Tuesday, June 14, 2016

11 Jun 16 (Sun) - Mango Ice Cream (Improved Version)

It is thick in the summer and there are mangoes everywhere so what's a better to scream summer than having mango ice cream!

Bought four mangoes for $5 from the market and they smell heavenly. Used the three ingredients recipe but this time round, I added 50g more mango puree and a twist to the usual method. And the results? Simply divine! 

Those who tasted the ice cream shouted "Nice!" and "Fresh!". A few of them commented that the mango taste was very strong and not too sweet. Guess this will become the new improved recipe for the three ingredients mango ice cream.

200ml whipping cream
200g diced mango
80g icing sugar

1.  Place diced mango in a blender and pulse 2-3 times
2.  Add whipping cream and 1/3 of the icing sugar then pulse 2-3 times
3.  Add another 1/3 of the icing sugar and pulse 2-3 times
4.  Add the remaining icing sugar and blend the mixture for about 10-15 seconds
5.  Pour mixture into a container of your choice and put into the freezer
6.  Remove from freezer after 3 hours to churn* with a fork
7.  Repeat step (6) for another time before freezing it overnight

* Try to churn the mixture in a whisking manner to try to incorporate as much air into the mixture as possible

Since I have some diced mango, pomelo and strawberry sauce, tried to do plating and I think I need to work on my plating skill. Nevertheless, after I was done with it that I realized that the combination was that of the Mango Pomelo Sago (杨枝甘露) dessert minus the sago and coconut milk. Haha....

Sunday, April 3, 2016

3 Apr 16 (Sun) - Avocado Ice Cream

Suddenly had craving for avocado and bought three from the NTUC last Friday. At the same time also bought a bottle of gula melaka syrup and a pack of oat milk. Initially I wanted to get the HL milk but my colleague recommended the oat milk by Magnolia, saying that the milk has the oat fragrant which is really nice. My first reaction was that it may not go well with what I intend to make, but then I decided to give it a shot. My plan was to make avocado milkshake. Then I went on to explore the idea of making it into an ice cream. Didn't google for avocado milkshake, but I did a search on avocado ice cream. Read a few which looked similar and then decided to use my previous beetroot ice cream recipe as a base.

Started off with the ice cream and the first step was to make the avocado puree. Didn't follow the amount of the ingredients per the beetroot ice cream recipe. Instead, I used my own estimations on the amount of avocados to use, the amount of gula melaka syrup to add, and so on. The puree turned out to be rather good on its own. Then the final step was to add in the whipping cream and pulsed it with the avocado puree for some twenty seconds before sending the mixture into the freezer.

Ingredients for Avocado Puree
180g avocado flesh, chopped
120ml gula melaka syrup
1-2 tsp lemon juice
130ml oat milk

1.  Add all ingredients in a blender and process till smooth
2.  Sieve the mixture to remove any bits and chunks that are still present

Ingredients for Avocado Ice Cream
350g avocado puree
200g whipping cream

1.  Pour avocado puree and whipping cream in a blender
2.  Process the mixture for about 15-20 seconds
3.  Pour mixture into a container of your choice and put into the freezer
4.  Remove from freezer after 2 hours to churn** with a fork
5.  Repeat step (4) for another three times before freezing it overnight

** Try to churn the mixture in a whisking manner to try to incorporate as much air into the mixture as possible

Next up was the avocado milkshake. This was easy because it was simply a matter of blending the avocado flesh, the oat milk and gula melaka syrup. Just needed to adjust the amount of milk and syrup to my preferred consistency and taste. As I still had half an avocado left, I kept it in an airtight container till I found a recipe to use it later on.

Googled for a savory avocado recipe and found one called Avocado Egg Salad by Two Peas and Their Pod. Didn't follow the recipe exactly, just in general. So made one hard-boiled egg, mashed it together with the remaining avocado and some mayonnaise, seasoned with some salt, black pepper and mixed herbs. Added some spring onion since I had some left from last weekend. Though it was called avocado egg salad, it was more like a spread which I used it for my bread. Turned out to be rather delicious.

