Tuesday, March 28, 2017

DEBBIE DOES BOWEN...AIRLIE BEACH...AND PROSERPINE....







In the comment section of my previous post, Jenny from the blog "English Travel Writer"  (on my blog list to the right) kindly showed concern for my safety after she saw/read reports about Cyclone Debbie that hit the Queensland coast yesterday, Tuesday.  Below is a copy of my response to Jenny's kind enquiry.....

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-29/cyclone-debbie-bom-downgrade-fears-mount-for-queensland-towns/8393914

http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/destruction-caused-by-cyclone-debbie-revealed-on-wednesday-morning/news-story/b25eab2c1d771250cf05c9eac55ba3d1


With an area of 1,727,000 square kilometres, Queensland is the second largest state in Australia. The biggest is Western Australia. Queensland is nearly five times the size of Japan, seven times the size of Great Britain, and two and a half times the size of Texas.



Cyclone Debbie crossed the coast around noon yesterday (Tuesday) - making landfall, near Airlie Beach, just south of the township of Bowen (all familiar areas to me....I spent 13 years in the North Queensland and have written article about those various areas in which I lived and worked in over the years).

Where I live now, Tamborine Mountain, is in South-East Queensland - in the Gold Coast Hinterland - Mount Tamborine is over 1000kms south from those townships mentioned above. We had perfect weather here yesterday, as is normal when cyclones are further up north sucking everything into the "eye". 

Now it's turned into a rain depression, heading southwards. We, down this way are expected to receive the aftermath...heavy rains starting probably in the early hours of tomorrow (Thursday) morning or late tonight...lasting for a couple of days.

Flood warnings are presently in force...flooding is expected to extend over an area of 13000 kilometres.

Significant damage was caused up in those areas within Cyclone Debbie's destructive path. The damage is only
now beginning to unfold as daylight arrives.  Flooding, of course, is a worry. More will be learned of the extent of the damage as the day progresses.

Much of the area affected is also a "food bowl" so crops such as tomatoes, capsicums (peppers), rockmelons and honeydews etc., and much more were affected. As was the sugar cane which the area is noted for.

Yesterday, from the early hours of the morning, I watched television all day...following everything as it unfolded. I believed the resilient folk who live up in those areas deserved my respect and concern. I felt obliged, in the best possible way, to keep abreast of everything that was occurring minute by minute. 

While phones up that way were still operating I spoke with a couple of friends to let them know they were in my thoughts. When things settle down a bit I will phone them again a little later in the hope I can get through and are able to speak with them. At present, I am unable to get through, so obviously their phone lines are out of action.

My memories of my time on Newry Island when Cyclone Joy decided to pay me a visit during Christmas 1990 were foremost in my mind all through yesterday.  I wrote a lengthy post/story about that particular event back in December, 2015. Every minute detail came flooding back to me yesterday. Cyclones certainly are memorable!

However, the North Queensland locals are a good-humoured, spirited mob...they are resilient and they take everything in their stride.  They don't whinge and complain...they just get on with it.  They retain their sense of humour throughout, and then in the aftermath, they knuckle down and bound together...heads down, bums up and they get the job done.  They are to be admired.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

COCK-A-DOODLE- DOO! THERE’S NO NEED TO BE SO COCKY!




You’re probably sick of it - my haranguing.  I’ve ranted on similarly in the past.  Here I am ranting in the present; and, no doubt, I will again rave on in the future.  

You’d better brace yourself!  Buckle your seat belts! Grab a cup of coffee, or better still, something stiffer! 

Never will I get used to the questionable bad behaviour and/or inhumane actions by some humans, nor will I get used to idiotic decisions made by some within our society.  

Having no desire to do so, I prefer to stick with the values I was taught when I was child, values such as good manners, decency and respect for our fellowman.

Shock! Horror! Yes, I said/wrote it. There it is in black and white - “fellowman” – the meaning of which is - “a kindred member of the human race”.
  
I give no apology to the gender equality brigade (nor do I offer any apology to the politically-correct mob) such as the Yarra councillor in Victoria, for example, who, it appears, has more time and more money on her hands than good sense. 

I refer to the councillor who wants to see more “green and red lady” pedestrian signals installed across inner-city traffic lights; she who figures the figures on the traffic lights to be of the male variety. 

How does she come to that conclusion?  To me they are non-gender specific stick figures; but what would I know - nothing, obviously.   For heaven’s sake!  What’s next? 

Are she, the Yarra Council and VicRoads who have agreed to go along with her ludicrous idea hopping mad?

I like the suggestion Kochie made on Channel 7’s “Sunrise” the other day.  His bright idea to solve the traffic light problem (not that there is a problem, to my way of thought) is to have the current shape replaced with a kangaroo figure. 
 
