Archive for October, 2013


My son, Jack, has more reason than others to celebrate Halloween. He was born on Halloween, 31st October 2002. When he was a baby, I used to call him “Jack O-Lantern” or “My ‘Lil Pumpkin Man”. The funny thing is, we don’t really celebrate Halloween. Jack always wants a party, and I always say “No”, as invariably, his special day being what it is, any party on that day would carry the expectation of having a Halloween theme. Plus all the trimmings. Which means more money spent. When he’s 18 he can throw his own Halloween-theme parties.

So, we try to have as normal a day as possible. Last year we bought Halloween decorations and a pumpkin. This year I’m proud to say I spent ZERO dollars on Halloween stuff. Instead, here’s what Geoff and I bought for Jack, for his 11th birthday:

A PS3 with Grand Theft Auto 5 and six other games. (Geoff wanted GTA5 on it as the music is by his beloved Tangerine Dream).

An Apple Mac Mini. We already had an Apple-compatible monitor, mouse and keyboard, as we have an old Mac G5. Jack had broken the screen of his laptop (last year’s present) 2 weeks after he got it, so now with the Mac Mini, we were back in business. It was a simple matter of hooking the Mac Mini to the peripherals, and off you go. Nevermind that I had to hunt high and low at Dick Smith and JBHiFi before I found the correct Male-Male DVI Adapter to link up the Mac Mini to the monitor, that’s another story ;-)!.

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Lots of Lego! He wanted a Minecraft Lego set, so I sent off for it online. I also bought him some boxed sets of Lego. Some he can have today, some I’m holding back for Christmas.

A book “Beautiful Lego”, from Amazon. I sneaked a peek. There are some really talented folk out there creating the most amazing objects from Lego.

Beautiful LEGO by Mike Doyle http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1593275080/ref=cm_sw_r_udp_awd_BFyCsb1DJQDS0

Treatwise, I made Jack his favourite chocolate cake. We call it “South Park Cake” as it’s made using Kilkenny. Get it? :D On Saturday, I’m treating him and his best friend Cooper to the movie Thor at the cinema. Cooper will be coming over on Saturday for lunch and play, then the movie and then some dinner and a sleepover til Sunday after breakfast. So that will be Jack’s real birthday party. For his birthday lunch at home with Cooper, I’m making some Mummy Hotdogs (frankfurters with slit arms and legs, wrapped in puff pastry then baked, to look like mummies),  Bloody Fingers (crumbed chicken fingers dipped in ketchup), and Mummy Mini Pizzas (mini pizzas with ketchup eyes and mouth, draped with cheese strips). Some red raspberry-apple cordial will provide more bloody colour to the festivities.

For today, though, the 31st October itself, Jack’s school is holding its annual Michael Jackson “Thriller” dance. The students dress up as the undead and dance en-masse in the school field. They love it. I bought Jack 2 t-shirts, the one he’s wearing today for Thriller says “I’ve been bit!” and the text is covered in blood. The other one is white with blood-spattered words on it saying “Zombie Hunter”, and Jack will wear that on Saturday for his party. Any food stains on the white will only add to the authenticity of the situation lol.

And I created this image for Jack to be used for a t-shirt design, but he’s delighted enough to have it as his desktop image on his new Mac Mini.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MY BEAUTIFUL SON, JACK! LOVE YOU TO THE MOON AND BACK! ♥♥♥

HAPPY HALLOWEEN 2013!

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I don’t consider myself Asian. Or, if I do, then I’m a Banana…yellow on the outside, white on the inside. (Or, in Summer, I’m a Coconut!). It’s not that I aspire towards being Caucasian, it’s more to do with my personal values and outlook on culture.

One thing you will notice about “traditional” Asians is their preoccupation with the accumulation of wealth. Here’s how a normal conversation between 2 strangers, 1 an Asian, the other a Westerner, goes:

Asian: Hi, what’s your name?
Westerner: John Smith
Asian: Nice to meet you, John Smith. Where are you from?
Westerner: I’m from England.
Asian: Oh, how nice. John, what do you do and how much do you earn in a year?
Westerner: I….errrr…!

