steps as the meal is prepared
on a middle landing Photo: Alex Craig

They've lugged gas burners, a stock pot, baskets of bread, flagons of red wine and a quarter wheel of cheese to this glorious setting overlooking Barangaroo. The white hulk of the Sea Princess is docked at the terminal. Ships horns sound and the sun is peeking over the clouds.

MV Sea Princess

The Rocks and Sydney Ports Harbour Control Tower, Barangaroo

Our kitchen hand has been joined by 40 other people, sitting or standing on the stairs for the fourth Soupy on Sunday, a secret food happening. The cooks are feeding their friends and breaking who knows how many rules and regulations, just so they can gather spontaneously to share a bowl of soup.

The gathering is part of a movement, also called secret dinners, guerrilla dining, underground eating, pop-up dinners and undercover foodies. Diners are emailed or texted and told where to go just before the event, sometimes a day ahead, sometimes just a couple of hours before. The menu is a surprise, so is the decor.

This food movement echoes 1970s art happenings and 1980s music raves. These two cooks are only old enough to remember the latter. They are buddies. He works as a chef at an inner-city restaurant. She was the manager of a couple of other inner-city restaurants. They don't want their names mentioned because they have no permits and no licences to do any of this.
Three years ago, they formed Full Circle to mount dinners in startling locations. They have served food and live music in the set design studios of Opera Australia, a Surry Hills warehouse and a Waterloo recording studio.

Guerrilla or underground dining grew out of the American speakeasies selling illegal liquor during the Prohibition era in the US. These secret dining collectives for consuming alcohol then morphed into meeting places for political and social activists in the 1960s.

These days, clandestine restaurants are popping up, as well as one-off events. In Barcelona, Tintoreria Dontell is a 15-seater fine-dining restaurant behind a dry cleaner. Diners go through a curtain and have to swipe their fingerprints to enter. Another hidden Barcelona eatery is Speakeasy, behind the Dry Martini bar, through a kitchen where you dine surrounded by illuminated pantry items. The joy of spontaneity, of being included in a secret eating experience goes on.

Some images from other locations of 'Secret Dinners", or, "Secret Foodies", or, "Guerrilla Diners":
The cheese offerings at Full Circle. Photo: Alex Craig
Diners dig in at the kitchen-garden of Three Blue Ducks. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Fanning the flames for the spit at Three Blue Ducks. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Table Sessions regulars and about 60 people descend to feast on suckling pig and crackling, roast chickens, barramundi fillets, sambals and salads.  Soup made from pine mushrooms foraged south of Belanglo Forest the day before. 

The wine is BYO. Diners leave a donation of what they can afford or think the dinner is worth. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sin Bin?

Australians love affair with the "Ute"!

Small trucks have been built or sedan cars modified for decades. When I was growing up in Sydney one of my friend's father had a 1909 Renault sedan, a canvas hooded vehicle with no windows and a through-dash clutchless gear change  that had been 'got at' by modifying the rear end to take a goods tray. As young lads were want to do, we often 'borrowed' it on a Friday or Saturday night - it had a crank start, no keyed ignition, so quietly push it down the street, crank her up and off we went - and we all piled into/onto it and went careering around the countryside - usually looking for dances where there would be girls present.

A restored 1909 Renault sedan of the type that was modified
as a goods vehicle that we used in the 1950's in Sydney

The very first 'purpose-built' utility truck was an Australian idea, designed and was built in Australia by the Ford Motor Company at its Geelong factory in Victoria. 

It rolled off the assembly line as a production vehicle in 1934.

The Ford Australia plant under construction in Geelong, 1926.

Ford Model T parked outside the Geelong Library
at its launch in Australia in 1925

The Ford Australia plant’s first products were Model Ts assembled from "complete knock-down (CKD) kits" provided by Ford of Canada. Nevertheless, it is best known in more recent times for having produced the Falcon, originally a U.S. model introduced in Australia in 1960, but adapted to Australian requirements and road conditions. Since the release of the XA model in 1972, Falcons have been fully Australian designed. It also produces a four-wheel-drive model called the Territory.