Inevitably, if a kangaroo was chosen to grace the “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” traffic lights that, too, would cause a lot of jumping up and down.  Some would kick up a fuss.

If a roo replaced the present non-gender figures many are bound to complain. And then, whoever made the decision to use a roo would rue having leapt to such a solution to the world-shattering dilemma. They’d cop a lot of flack.  For sure it’d rebound on them.

The red kangaroo would be thrilled to be represented on the red lights, but the eastern and western grey kangaroos would be bouncing about demanding recognition. Who could blame them?  The antilopine kangaroo would pine having not been considered.

Wallabies have to be taken into consideration, too. Wallabies most definitely would throw a wobbly.  They’d have their nose out of joint for being overlooked.  No doubt they’d be wannabes, wanting to skip up to the plate.   

Ouch! If using a kangaroo or wallaby another problem has hopped into the frame.  What about the pouch?  Only female macropod marsupials are suitable, I guess, so there’d be no point the boomers trying to buck the system by putting their two bob’s worth in.

And what about the wombat?  He'll be ready for combat!

Commonsense, good manners and respect appear to have flown out the window nowadays. It doesn’t cut the mustard with me! 

Take what happened to me yesterday. The galah down the road called me cocky!  How rude and ignorant!  As you can imagine, I was taken aback. Wouldn’t you be if similar was said to you?  How dare he presume to assume! 

Why do some creatures– and that’s what they are – creatures – think they know you when they haven’t a clue?  

All I did was walk past his cage, and he started screaming out at me; “Hello Cocky!”  Raising my head high, I chose to ignore him.  I wasn’t going to be at his peck and call!  

Roasted Cauliflower with Raisin, Pine Nut Vinaigrette: Preheat oven to 250C. Cut 1 cauliflower into 8 wedges; toss wedges with 3tbs x-virgin olive oil; season to taste. Transfer to foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet.  Roast on middle shelf until cauliflower is tender and deeply browned on both sides, about 20mins, flip cauliflower half way through. Combine 3tbs x-virgin olive oil, 1tbs sherry vinegar, 1tbs honey, 2tbs rinsed, drained, finely chopped capers. 1/4c toasted pine nuts, 1/4c raisins and 2tbs finely chopped parsley; season. Transfer cauliflower to serving plate; spoon dressing over; serve immediately.

Honey Mustard Chicken with Turmeric & Pine Nuts: Pat dry 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Combine 1tbs x-virgin olive oil, 1tsp ground turmeric, 1tsp mustard powder, salt and pepper; rub into chicken, working well into all surfaces of thighs. Whisk together 2tbs whole grain mustard, 3tbs Dijon mustard, 3tbs honey, 2tbs chicken stock, salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy-based pan; sear thighs on both sides until golden and crispy. Drain excess oil; pour honey-mustard mixture over thighs. Bake in 190C oven, 30mins or until cooked through. Halfway cooking time, add some black olives, whole or sliced, if you like.  Serve with toasted pine nuts sprinkled over chicken.

Spinach, Chicken, Pine Nut Salad: Place 8c spinach in large salad bowl; add 1c halved cherry tomatoes, ½ corn kernels (fresh, canned or frozen), 1-1/2c chopped cooked chicken, 1 sliced, large avocado, 1/3c crumbled goat or feta cheese and 1/4c toasted pine nuts. Make dressing – combine 3tbs white wine vinegar, 2tbs x-virgin olive oil, 1tbs Dijon, salt and pepper; pour over salad; toss.  

Pear Pine Nut Cake: Heat oven to 175C. Toast 2tbs pine nuts; cool. Spray 9-inch round cake pan. Combine 1-1/4c plain flour, 3/4c sugar and 1/4tsp salt.  Cut in 1/4c cold butter until mixture looks like coarse meal. Remove 1/3c mixture to small bowl; stir in 1/4tsp cinnamon and toasted pine nuts. To remaining mixture, add 1/3rd cup sour cream, 1/4c milk, 1tsp lemon zest, 1tsp vanilla, 1/2tsp baking powder. 1/4tsp baking soda and 1 egg; beat on med-speed until well blended. Pour into cake pan; arrange 2c thinly sliced, peeled pear over batter; sprinkle reserved pine nut mixture over top. Bake 45-50mins until cooked; cool completely in pan on rack.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE – IDES WATCH MY BACK IF I WERE YOU!




I spent yesterday, 15th March, from sun-up until midnight, walking backwards.
To my surprise, and relief, not once did I stumble, nor did I fall over.  Miracles do happen!  In the meantime, I did cause a few bemused spectators to wonder if I was coming or going. 

The confused observers were obviously oblivious to the fact that yesterday, 15th March, was The Ides of March, the day/date in 44BC Big Julie aka Julius Caesar got stabbed in the back. 