I just hate when that happens! Asian families will also think nothing of probing into the most personal aspects of your life. Asian Aunts and Uncles will join parents in giving unsolicited advice on where to buy property, what profession to be in, what car to drive, which bank to put your money in, who to marry, how many children to have, where they should go to school etc etc. Nevermind that they don’t really know what your life is like. If they see you deviate from the “Golden Path To Success and Wealth”, they feel it is their duty to advise you on how to get back on track.

I just so happened to have fallen off the bandwagon and said track many, many years ago. The Path I’m on..well, put it this way, I’m making it up as I go along. No books have been written yet about who or what I want to be. I just know I’m heading somewhere momentous, and that I am a Pioneer in my field.

That said, my relations like to point out that I have an “enormous propensity for eating”. Which is true. And, living in the Western World, albeit with easy access to many Asian food outlets, I sometimes have a hankering for the simple foods of my childhood. Sometimes these are not easily obtainable, and when the hankering gets too much, it is time to find a recipe and create the object of desire myself.

And so we come to the subject of Curry Puffs. Delicious morsels of fluffy golden puff pastry, enveloping a curried interior of potatoes and onions. Sometimes there will be meat (chicken or mutton), but in this day and age, that’s no longer economically sustainable.

I made some last weekend, and there’s enough left over to bring to work and have for my break. Yummy!

Curry Puffs

Adapted from the book “Penang Heritage Food” by Ong Jin Teong.

Ingredients (for the filling):             
200g potatoes, peeled and diced small
200g onions, peeled and diced small
2 tbsp rendang paste (I happened to have bought a few sachets of this from Cosway, but any curry paste will do)
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp milk
Curry powder (optional)
250g minced chicken/mutton (optional)

Method:
Fry prepared potatoes and onions in oil until soft. Add rendang paste and milk. Stir fry until curry paste has coated the potatoes and onions.

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To assemble:

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Prepare storebought puff pastry. Remove 1 leaf of puff pastry and let rest for 5-10 minutes. I simply left mine on its plastic divider sheet and then cut the puff pastry square into 9 equal portions. I didn’t bother rolling the puff pastry as it was already thin enough. Spoon the cooked filling onto middle of each portion. Coat near the edges of the pastry with beaten egg using a pastry brush. Fold pastry over filling and press edges together. I folded the squares into a triangle, then crimped the edges together.

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Transfer to baking tray. Coat with beaten egg to glaze. Bake at 200°C for about 15 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown.

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Delicious eaten hot from the oven, and equally good eaten cold.

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The other day, hubby, myself and the kid found ourselves at Booragoon Apple Store. Why? Because I woke up that morning with the crazy idea that, if I was going to start my education in all things Adobe, I would need a dedicated computer for that. And, seeing as hubby already owns a 21 inch iMac that I’d bought him with my very first Australian paycheck 2 years ago (well, ok I paid for 2/3 of it), and that, with his new music studio in our house slowly coming together, he was probably hankering after a bigger screen…a bit of handing-me-down seemed called for.

So, hubby got a new 27 inch iMac that is so thin our current flatscreen TV wept. And I “inherited” his/my old 21 inch iMac. Happy days! A look-in at Dymocks bookstore in the same shopping centre unearthed a “Creative Cloud for Dummies” book…cool, right up my street. Plus, I have a couple of books on the same subject on order from Amazon, but those will probably take a couple of weeks to arrive. But now, with Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscribed to monthly (AU$49.99), and bolstered by my new Dummies book on the subject, I can get started immediately.

The Dummies book is reassuringly thick. Possibly like me. And it will make a wonderful pillow for my poor head, when all that hard learning gets too much.

Creative Cloud for Dummies book

(I’ve posted the link to The Book Depository as they offer Free Delivery Worldwide, so anything you find on Amazon that they also offer, do yourself a favour – check their own site first and see if you can get the item cheaper directly from them).

