Omelette 6 2014

A First Crack at a French Omelette…

Well it’s back to reality now.  We came back on Thursday from a fabulous trip to England to see friends and family.  Thursday was a 21 hour day so I barely avoided going face first into the pillow when we made it home.  A friend of ours asked me what I missed when we were gone and it was a bit erm ketchup?  Seriously, when we move back we’ll be asking any visiting friends to bring us ketchup.

Of course I missed our kitchen.  My husband and I got a bit of cooking in, there was an amazing leg of lamb, but it’s hard when it’s not your kitchen.  Not knowing where things are slow you down!  And if you are trying to cook to allow your mother-in-law to relax, it’s hard for her to relax if you are asking where things are.  But we did our best.

After doing a few travel and train posts I was anxious to get back to recipes though the jet lag held me back a bit but today was better.  I thought I’d be bold and go for a French omelette.  The fluffy, creamy, make in a few seconds but has a high level of technique kind.  And as it was my first time, take pictures!  Hmmm.  Maybe the jet lag hasn’t worked it’s way through yet.  But I did it anyway.

I used Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking for this.  It highly recommends a non stick omelette pan.  Which I don’t own.  I own a crepe pan.  I think I upped the level of difficulty right there as it is helpful to have some sides to the pan.

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The cooking of the eggs is very quick so prep the ingredients beforehand.  I chopped up fresh thyme and chives from the garden and grated a 1/4 cup of fresh parmesan.  In a bowl beat 2-3 eggs until blended.  Don’t whip them just get them integrated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Heat a tablespoon of butter in the pan you are going to use, moving it about to coat the sides and the bottom.  The book says that once the foam subsides and just before the colour changes it is hot enough.

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Add the eggs and slide the pan back and forth.  The book recommends using a fork but as I don’t want to scratch the pan I used a silicon spatula but you want to stir the eggs quickly as the eggs thicken.  Not scramble them mind but keep the egg moving as it spreads out to cook.  This only takes a few seconds.

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As it begins to fluff up and starts to look like a broken custard add your fillings.  And when they said in a few seconds they weren’t kidding.  I could have used three arms for this with taking photos!

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Gently move it about folding it over itself by bringing the pan to a 45 degree angle.  If it sticks whack the handle a few times.  However you do this you don’t want the eggs to stick.  They’ll start overcooking.  Roll it onto a hot plate.

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Add a bit of butter to melt over the top and serve.  I was quite pleased with this being the first attempt but I can see I need some practice.  I don’t mind.  :)

PS, I see coming back to the PC that the website changed.  Anyone know how to preview before publishing?  I can’t find it.

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Where Would We Be Without The Volunteers?

I think the railways would be in a sad state if not for the volunteers. To think of all the track BR ripped up to be left to overgrow. If it was left at that there would be some dismal areas. Thank goodness volunteers filled the void to create preservation railways. And it was done despite BR’s stubbornness. For example when it came time to rip up the Swanage line a group offered to buy the line if they left the track. At first BR said sure for £125k which is a lot of money today never mind in the 70’s. Money was being raised when they changed their mind and took up all the track. It became all overgrown until money could be raised and BR would agree to sell the land to Dorset County Council. The railway leases from the council.

This weekend the railway is celebrating 35 years. It was such an awful lot of work clearing the line, relaying all the track, bringing in coaches and locomotives, rebuilding them, then getting people to come. And this happens all over the UK.

As a last bit of behind the scenes I got to go up the line to where they were salvaging parts to use in the rebuilding of a coach. There is such a lot of coaches and such, more than can be possibly saved, so for those that can’t be rebuilt they salvage what they can. The logistics of storing this stuff is mind boggling.

We were picked up in 08436. This was built in 1957 in Derby. It’s a 350HP workhorse. These shunters are very low geared and can haul just about anything. This day it was bringing up the crane.

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So up we went and I got my first cab ride in a diesel.

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It’s a bit different of course than a footplate ride and even has space for the essential tea kettle.

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The wagon holding the crane was built in April 1942 and it was used to transport Sherman Tanks. The crane was added in 1971. Once we got to the other side of Norden we stopped and a group of volunteers met us. They needed the crane to shift a few things so they could access the parts they needed.