A seer had warned Big Julie an assassination attempt was in the wind, but Caesar just blew off the seer’s prophecy.  The seer told Julius Caesar – “Julie!  Don’t go! Don’t go, Big Julie!’  But Big Julie believed he was too big a deal to heed a mere seer.

The attack by Brutus at a meeting of the senate was a brutal thing to do.  The political arena even back in 44BC was a dangerous place to hang about in. 

Who’d want to be a politician? Not me, not without a worthy amount of armour plate, anyway; either that or I’d ensure I was a backbencher, right up in the back row, with my back against the wall, allowing no room for anyone to be behind me! 

Trust no one...the brutes!

So that was yesterday, done, dusted, out of the way.  Whew! And, I’m still here to tell the story sans knife in my back! 

Today is today.

With some forward thinking while backward walking I managed to get through The Ides of March unscathed.

Tomorrow is tomorrow so I’m now readying myself for tomorrow -  St. Patrick’s Day. 

Actually, for months I’ve been preparing myself for Paddy’s arrival.  I didn’t allow the Ides, or anything else to get in my way. For hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month I’ve been practising my Riverdance steps. 

Although, yesterday, trying to execute complex foot actions with my arms stationary at my sides all the while being in backward mode was a bit awkward. There were moments, more than a few moments I resembled Kath, Kel and Sharon Karen Trzelecki’s performances (all wrapped up in one) in that memorable episode of the satirical Aussie TV comedy, “Kath & Kim”. 

Kath, Kel, Kim, Brett and Sharon caused much laughter when they entered our homes via our television screens from 2002 to 2005.  Aussie fans of the show will remember the “Riverdance” episode, I’m sure....how could you not?

Because of the myriad offers I received I was forced to flatly decline a most generous one from Michael Flatley to join his world-acclaimed troupe of dancers.

I’ve written much about St. Patrick, aka Paddy or Pat to his mates, over the years.  I guess there’s little else I can say about the dear old chap, except he didn’t actually drive snakes out of Ireland. 

Ireland never had any snakes before or after Paddy adorned in his cassock went charging through causing havoc while, below foot, treading on the shamrock. 

In the meanwhile, the flow of the Druids driven out to sea by Paddy was most fluid. 

Ever since Patrick’s death on 17th March, 461AD (appropriately, he was interred at “Downpatrick”) people all over go in search of a four leaf clover to bring them good fortune.

If you see me out and about tomorrow foraging on the grassy verges or in your garden ignore me.  Be on alert - here is a chance you may not notice me because I’ll be dressed in green. 

If you see a large clump of grass moving around while you’re mowing dodge it – it could be me. I’d like to keep all my limbs intact, in fact. 

The wearing of the green came into vogue long after St. Patrick had his day. However, the Irish brogue existed before brazen Paddy did his best to rid the country of its pagans.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were mostly influenced by the dispersion of the Irish to lands other than their homeland; the Irish diaspora who settled in the US, especially, kick-booted the sometimes boisterous celebration into gear. 

St. Patrick’s Day at the resort on Hinchinbrook Island was a hoot.  My barman made sure all the drinks ordered had drops of green food colouring added to them, much to the delight of our good-humoured holiday-making guests.

At lunch time a little boy was jumping for joy when he was served his lunch; that was until he tried what he thought was a huge blob of green ice cream on his plate.  When he discovered it was green mashed potatoes, his face took on a completely different appearance as he let out a very disappointed and loud, “Yuck!  I thought this was ice cream!” 

The young lad's reaction caused much laughter among the rest of the diners and my staff.

The following morning, Bronnie, one of my staff members came into my office, a very concerned look on her face.  In hushed tones, she told me she feared there was a virus of some sort going through the resort.  She believed there was a problem - bacteria of some sort - in the resort’s water supply. 

From her tone, I could’ve sworn everyone on the island was about to die or, at least, end up in hospital for weeks.  I broke into uncontrollable laughter, much to Bronnie's surprise.  There she was serious and very concerned, and all I could do was laugh.

The abundance of green food colouring used the day before in celebration of St. Paddy’s Day had caused a massive alteration in the colour of one’s bodily waste matter...if you know what I mean.  I’ve often wondered what the guests thought when they discovered the surprise that awaited them that morning. 

No one, other than Bronnie made mention to me of the rapidly contagious “disease” that had taken over the resort!  I would have immediately put them at ease that the black plague wasn't rampantly spreading!

In the early part of last century my paternal grandparents, shortly after marrying, came to Australia...all the way from County Armagh, Northern Ireland.   

My maternal forefathers and foremothers (how many can one person have?) were mostly Scottish, and Presbyterian; and when we were children my now late brother and I attended the Presbyterian Sunday School and Church...in days long gone by in the distant haze!