Ford Australia is the only Australian car manufacturer which designs and manufactures its own unique high-volume engines.

Ford Australia’s Geelong plant today

The story of the utility truck or coupé utility– the ute – began in 1932, when a letter was received by Ford Australia’s plant at Geelong, Victoria. It was written by a farmer’s wife who’d had enough of riding to church in the farm truck and arriving in saturated clothing;
‘Why don’t you build people like us a vehicle to go to church in on a Sunday, and which can carry our pigs to market on Mondays?’ her letter asked. 
Bank managers at the time would lend money to farmers to buy  a farm truck, but not a passenger car, hence the plea from one very fed up woman!

It arrived on the desk of managing director Hubert French who, instead of dictating a polite dismissal, passed the letter on to sales manager Scott Inglis.

He in turn showed it to plant superintendent Slim Westman, and the two of them took it to Ford Australia’s design department, which in 1932 consisted of one man .....… Lewis Thornet Bandt was 22 years old and had already been singled out for bigger things with Ford.

Interviewed shortly before his death in 1987, Bandt recalled the moment when Westman and Inglis came to him with the letter.

The brochure for the first utility
The whole thing had already started to germinate," said Bandt. "Westman quite rightly reckoned that if we cut down a car and put a tray on the back, the whole thing would tear in half once there was weight in the back.

"I told him I would design it with a frame that came from the very back pillar, through to the central pillars, near the doors. I would arrange for another pillar to further strengthen that weak point where the cabin and tray joined. I said to Westman `Boss, them pigs are going to have a luxury ride around the city of Geelong!’"

Bandt began by sketching the coupé utility on a 10 metre blackboard, depicting a front view as well as side and rear elevations. When they were seen by Westman some weeks later, he told Bandt to build two prototypes.

The vintage Ford ute that Bandt had rebuilt for himself (rego number UT 001) in which – quite ironically – he was killed in a collision with a sandtruck on March 18, 1987.

On a wheelbase of 112 inches, with a rear tray that was 5ft 5ins long and had a payload of 1200 pounds, they were the first vehicles to also offer a comfortable all-weather cabin.

On first sight of the prototypes, Scott Inglis authorised a startup production run of 500 vehicles. Westman asked for – and got - £10,000 for tooling, and the first coupé utilities rolled off the Geelong assembly line in 1934.

Not all Australian farmers could afford the asking price for a brand new Ford Utility and during the period of WWII cargo carrying trucks were in demand. Some showed that necessity is the mother of invention and constructed their own utility trucks by cutting down a sedan car and adding a tray back.

A typical farm sedan at an old country homestead, 1946
(Maxwell Spencer Dupain AC image)

A ‘cut-down sedan’, come utility truck  on North Terrace, Adelaide, 1947
(Maxwell Spencer Dupain AC image)

Born out of a woman’s frustration with car designs of the day, the enclosed cab utility was initially regarded as a luxury. But the `ute’ was quickly accepted as a necessity of bush life, and won recognition around the world as the ideal farmer’s or tradesman’s vehicle.

Owning a "Ute" or a "truck" is almost de rigeur for many Australian males, especially those who live in rural areas. The 4WD diesel varieties such as the Toyota Land Cruiser or the Nissen Patrol are most popular with the farming fraternity because of their 'raw power' and traction, however, the petrol engined Prado's, Colarado's and Rodeo's are more popular with 'townies'.

I have owned several "Utes", in fact, my first vehicle was a Phase 1 Standard Vanguard Utility which I bought second hand in 1959 - an ex-tradesman's cast-off vehicle - a column shift manual geared monster-weighted vehicle with a 4 cyclinder short stroke engine that had a habit of burning out clutches.

Phase I Standard Vanguard Utility of the type I owned in the late 1950's

Currently I own a GMH (General Motors Holden) Rodeo which is a vehicle I love and have extensively modified to suit our touring activities.