---------------- Edited on 6 Apr 2016 ----------------

Brought some avocado ice cream to office for my usual group of tasters to try. I guess it is either you like it or you hate it. To quote my brother-in-law, "It is an acquired taste". So the feedback I got were pretty wide ranging from “Wah... I love avocado + gula melaka!” to “Honest opinion… not a big fan”.

NYP was the one who loves avocado, especially those creamy avocado drinks one can get in Indonesia. So she commented “It’s nice. Not too sweet. Think can put more avocado.”

CC, on the other hand, was the one who is not a big fan. She commented that the ice cream was very buttery / creamy. So suggested that maybe next time can replace oat milk with coconut juice and add in some grated coconut.

TYY was somewhere in between as she doesn’t eat avocado so doesn’t know how it really tastes like. However, she did comment that “the avocado lends a nice creaminess without actually feeling heavy like cream” and that she could taste the gula melaka.

I read from one of the avocado ice cream recipes that the ice cream tastes very well when eaten with some shaved dark chocolate. So suggested that to my tasters and one of them, SWT, actually tried that. She commented that the ice cream was very creamy and the addition of the shaved dark chocolate actually brought out the smoothness of the avocado ice cream.

Well… guess it really is a case of either you like it or you hate it.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

26 Mar 16 (Sat) - Meringue

Was researching for recipes on pavlova and wanted to try it out during the weekend. However, I didn't want to buy whipped cream and fruits and then end up with a fail product eventually. So I modified a few of the pavlova recipes and omitted the cream and fruits.

The recipe was a very simple one and when the end product came out, I realized that I had made meringue instead.

Well... technically pavlova is a meringue-based dessert so by omitting the cream and fruits, I was essentially left with just the meringue.

Ingredients (make 8 2.5" meringue):
2 egg white
110g caster sugar
2g corn flour
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp red food coloring

1.  Draw 8 2.5" circles using a pencile on a baking sheet and lay it face down on a baking tray
2.  Preheat oven to 150 degree celsius
3.  Mix caster sugar with corn flour and vanilla with red food coloring and set them aside
4.  Beat egg white with electric mixer at low speed till foamy
5.  Add caster sugar/corn flour mixture in three batches and increase the speed of the electric mixer after each batch till it reaches maximum speed when all the mixture is added
6.  Add vanilla/red food coloring mixture
7.  Continue to beat the mixture till thick and glossy
8.  Spoon the mixture onto the circles on the baking sheet on the baking tray
9.  Bake for 25 mins and then leave to cool completely in the oven
10.  Store the meringue in an airtight container and they can keep for a week

Sunday, March 13, 2016

13 Mar 16 (Sun) - Steamed Beetroot & Banana Cupcakes

Last night I copied the “Steamed Banana Cupcakes” recipe, halved the portion and modify it to use beetroot instead of banana. So went about preparing the ingredients and realized that I did not have enough beetroot residue. Didn’t know what came over me and I went straight for the banana that I have in the kitchen and used it to top up the balance. The result was a very unique flavor of earthly-sweet. Texture wise, they were not as fluffy as normal steamed cakes. Either the beetroot residue and banana were too heavy or there wasn’t enough rising agents to help the cakes to rise or I didn’t incorporate enough air into the cake mixture. Nevertheless, they were still edible though texture was dense.

1 egg
45g caster sugar
95g sweeten beetroot residue
30g mashed banana
75g self-rising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp cooking oil

1.  Sieve flour and baking powder then set aside
2.  Whisk egg and sugar till white and fluffy
3.  Add sweeten beetroot residue and mashed banana and mixed well
4.  Gently fold in the flour followed by the cooking oil
5.  Spoon into cupcake cases
6.  Steam over high heat for 15 minutes

Beetroot-themed desserts for the weekend. How that?