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It was loud noisy work but fascinating to watch. We could have been there for hours but we had a family reunion to go to. So we did what we could. The thing with preservation is the list never ends so it’s ongoing.

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Right near us was an old brake van known as the shark. It had the ploughs in front of the wheels to distribute the ballast. This was built in 1957 as well.

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The history that is available is amazing, a bit like treasure hunting.

It wouldn’t be possible without the men and women who give their time and expertise to make these railways happen. If you have the chance to ride the trains and you see the crew, thank them. There is a good chance they are volunteers who do it for the joy of it. If they didn’t, just think how bleak it would be if the landscape had been left with the track ripped up.

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All Quiet on the Railway

There are times where it’s who you know comes into play. I’ve mentioned before my father in law is very involved with the Swanage Railway and is one of the volunteer drivers. He kindly offered to take us down first thing in the morning so we could have a behind the scenes look.

The alarm was set for 5.30 in the morning and I got on my trousers that I bought that were cheap and I could get dirty. Off we headed down on the quiet Sunday morning. We wanted to get there before they started getting the Eddystone ready to go.

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All was quiet at that time of morning and we were the first to arrive.

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If the locomotive is warm as the Eddystone was from the night before it takes a good 3 hours to bring it up to temperature. You could do it faster but there are different types of metal that expand at different rates and if you do it too fast you will stress the locomotive. If it is started from cold you need at least 8 hours, usually much longer. They will start them on Thursday if running on weekends.

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The Eddystone was originally numbered 21C128 and was built at Brighton Works and completed in April 1946. It was a Bulleid light pacific that looked like the Manston still does.

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In 1958 it was rebuilt to it’s current form. This helped correct issues with materials used as well as lubrication issues. It was the first to be withdrawn in 1964. After 22 years of sitting quiet and then swapping owners it completed the last rebuild in 2003 in Swanage and has been running here every since. It will go for another rebuild next month.

We got the chance to go under the locomotive and poke about. It’s fascinating to see all the parts that make up the machine.

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We did go on the footplate in hopes to watch the firing process. You can see the small flame in the bottom left of the opening. But too many cooks in the kitchen so we left them to it.

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The M7 30053 which is a 0-4-4-T and built in 1905 is special to us as my father in law, along with a few others, have worked tirelessly to bring it back to the UK from Steamtown, USA and restore it. It had been outside for 20 years and needed a lot of work. It took from 1987 to 1992 to get it back up and running again at Swanage Railway. Back in 2009 I got to help paint it to get it ready for the Eastleigh Centenary. That was quite something to see.

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We got a look at the smoke box of the M7. You can see all the tubes behind the blast pipe. The blast pipe is the exhaust of the steam and makes the chug chug sounds. As the steam puffs up and out of the blast pipe is creates a vacuum which draws the hot air from the firebox through the boiler and heats the water creating the steam.

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There is a cat that adopted the railway and goes by Ringwood there. She’s very friendly and loves hanging about and curling up on laps when there is paperwork to be done. Though apparently the owner asked that the cat be kept away as she is tired of the black footprints. There is an easy solution to that! Keep her home. But I think Ringwood would be missed.

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In the shed is the 80104 in the middle of being rebuilt. The boiler is out for work. To be inspected and certified requires a lot of work. In order for an inspector to get in to inspect all the tubes have to be removed.

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Even though it is a lot of work I can see why the volunteers are drawn to this work. Especially in the quiet of the morning.

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It was a real treat despite the early start to the morning. We went on to do other things with the railway that morning which will be my next post. 😊

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Chasing The Tornado

If there is one thing we’ve learned on our visit is that prior to booking flights we should check the Swanage Railways calendar for events. If we had we’d have seen the scheduled gala this weekend celebrating 35 years. We leave on Thursday. One of the highlights will be the Tornado 60163 which is a A1 Peppercorn 4-6-2. Fortunately it came in last night and we chased it from Corfe Castle to Swanage. Hell of a date night!

This is a brilliant piece of workmanship. The last of the original Peppercorns was built in 1949. Unfortunately all 49 were scrapped by 1966. The Tornado was completed by 2008 at Darlington’s Works. It may be familiar to some from Top Gear when it featured in a race. Only time I’ve ever rooted for Clarkson!