My paternal grandfather was Catholic; my paternal grandmother was not, but she jumped over to the green side to keep the peace.   

They settled in Rockhampton, Central Queeensland – and the rest is history... just like St. Patrick, Big Julie and Brutus, the brute!

Caesar Salad: Dressing: Place 4 whole anchovy fillets in processor/blender; add 2-3tbs Dijon mustard, 1tbs balsamic or red wine vinegar, 1tsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 garlic cloves and juice of half lemon; pulse on low for a few seconds. With processor/blender on, slowly drizzle in 1/2c x-virgin olive oil.  Add 1/4c freshly grated Parmesan, salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste; pulse until thoroughly combined; chill for a few hours before using it on the salad. Make croutons: Slice ½ loaf of crusty French bread into thick slices; then cut into 1-inch cubes. Place on baking sheet; Heat 1/4c olive oil in small pan over low heat; crush – don’t chop – 2 garlic cloves; add to oil; move the garlic around in pan for 3-5mins; remove garlic from the pan. Slowly drizzle the garlic-infused oil over the croutons; mix together with your hand; sprinkle lightly with salt; toss; then cook in pan until golden and crisp. (Add a little butter to enhance the flavour, if you like).  Salad: Wash and dry the hearts of 2 or 3 romaine/cos lettuce. Leave the hearts whole. Place in salad bowl. Drizzle about half of the dressing over the top of the hearts. Use vegetable peeler and shave off large thin slices of a block of Parmesan cheese; add a good handful of the shavings to the lettuce; give it a good toss; add more dressing and Parmesan to taste. For a variation on a theme...you can top the salad with 2 grilled chicken breast fillets, cut into 1cm thick slices and 4 cooked, crisp, rind-less bacon rashers cut into strips to the salad along with 4 soft, poached eggs gently sitting atop – with some Parmesan scattered over the lot – the choice is yours..Caesar won’t mind!

Colcannon-Bacon Bites with Caper Aioli: Aioli - Whiz 2 egg yolks, 2tbs lemon juice and 1/4tsp salt in processor. With motor running, slowly add 1c sunflower oil until thick and smooth; add 1tsp Dijon, 2tbs sour cream, 1tsp white wine vinegar, 1c flat-leaf parsley leaves and rinsed, drained, finely-chopped salted capers; whiz to combine; season. Transfer to bowl; chill. Boil 1kg starchy potatoes until tender; drain well. Heat olive oil in pan over med-high heat; cook 250g chopped, rind-less bacon until crisp; drain. Blanch 100g trimmed cabbage (or kale); drain; finely chop. Mash potatoes over low heat; add 20g butter and 1/4c cream; mash; add bacon and cabbage/kale; season; remove from heat. Roll mixture into 24 patties. Combine 3c fresh sourdough breadcrumbs, 1c finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and finely grated zest of 1 lemon; season.  Whisk together 2 eggs and 2tbs milk; coat patties with egg wash; then with breadcrumbs. Heat 1cm olive oil in pan over med-high heat; shallow fry patties until golden and crisp; serve with aioli.

Spud Murphy Muffins: Oil-spray muffin pan. Stir together 3 packed cups left-over mashed spuds, 1 large egg, 3/4c shredded cheddar, 2tbs chopped chives, salt and pepper. Divide mixture evenly into muffin pan, packing mashed spuds down into each cup. Bake in 190C oven 30-35mins; remove from oven; top each muffin with more shredded cheese; return to oven for 3-4mins; cool in pan 5mins; transfer to serving plate; eat! 


Paddy’s Lucky Slices: Preheat oven to 175C. Mix together 1-1/2c chocolate wafer biscuit crumbs (about 30 wafers) and 1/3c melted butter.  Press firmly onto bottom of foil-lined 9-inch square baking pan. Chill until ready to use.  In a large bowl, beat together on med-speed, 240g softened cream cheese and 1c sugar until well blended.  Add 1/2c sour cream and 1tspn pure peppermint extract; mix well.  Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition...just until blended.  Pour half of the batter over crust.  Tint remaining batter green with food colouring.  Pour over batter in pan.  Bake 25-30mins or until centre is almost set.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Chill 4 hours or overnight. Lift out of pan; cut into bars.  Drizzle bars with melted chocolate.


Shimmy-Shimmy Shamrock Shake: Blend together until thick and smooth, 3-4 scoops vanilla ice cream, 1/2c Bailey’s Irish Cream, 4 ice cubes, 2tbs vanilla vodka, 1tbs Kahlua, 1/2c milk, mint extract to taste and 5 drops green food colouring ; if shake is too thin, add more ice cream; pour into glasses; top with whipped cream.