Happened to see this particular article “This Genius Sunday Prep Idea Will Help You Lose Weight All Week” on the Internet and after reading up as well as seeing a few of my friends eating overnight oats, I finally pluck up the courage to try. Bought the ingredients listed and prepared four bottles for the week and will start my first bottle tomorrow. Hope it tastes good! 


Since I had time, I cooked some steamed pork balls too for today’s meals. A yummy dish that my folks used to make.

---------------- Edited on 15 Mar 2016 ----------------

Brought a couple of the steamed cakes to office for CC and TYY to try. As the cakes were based on a modified recipe with the main ingredient being beetroot, told them that if after one bite and they don't like it, don't force themselves to finish. Turns out that CC loves beetroot while TYY not so much, like most people. Despite that, both gave positive feedback and CC even nicknamed the cake as "BB Cake". Haha...

CC: Very strong beetroot taste. I like beetroot but maybe not accustomed to it being in a cake. Not enough banana. Very nice moisture but a bit dense.

TYY: I liked the cake! It tastes like a denser version of the colorful steamed cakes. the banana and beetroot actually goes quite nicely. I don't actually like beetroot taste itself, so for me mixing it with banana lifts it slightly and made it much more enjoyable.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

12 Mar 16 (Sat) - Beetroot Ice Cream

It has been a long time since I have made any desserts and after having tried cooking beetroot previously, I had this idea of incorporating it into ice cream. I know this is not a new idea so went about searching for a recipe on the Internet. Found a few but those require the use of eggs, dug around some more and found this Eggless Beetroot Ice Cream by Mayuri's Jikoni. Modified it a little to adapt to my own ice cream recipe and ended up with an earthly-taste ice cream with a slightly icy texture. The beetroot that I bought weighed about 270g and as to why I used soy milk is because I happened to have that instead of milk.

50ml soy milk
80g caster sugar
200ml whipping cream
200g beetroot, peeled and sliced

1.  Cook sliced beetroot using Happy Call Pan (HCP) with lid closed till soften over low heat
2.  Remove beetroot from HCP and place into a blender
3.  Add sugar and soy milk
4.  Blend the mixture till beetroot is completely crushed
5.  Sieve the mixture and press the residue to extract as much juice as possible
6.  Clean the blender and add back the beetroot juice into the blender
7.  Add in whipping cream and process for a about 15-20 seconds
8.  Pour mixture into a container of your choice and put into the freezer
9.  Remove from freezer after 2 hours to churn* with a fork
10.  Repeat step (9) for another three times before freezing it overnight

* Try to churn the mixture in a whisking manner to try to incorporate as much air into the mixture as possible

I was left with about half a bowl of sweeten beetroot residue, throwing it away seemed to be a waste, so I kept it in an airtight box in the fridge while I think of what other desserts I can use it for. Search the Internet for ideas and found this website called “My Baby Recipe” that lists recipes on steam cakes. Scrolled through the list, chose this one called “Steamed Banana Cupcakes” and decided that I would change the banana to beetroot instead.

---------------- Edited on 22 Mar 2016 ----------------

Brought a small tub of the ice cream to office for my usual group of tasters to try and received positive feedback. CC commented that the ice cream was nice and unique with a strong buttery initial taste that transformed into strong beetroot aftertaste.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

14 Feb 16 (Sun) - Laksa Fried Pasta with Blue Mussels Meat

Found this pack of laksa fried rice sauce in the pantry and decided to cook it with some pasta for a quick meal. Just needed to add four teaspoons of water to the sauce, add to the already cooked pasta and stir to mix well before adding other ingredients which in this case, I added some blue mussels meat.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