I realise now that I have to sift through tonnes of Photoshop videos to get to what I want, and that is pattern repeats.  I don’t intend to utilise Photoshop fully, as I am perfectly happy using my Samsung Galaxy S4 mobile phone and Google Apps to create my mobile photography images.  However, what I do need to use on Photoshop, or Illustrator, is the offset pattern repeat functionality.  Here is a video of an interesting tutorial I found on Lynda.com.

http://www.lynda.com/home/Player.aspx?lpk4=141907&lpk42=00:00

I also found this lovely one on YouTube.  She makes it look so easy!!

http://youtu.be/TxkZnyhjJDk

I followed Helen Bradley’s wonderfully simply video tutorial on using scripted patterns.  Here are my first 2 efforts in creating a brick and weave tiling pattern.  One’s a strawberry flower, the other is a red poppy.

While that worked for brick and weave patterns, it didn’t come out nicely for spiral or random patterns.  I thought about it, then realised that was because I hadn’t actually cut out the flower, I’d merely selected the image and put a black background around it.  So, in actual fact, my image was a rectangle, hence the jaggedness when formed into a spiral pattern.  Back to the drawing board!

Strawberry flower1 RedPoppypattern1

Day 2 – today I used Photoshop’s very handy crop tool, which is soooo easy to use, by the way, to cut out my Poppy image completely free from its background.  Then, I opened up a new image and pasted the Poppy to it, so I now had just the Poppy floating about on its own.  A definite improvement!  I also found a handy script pattern UI that someone else had created, and played around with it.  http://uebelephoto.com/CS6_Fill.html

Here are some results from today’s foray into Photoshop CC.  Much better…but I think I really need a lot of practice to be able to remember how to do this!

RedPoppyAgain Red Poppy mixed

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So, recently we were away for a short break, and what an eye opener that trip was! In fact, you’ll find me writing about aspects of our holiday in greater detail. Keeping my blog going those 4 days in early October was an Herculean task, as for much of the time there was no mobile phone reception or GPS, and I had to rely on my husband’s portable wifi dongle. Oh, and not to mention how scarily fast one’s mobile phone battery goes down when sitting in a car on a 15 hour drive!

Anyway, I’ve been unhappy at work for a while now. It’s not the nature of my work, which is answering enquiries from bank customers. That’s easy and pleasant enough. It’s the fact that my department is run by children, for children, literally. The managers are too young and inexperienced to be managers, and yet they call the shots. Everything is about Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and Customer Satisfaction. It’s all about statistics, and nothing about Staff contentment or retention. It’s not what you know, but who you know…and if you want to get anywhere, then there is a lot of brown-nosing and favouritism involved. Well, I’m not one to play this game. So, I’ve given my notice and although I haven’t another job to go to, I feel nothing but relief at being able to escape from that infernal place. I know I deserve better.

What will I do? Well, I decided to take the plunge and invest in Adobe’s Creative Cloud. I’ll not be buying the CS6, which at over $3100 is beyond my budget. Instead, I’ll be subscribing to the Creative Cloud (CC) for $49.99 a month first, with an annual outlay of $564. It will be hard going, but I know if I persevere with getting to grips with this powerhouse of programmes, it will be so worth the effort!

Adobe announced in March 2013 that it would no longer be producing hard copies of its software programmes. Instead, subscribers would be able to access all its products online via a range of payment options and packages.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Many diehard users of Adobe’s software were unhappy at the announcement made by Adobe, as they had grown used to idea of perpetual licenses. This new development meant that instead of owning a CD hardcopy of Adobe, one would be “renting” it monthly. For me, though, having never had any experience with Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver etc, at least there’s nothing to unlearn. I’ll be a clean slate that hopefully will fill up with knowledge and know-how. That is the plan, anyhow.

And here are my reasons for wanting to use Adobe’s CS6:

1. I want to be able to design pattern repeats for textiles. My aim is to be able to produce my own designs for bedlinen, cushions, curtains, rugs, wallpaper, maybe even clothing such as coats, scarves and t-shirts.