My husband and I found out when the train was leaving Norden and went early to Corfe Castle to scope out a good spot for pictures. We tried a couple of hills but the viewing was very narrow so we decided on a pasture that gave us nearly a 180 degree view. Which is important because it is 70 feet long plus you have the diesel bringing it in and the support coach. It didn’t come in on it’s own as it had to come in backwards. The turntable in Swanage isn’t big enough.

We had the field to ourselves as it seemed people were scared of the cows. There was a couple standing on the other side of the fence but they wouldn’t come in. They were by the fence and the cows were trying to untie his shoelaces. I was a bit surprised how friendly the cows were! We got licked by some very rough tongues.

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Finally we heard them coming. We were positioned just before the viaduct.

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We popped back in the car and headed to Swanage but realised we got ahead of it so we parked at Harmon’s Cross and dashed to the bridge to catch it as it was leaving the station.

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Then we dashed off to Swanage in hopes we’d get there in time. Alas, we got stuck behind a guy on a bicycle. So the Tornado was waiting for us when we arrived.

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There was a decent crowd at this point. The diesel backed off to give the Tornado room to get round the support coach and then back the coach and itself into a siding. This was done on both sides of the bridge so a pack of us were running back and forth to get photos.

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Then it made a terrific racket clearing out the water. It was quite something!

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And for those who like diesel this is a 56303 for the DCR. It was originally numbered 56125 and was built in Crewe in 1983. Between 1999 and 2006 it sat waiting to be scrapped but it was renumbered and put back in service. My husband noted that it was strange to see the coach, diesel, and the Tornado with the Tornado being the youngest and the coach being the oldest as it dates from the late 1950’s.

It was such a fun night and quite the sight to see.

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Over The Hills We Go…

The weather was up in the air today but it looked like we would avoid major rain so we decided to take the kids on a hike on the ridge from Swanage to Corfe. It’s a lovely walk once you get up the steep bit and you can see for miles. We did miss the path for the Nine Barrows from the Iron Age so the kids only saw bits as we walked by unfortunately.

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Dorset is such a gorgeous part of the world. You are hard pressed to find a bad walk. Purbeck is especially beautiful. You find all sorts of flowers on your journey.

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As soon as we get to the top the views are breathtaking as we overlook the bay.

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And we have to be mindful that we are walking through farmland and we encounter animals. This time we just saw some sheep but last time we had to make our way through a large herd of cows blocking a gate.

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It helps to be mindful of the tiniest of creatures, even the bane of English gardens everywhere. This one was pointing towards my mother in law’s but the rate it was going it would take at least a year!

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We had storms come through last night so it was still very gusty at the top. These trees are used to it though and present all sorts of bendy shapes.

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Despite the clouds coming in and some misting we were able to enjoy the walk keeping in mind there was cream tea at the end. The castle was the beacon getting closer and closer.

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After a several mile hike we rested at the base of Corfe Castle with the sparrows zipping in and out at high speed while enjoying the cream tea. Wish I could have gotten a picture of these birds but they were zooming about buzzing very close to us. I could feel the wings as they went by!

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When asked why we would move back to England I would point to this. Why wouldn’t we?

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My London Fix

Half a lifetime ago I lived in London. It’s one of my favourite cities. Even living there for a year I think I only scratched the surface of what to see. When we decided to visit with the kids it was hard to narrow down what to see. We still had a whirlwind visit.

For the most part we were lucky with the weather with the exception of the first day. Gorgeous until we were ready to see the sights then it got cold and rainy. There was a scramble for umbrellas, shawls, and jumpers. It wasn’t too bad until the Tower of London when the skies opened up. Tipping down. We saw that the first day as there is a 2 for 1 if you see it the day you arrive on train. There are loads of sights that offer the deal. I think it was day out guide.

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We did get in to see the Crown Jewels which was great timing as we had to escape the downpour. All the kids thought it was an adventure. My friend from up north came down with her family to visit. We’ve known each other for 40 years now. So we had to celebrate! Been too long as we hadn’t seen each other since 2009.

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The next day was quite the adventure. We found out about the hop on and off river cruises that included tickets to the Tower Bridge Exhibition. It stops at a ton of piers on the river including Greenwich. We had a picnic at the park looking at the Royal Observatory. It was perfect for getting away from the crowds.