10 Dec 15 – Day 11 (Christchurch)

Flight back was for 12 noon so we didn’t have to wake up early like other days. Got up about 8+am, then ate breakfast about 9+am. Checked out and then we headed to the airport. Again Cynthia had problem with sitting arrangements and we had to inform her of our seat numbers so that she could rearrange. After we were done checking in our luggage and stuff, we browsed the shops inside the airport and I bought a pack of three small bottles of kiwi fruit jams. I was a bit worry initially because I wasn’t sure if they can get past the security checks. The sales staff assured me that there wouldn’t be any problem. We then popped into another shop and I saw a pair of silver fern ear studs and told SWT that they might be suitable for her ears and would most likely go well with her silver fern pendant. She looked at them and fell in love. Quickly made her purchase and then popped into the toilet to change the ear studs. Soon it was time to go to the boarding gate for our flight home. After 10+ hours on the plane, I was back to my home country.

Thoughts: Overall it was a really wonderful trip. I can strike an item off my bucket list. I hope I can go visit NZ again on my own so that I can explore the country slowly. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

9 Dec 15 – Day 10 (Lake Tekapo and Christchurch)

Today we left the beautiful Lake Tekapo for Christchurch. Made a photo stop at the Fairlie Basin and then went to the Manuka honey shop called Farmers Corner recommended by Cynthia to get our honey. Like all other tourist shops, the staff round us up for an introduction to their products and informed us of the available promotions before we were left to do our shopping. Browsed around the shop quickly and picked up the things that I want. NZ is well-known for producing Manuka honey and only those labelled with UMF or MGO are the real-deal. Before my trip, BIL told me to buy royal jelly back in cartons and he said it with such ease. I was, on the other hand, appalled by his suggestion. I did not buy in cartons but I did buy two-years’ worth of royal jelly, three bottles 250g of UMF 20+ and two bottles 500g of UMF 10+ Manuka honey for little big sis. Also bought a pack of propolis lozenges for her side and a sheep soft toy for Lyn. For myself, I bought two bottles 500g of UMF 10+ Manuka honey.

Made payment at the casher and then the staff helped to pack the items into a small carton box. Wrote my name and other contactable details before leaving the box with Cynthia so I could go out to take more photos of the alpacas. There were quite a few of them and they were standing very near the fence because the other kids from the group were feeding them with feeds. One of the members passed SWT some feeds so that she could feed the alpacas while I helped to take photos of her. Collected my box of honey and loaded onto the coach before boarding to continue our journey into Christchurch. Travelled for around 1+ hour and we reached the bottom of Cashmere Hill. Alighted from the coach ahead of others, SWT and I quickly made our climb up the hill where it overlooked the landscape of Christchurch. Snapped some photos before the rest of the group reached the top. After we were done, SWT and I slowly made our way down, snapping photos along the way. 

Got back to the coach and we were brought to a shopping mall where we had lunch and an opportunity to do some shopping. As usual, we avoided eating at the food court and since today was considered the last day that we can lunch in NZ, we decided to eat something a little bit better. Hence, we popped into this café called Theobroma where I had a smoke salmon sandwich and a cup of hot dark chocolate. Lunch was good and satisfying. We then proceeded to the Pak’nSave to do our shopping. Bought a big pack of afghans biscuits and a pack of pineapple lumps for office since they were hailed as the must-eat items by the Kiwis. I bought a small pack of the afghans biscuits for myself. On top of that, I also bought some biscuits by the brand Griffins, a small bottle of easy-to-make pavlova mix and last but not least, my favorite, lamingtons. Searched for the avocado oil but could not find. Checked with the staff and turned out that the item was out of stock. Very disappointed and scolded myself silently for not getting it when I had the chance earlier on during the trip. Made payment and then saw a candy stall outside the supermarket. Bought two Chupa Chups fairy floss bubble gums for Ry and Lyn and a box of jelly beans for BIL.