Rodeo LT when first purchased

I've added an electric tow brake mechanism, bullbar, driving lights, foglights. uplift rear suspension, heavy duty towbar, a tray liner, a rear canopy, a second 12volt battery system to run devices like a portable refrigerator/freezer, rear mounted camera with a 5" dash mounted video screen, GPS mapping system and a whole lot of other items.

While we no longer tow a caravan it was ideally set up to do so and it is still used to tow a small box trailer for gathering heavier loads for the garden or for building construction.

The Rodeo LT in its caravanning days.

It's a fair statement that Australians love their trucks! I live next to a High School and the number of Mum's who rock up to drop-off or pick-up their kids in the family truck is quite significant and only bested by those who come in 4WD Sports sedans and ATV's.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Finnish off speeding motorists for good ....

Australia's own eccentric billionaire, the incomparable Clive Palmer steamed on last week, marking his $2 billion devaluation at the hands of the boffins at BRW's Rich List by initiating several immediate austerity measures, including not paying a $333 speeding fine issued by the Queensland police.

Who knows what Palmer's state of mind was in January when he drove his Mercedes-Benz along the Gold Coast's Oxley Drive at 87km/h, 27 clicks above the speed limit?

Whatever it was, he's not saying. But he's not paying, either.

Palmer can consider himself fortunate that his traffic infringement occurred in Queensland, rather than, say, Finland, where such traffic-offence penalties are very, very different for wealthy people.

In Finland, police have a complicated formula for calculating traffic fines. It incorporates the seriousness of the offence, of course, but also accounts for the personal wealth of the culprit. Police take the monthly income of the speedster, subtract a minimum monthly universal living expense of €255 ($328), adjust for the number of dependants and the degree of the offence, and divide by 60. 

Consequently, very rich people who travel very fast in Finland find themselves in a special world of pain - such as the then Nokia chief executive Anssi Vanjoki, who in 2002 collected a €116,000 ticket for riding his cherry-red Harley-Davidson at 75km/h in a Helsinki 50-kilometre-zone. His income was about €12 million at the time.

How would our own lead-footed mining billionaire fare in such a system? Well, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what Palmer's annual income is but he told Lateline's Tony Jones in February that his most recent personal tax bill was $70 million. Assuming the top personal marginal tax rate of 45¢ in the dollar, that puts his income at about $155 million, which is about €120 million.

So if he had exceeded the Finnish speed limit by 27km/h, he would be looking at a speeding ticket of about €1.2 million, or, in Australian money, about $1.5 million.

Finland is not the only country with a progressive fine system.

A few other European countries do it, too, such as Switzerland, where in August 2010 an unnamed motorist, streaking along in his Mercedes at 290km/h, copped a fine of a little more than $1 million. The reasoning behind the whole concept is that fines are an alternative to prison, and prison itself is a financial penalty as it deprives the prisoner of potential earned income.

So if prison is a more costly privation for the wealthy man, why shouldn't the fine follow suit?

Read more:

Euro's-Vision Ha! Ha!

Sorry to our European Economic Community friends, however, I just could not resist posting this after spotting it in today's "The Canberra Times"

Work up at "The Camp"

While we were away last week we did some garden/landscaping work around the caravan. One side of the van in particular had been annoying me and we decided to put red oil stained eucalyptus chips down on a bed of paper and weed matting.

Rhonda at work

Stage 1 complete

Next stage is to put a steel and Merbau wood panel 'skirt' around that side of the caravan and across the back end. It will look something like this (which is on a neighbours site):

I'll hinge the back end to form a gate so we can still get under the van for maintenance and storage. I'm also trying to hunt down a second hand 'Cozy' wood burning fire to be installed on the patio, something like this:

If I can get a 'Cozy' or a pot bellied stove we will then be able to make more use of the patio on cool evenings. Trouble is that they are hard to find and when you do they are too far away and over-priced for their worth!