2. I’d like to be able to publish my photobooks to platforms such as Kindle and e-books.

3. I want to print my own CD album covers, CDs, book covers.

4. I’d like to be able to bring my Graphic Design ideas to life. There are very few Apps on iOS and Android that offer graphic design templates.

5. Maybe, if I ever get past the basics, I could even write some photo editing Apps? (Wishful thinking)

So, from time to time, when I’m not posting about mobile photography art, or music, or recipes, or travel, or anything else under the sun that catches my fancy, you may find me posting here about my experience with Adobe CS6. Or maybe ranting about it, when the learning curve turns into a slippery glass mountain.

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Time left Monkey Mia Resort: 9.15am
Time reached Rockingham: 11:50pm

Places visited in this time:
Dolphin Interaction (as written about in previous post)
Shell Beach (so I can get a few more pics, and oh we also gave 3 lovely backpacking Swiss lassies a lift to the main road, which is 80km away!)
Nature’s Window & Z Bend
Hutt Lagoon

At Shell Beach we meet 3 enchanting and beautiful Swiss girls looking for a lift to Overlander, a Roadhouse on the main highway. It was a bit of a squish fitting their Very Large backpacks into the back of our car, and then the 3 lassies themselves onto the backseat. One of them had to sit on the lap of another! As for Jack, he was overawed by their loveliness and became very, very quiet during the 40 minutes or so before we got to Overlander.

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(Carman, Adrienne and Lia, our 3 lovely Swiss maids).

We left Carman, Adrienne and Lia at the Overlander Roadhouse, where they would have no problems getting a hitch further up North to the Coral Coast and Ningaloo.

As for us, it was down the highway again towards Kalbarri and that Nature’s Window that we seemed to have missed the first time. We realised the reason we couldn’t get there last time was because the road had been closed for roadworks.

At first glance it seemed they had completed tarmacing the road…it was 27km in, after all, to get to the Nature’s Window. But, the road petered out after a few km in, and then we were following the Yellow Brick Road. Not. It was yellow alright, but it was made of sand, and that sand was sometimes loose and treacherous. There were cars of all sorts slipping and sliding on the road along with us. It was mad. One was not amused.

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But finally, we were at the Nature’s Window. First port of call – nature’s call, actually. Only the place still seemed to be under construction…there were construction crews working on shelters and a Tourist Information centre, and the only loos were 4 Portaloos. 2 of which were padlocked. The other 2 were absolutely disgusting and had run out of water. One was again not amused.

Then, it was a short stroll down to the amazing Grand Canyon-like gorge. A bit of clambering up on red rocks, and there we were. I didn’t know what to expect, really, but I thought Nature’s Window would somehow be bigger. In fact, I didn’t realise I was actually there until I turned round and noticed the great gaping hole in the rock behind me. Still, it was pretty awesome!

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The Loop is a 3-5 hour walk around the gorges. Hikers have died on that trail, from heat exhaustion and dehydration. By now it was after 3pm and we were still hundreds of km from home, so we didn’t have time to do The Loop. Neither had we the time to do the 1.2 km walk to see what the Z Bend was about…the sign said watch out for lots of steps and loose stones. So, with time running out, we ventured about 250m onto the track, then turned back.

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Hurry hurry! A quick pitstop at Kalbarri for petrol and a takeaway lunch of Mrs Mac’s pies. And I took this pic of these 2 dogs sitting patiently in a basket on the back of an ATV, waiting for their master. So cute!

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The last place on our to-see list this time round was Hutt Lagoon. Also known as The Pink Lake. It’s an algae thing. The lagoon itself is over 14km long and about 2.4km wide. At the Port Gregory end of it is the world’s largest salt refinery. It’s best to get to Hutt Lagoon around sunset, as apparently the colour changes from light pink to mauve to purple. We were there around 5:30pm, an hour before sunset.

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Then, with this off our list, we began the final long drive home at about 5:45pm.

6 hours later, just before midnight, we’re home! And straight to bed zzzzzzz…

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After Ocean Park, we head back towards Denham for some essential supplies to snack on during the long 12 hour drive back on Thursday. By essential I mean a bag of mixed natural nuts, 2 bags of gummy sweets and a big bag of Doritos and one of cheese and onion crisps.