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It was discovered that the Tower of London was a bit of a jinx with the weather as we had to walk by it to get to the Tower Bridge and it began raining again! As luck would have it it was the 120th anniversary of the bridge that day so we got a free guide book. I recommend going into the tower as you get fabulous views and you get to see how the steam engine rooms were like.

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The sun came out as we were exploring and finishing the tour. As soon as we got near the tower again the skies opened up. We avoided the tower for the rest of the trip.

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On our son’s bucket list was the London Eye. We couldn’t have picked a better day for it! We could see for miles. Buckingham Palace looked tiny as did Big Ben.

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We managed the British Museum, the Science Museum, and the Transport Museum so we were walked off our feet by the time we caught the train back to Swanage. It was a great visit and a good introduction for the kids. They will have to come back!

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Tanks Everywhere!!

We are having a wonderful visit here in England. Getting my fix on proper fish and chips, pork pies, and crisps. The weather for the most part has been gorgeous with roses in bloom everywhere.

On the day the weather was a bit wonky we decided to check out the Tank Museum in Bovington. What a place! Because it is the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI this summer and last Thursday was the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand the museum had a large exhibit of WWI tanks.

Parts of the museum were quite sobering with the displays about the horses being involved against the tanks. What a waste of those beautiful animals. They also had a display of items and letters that were given by loved ones, including embroidered silk.

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The Marks were the first tanks to be a success on the battlefield. There were female ones with machine guns and male ones with cannon.

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Here is a bit of Corunna which was a female tank.

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An interesting and sad fact was that more men died of carbon monoxide poisoning than bullets or mortar when they were assigned tank duty. No wonder when you see how the engine was set up in the tank.

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No surprise that by the time WWII came about technology was such that tanks were tailored to different needs. So the exhibit for the tanks from that era was massive. This tank helps clear mines. Can you imagine the racket it made?

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This tank was a small two man that brought supplies round with a trailor attached.

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They had a separate building housing many tanks awaiting refurbishment.

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It was an impressive place to visit and would be worth another go round.

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You Spin Me Right Round….

For those of you who follow my blog know that I enjoy knitting albeit slowly. My mother in law is a fellow knitter but can take it one step further by spinning her yarn. They used to have sheep when they lived stateside so she learned how to spin.

It’s something I have been curious about but viewed it as something intimidating. The kids and I had a lesson from her and the technique isn’t difficult but it will take practice to get it down.

It’s a bit like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time. And you have to get the treadle timing right or you will reverse the wheel!

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My MIL knows how to do all the steps including carding but she also gets what you call roving. The wool has been prepped for spinning.

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As it is spun it will collect on the large bobbin.

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Because it is impractical to spin everything all at once and there are times where the end you are spinning will get sucked through and onto the bobbin a hook is used to thread it back out.

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The technique itself is easy but it’s difficult to get the feel for it where the yarn is spun evenly. When I was doing it parts of it were chunky and parts got quite thin. Once you get the wheel spinning the left hand pinches the wool at the top and the right hand pulls the wool out.

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Release the left hand and the wool will spin down to the right hand.

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This a continuous movement while treadling. Once you fill the bobbin another needs to be filled. Then you spin both together for a double knit. Otherwise the yarn will curl up on itself.

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I have to say I really enjoyed this. It’s hard not to think of all the possibility with dying the wool!

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Brrr and a Fabulous Ride on the Cog Railway

There was much excitement this past Friday.  The day had finally arrived for the fourth grade to head to Mt Washington and ride the Cog Railway.  Each year there is a contest where the class produces a tourist video with the first prize being a free trip on the Railway.  We didn’t think we’d win as our teacher won last year but lo and behold the kids won!  And it wasn’t an understatement to say the parents had to be quick off the mark to get in as a chaperone.  I got my form in immediately.  :)

Fortunately the mountain was far enough that we could ride a coach bus rather than a school bus.  Much nicer.  Here is the approach to the mountain from inside the bus.

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Mt Washington is the highest peak in the northeast at 6288 ft.  At home the temperature was a high of 71F/22C while the high at the summit was forecast to be 38F/3C with a wind chill of 16F/-9C.  Winds were predicted to be 55-65 mph with gusts up to 75 mph.  If it gets to 80 mph the trains stop running.  We dug out our winter wear for the trip.  So glad we did!