Some photos of Denham’s foreshore. Gorgeous waters.

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Then it’s onto Little Lagoon. Which at first glance looks like a perfect, enclosed, circular lake. But in actual fact feeds out into the Indian Ocean by way of a creek. It’s about 4000 years old in its current formation.

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Then, back to Monkey Mia Resort, as by now all our mobile phones are nearly dead. Well, Geoff’s and Jack’s iPhones conked out while we were at Ocean Park. My Samsung Galaxy S4 had 25% until we got to the Little Lagoon, and after a few photos there, that rapidly zeroed out too. So, back at HQ, it was all mobiles to chargers!

7:30pm, time for dinner at the Boughshed. Looking forward to it, it’s meant to be very good, and Nouveau Cuisine.

Nom nom nom!

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For starters, we have Balmain Bug Salad and Twice Cooked Pork Belly.

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For mains, Geoff has the Barramundi and I have the Risotto.

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Wow, am stuffed after this! But Geoff still has room for an Apple Sponge with cinnamon sauce, while I stick with just a Cappuccino, and the kid has chocolate ice cream.

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Lovely!!

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Once you enter the World Heritage Drive, which is a fancy name for the main road that leads, eventually, to Monkey Mia, you realise just how BIG a country Australia is. On the map the peninsula resembles a crab’s claw, a tiny thing sticking out of the west of Australia’s shoreline. In reality, it’s 129km in from the main road to Denham, the main (or only) town in the claw. And a further 23km from Denham to Monkey Mia itself.

The Stromatolites are off Hamelin Homestead in Shark Bay. Here’s information about Sttomatolites.

Stromatolites of Shark Bay

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Note in the photo above the rather cocky stromatolite near the centre! Isn’t Mother Nature’s sense of humour brilliant?!

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You might be able to see small bubbles coming out from the Stromatolites – that’s them producing O2 into the air.

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Jack pointed this one out – it does look like Australia upside down, if you take away the two smaller “islands”.

Next, Shell Beach, another 15 minutes drive from the Stromatolites. This is where billions of little clams get washed up each year. There is a thriving shell industry in Western Australia, with shells making their way into the making of concrete, building materials, poultry feed, etc. The shells go down as deep as 10m in places. A bit hard on bare feet to walk on!

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Another hour’s drive and we’re finally at Monkey Mia Resort. It’s just after 6:30pm and the sun has set. But, the Samsung Galaxy S4 camera takes great night shots so here are some.

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Some snapshots of the scenery etc along our way from Rockingham to Kalbarri. Apologies for the degradation of windshield transparency quality – hundreds of kamikaze insects saw to that!

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Jurien Bay beach, where the water is a beautiful turquoise blue.

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Geraldton St Francis Cathedral

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Approaching Geraldton foreshore

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Panorama of Geraldton beach

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Geoff on Geraldton beach.

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After years of using a hand-held electric, or worse still, hand-held Manual food mixer, I caved in a couple months ago and bought a bench mixer. Only because I’d already bought a matching bread toaster and kettle. And because it was a lovely red. Colour is all important in a newly refreshed kitchen in shades of red and pink.

I still like my little hand-held mixer for small jobs like whipping cream or making meringue. But this new bench mixer was the business. I thought I’d cut my teeth on it by making some Ciabatta bread.

Ok, perhaps not the easiest of breads to make. But over the years I’ve tried my hand at baking my own bread, with varying levels of success. One time I made a starter using potato skins, of all things, and that turned out beautifully crusty and crumbly. I’ve lost the recipe, though. Other breads I’ve tried, have turned out looking grey and stodgy, or too hard, or too flat. I do best making Bagels, Pizza or Steamed Buns Chinese style.