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The engines were from John Deere and run on bio diesel.  They do have a steam train but that only runs first thing in the morning. I was disappointed as I love steam trains.  This is the first and oldest running cog railway that opened in 1869.  The state government thought it was a joke but approved it because they didn’t have to provide funds.  Joke was on them as it was hugely popular.

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If you look closely you can see the rails going up the mountain.  The first coach was open air with benches bolted into the base.  Halfway up they would stop and pass out blankets and warm drinks for the rest of the ride.

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They would even bring up skiers  to ski down the side of the rails.  It would be black snow because of the coal.

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This 1000 gallon water tank is spring fed and no electricity or power is required.  The water is also 99.9% pure.  The steam train only has a 700 gallon capacity but needs 1000 gallons of water to get to the top so it will stop here and top up.

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The setup is quite something and it is very steep.  They encourage the passengers to stand in the aisle and try to stay upright.  The kids had a blast with this bit.

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Jacob’s Ladder is the steepest bit at 37.41% and it is 30 feet off the surface.

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The views on the way up were spectacular.  In the olden days the top was quite busy.  They had a newspaper that would publish everyday and would be sent down the railway and they also had a hotel up there that would charge $2.50 a night which was a lot of money.

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People do love to hike up this mountain and there are cairns dotting the trails every 50 feet or so to guide the hikers.

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My son and I had to hold on tight with the gusting winds.  It was very hard to keep our footing on the rocks.  I couldn’t believe it but there was someone up there in shorts!  No surprise she was complaining about the cold.  Honestly.

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This is one of the buildings that would house visitors and feed them.  This doesn’t have to be chained down as it is made out of stone but anything wood has to be chained.

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This is the building that recorded the record wind speed, notice the chains.

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This is an anemometer that measures wind speed.  They time the clicks to determine the speed.  This one was the actual one that recorded the record on 12 April 1934.  At one point the speed dropped and they realised the instruments were icing up so one of them had to climb up a wooden ladder in winds going about 160mph and whack it with a wooden bat.  People listening in on the radio heard the clicks going faster and faster until it hit the record.  Must have been something!

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A better view of the railway as we descended.  My son and I had a blast, what an adventure!  It was nice to get back to the warmth though.  :)

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Strawberry Rhubarb Ginger Crumble, Now That’s a Mouthful!

The past couple of days our strawberries have been coming in and they are so delicious.  The netting over them has worked very well and the birds just have to do without!  Unfortunately they weren’t ready for the crumble we made for Father’s Day so I had to buy the strawberries.

Conor Bofin recently posted a recipe for rhubarb crumble with ginger.  As soon as our rhubarb was ready I was planning on doing a strawbery rhubarb crumble as crumble is a favourite in our house and our son loves to make the topping.  Conor’s idea of adding ginger was a light bulb moment.  Ginger goes so well with fruit so I had to add it to our recipe.

Even though our strawberries weren’t ready the co-op had some lovely organic ones.

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Quarter a pound of  strawberries and place them in a small pan on medium heat.  As it starts to warm up add 1/3 cup of brown sugar.  Stir well as this starts to simmer.

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Grate fresh ginger over the strawberries.  I used a chunk that was about 1 1/2″ all the way round.  If you really like the bite of the ginger use more.

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Simmer until it becomes a chunky jam.  You don’t want the strawberries to disappear completely.  Set aside and slice the rhubarb into half inch bits.  I used 3 stalks for this.

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Mix in with the strawberries and add to the baking dish.  Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.  Our son made the topping from the recipe in the Pillsbury The Complete Book of Baking.  1 cup of rolled oats, 3/4 cup all purpose flour, 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, and 1/2 cup of softened butter.

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Bake for 25-35 minutes.

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I was curious as to why the topping didn’t come out as golden as it usually did.  We found out the sugar was left out!  Oops.  But hey he’s 9 and I figure it doesn’t hurt for him to see why all the ingredients are important.  And I love the fact he wants to bake so I’m not stopping him!  Plus we were serving it with ice cream.  So we were fine.

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Adding ginger was a hit and it really worked well with the ice cream.