Now I thought why not Ciabatta bread. Seeing as I’d come across an unusual recipe for it thru Pinterest, that didn’t call for any kneading and that used a bench mixer. It’s called Jason’s Quick Coccodrillo Ciabatta Bread. Ciabatta bread

I did some fiddling with the recipe and used these Ingredients:

500g strong flour
500ml tepid water
2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt

My Method:

1. Put everything into the mixing bowl and use the mixing paddle to thoroughly mix all the ingredients.

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2. Change the attachment to a dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 5-10 minutes, or until the dough starts to creep up the paddle and the bottom of it starts to leave the bowl.

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3. Pour or scrape the dough into a well-oiled bowl. The dough is very sticky, as you can see in the pictures.

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4. Let dough rise for 1.5-2 hours, or until it has more tripled in size. If you can’t get it to triple, at least get it to double. You want as many air holes in the dough as you can get, that is the whole point of Ciabatta.

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5. Generously flour your worktop and pour or scrape the sticky dough onto it. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 pieces. There is no need to knead this. Just sprinkle some flour over the dough and let it prove for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, crank up your oven to at least 250°C. (The recipe is American and calls for 450°F or 260°C, but my oven only goes up to 250°C).

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6. Flour your baking tray. I lined mine with baking parchment and sprinkled flour all over it. Shape your dough into a rectangle and quickly lift it from your worksurface and place it on the baking tray. My tray only fitted 2 loaves at a time, so I baked my bread in 2 batches.

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7. Bake for about 20 minutes. The crust should be golden brown when ready. Leave to cool before slicing and eating.

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Notes:

My breads did not experience the ginormous “lift” suggested by the recipe. But it DID have the all-important chewiness and holey structure, and the golden crust. I found the best way to eat the Ciabatta was to cut it in half, then slice each half lengthways.

The Kid gave his seal of approval. I had mine with homemade marmalade. It was yummy!

Here are some pics of my second batch – they came out better and higher.

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This morning, our last in Monkey Mia, we try one more time to see if the dolphins will swim up to the beach. Yesterday they appeared twice mid-morning, but by then we’re already in Ocean Park Aquarium in Denham.

So this morning there are well over 300 people on the boardwalk waiting for those elusive dolphins. Once again, at the cue given by the guide, everyone walks to the water’s edge. 15 minutes pass, and no sign of any dorsal fins in the water.

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Eventually we’re told there’s a dolphin video being shown in the theater. Some people move to the restaurant for their breakfast, others like us go to watch the video, while a few stragglers hang on by the beach.

The video is quite an eye-opener. Male dolphins can be quite the bully and often gang up on younger, weaker calves and sometimes even kill them. It’s a common practice for males to “kidnap” a female and herd her away from her female friends and family, so they can have their wicked way with her. Some dolphins have ingeniously developed a new technique of fishing, which comprises herding a shoal of fish into shallow water, then, as an orchestrated effort, rushing straight at the fish onto the shore, in order to scoop the floundering fish up with their beaks.

About 10 minutes into the video, we hear the guide announcing that some dolphins have arrived near the beach. So, everyone scrambles to join the crowd already assembled on the beach.

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It takes a while for Nicky and her calf Missler(?) to come in to the shallows. For about 10 minutes they tease us by swimming parallel to the shore, or away. The guide keeps up her spiel about not touching the dolphins, not wearing lotion on your legs as they irrirate the dolphins’ eyes, how to keep still if a dolphin came too near you. Finally, Nicky, the mother dolphin, swims right up and turns on her side…to look at us, as dolphins can’t turn their heads like humans, so they have to turn their whole body.

A volunteer appears with a shiny bucket of fish. 5 fish, to be exact. This is restricted because at Monkey Mia there are 3 dolphin interactions a day, between 8am and 12pm, and they do not wish to encourage the dolphins to become dependant on these feeds. So, these are simply snacks.

5 lucky people are chosen at random to feed Nicky. Missler, her calf, chooses to stay out of reach, swimming up and down close to her mother. A fish is held by the tail and offered to Nicky, who takes it with her beak.

When all 5 fish are gone, the water in the shiny bucket is poured out, as a sign to the dolphins that there’s no more fish in it. Almost immediately, Nicky gathers her calf to her and swims away, back into the sea.

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