Returned to the coach and we moved on to the next destination, the International Antarctic Centre, where we saw the feeding of the little blue penguins. Then we experienced the 4D extreme theater before moving on to experience the Antarctic storm. We had to put on plastic gloves over our shoes, put on long jackets before going into the room where temperature went down gradually to minus 18 degree Celsius with strong winds. It was a fun experience. Finally, we moved on to the hagglund ride. The ride was very bumpy but fun, just like roller coaster at some point in time. Done with all the activities and we still had some time to relook at the exhibits and take more photos.

Done with the International Antarctic Centre, we did a brief city tour of Christchurch where we saw many buildings were still in ruins after the 2011 big earthquake. The driver said that roads are slowly opening up after deemed safe for use. Some still remained close and hence traffic had to detour. He showed us where the Re:Start Container Mall was and some of the better graffiti in the city. Finally, we were brought to see the Transitional (Cardboard) Cathedral and along the way, passed by the place where the 185 empty white chairs were in memory of those who lost their lives during the earthquake. Stayed for a while to take some photos before going to the hotel which we were to stay for the night. The Re:Start Container Mall was actually near to our hotel but after eating dinner at the restaurant and returned to the room, we were too lazy to go out again. Besides, the mall was already closed so all the more we didn’t see the point of going just to take photos. Stayed in the room to do major packing and also tried to clear the food we had left such as the kiwi fruits and cherries

Thoughts: Didn’t really do much sightseeing today. Christchurch would have been a nice city to explore if not for the earthquake that destroyed most part of it back in 2011. It is a pity that they have not rebuilt much of the place yet. From what I know, they only settled on the insurance payout recently. So hopefully with the money, the rebuilding can start and complete soon.

8 Dec 15 – Day 9 (Lake Pukaki, Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo)

Had a box with the KFC bread roll and whipped potato leftover from yesterday dinner. Didn’t want to waste them and so finished them off before going to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Today we had the morning free and easy while some group members went for the half-day optional tour doing the four-wheel drive to see the film sites of the LOTR films. Went out to the town center about 9:30am and visited the Anglican Church which we saw two days ago. Took photos of the exterior before strolling to the waterfront area to take some photos and enjoy the nice sea views. Then went on to check out the chocolate shop called Patagonia that was recommended by Cynthia. As I was still full from breakfast, only SWT bought the dark chocolate ice cream cone to try. This time she was smart to ask for the kid size cone and she offered me a bite. The ice cream was very rich with the dark chocolate and not too sweet.

Explored the town center, popping into random shops to browse. SWT saw a Pandora shop and went in to check the items out. Apparently she was searching for ear studs in the shape of silver ferns. Unfortunately, she has a pair of small ears hence cannot take ear studs that are too big. She looked around some more and saw a pendent in the shape of silver fern. It looked pretty but so was the price tag. She hesitated and told the staff that she would think about it and then we went out of the shop. We then tried to look for the Fergburger shop that Cynthia was supposed to be getting the burgers. Saw a shop called Mrs Ferg which was quite empty, followed by Fergbaker which had a few patrons, finally we saw Fergburger with a snaking queue on the outside. Peeped inside the shop and saw Cynthia. Squeezed passed the crowd to get in and asked Cynthia if she needed help. She told us to just get our food and helped inform the rest that their food is ready for collection if we see them. SWT took the bag of food and we moved off to the chocolate shop, Patagonia, to look for a table. Settled down and SWT went to order a cup of hot chocolate to share. Made ourselves comfortable, took photos of our food before digging in. As per what Cynthia promised, she asked the staff from Fergburger to cut the burger into halves. The burger was good, so was the calamari and the hot chocolate. It would have been even better if the food was piping hot. The meal was just nice for me but a bit too much for SWT.

Soon we saw people from our tour group coming to the same place with their food. As there were not enough tables to go around, we shared our table with two older couples. They were really big eaters, instead of sharing the burgers, they ordered one each and on top of that, they went on to order a drink each and after eating, two of them ate the normal ice cream cone each. Since we were done with our food and we had rested enough, excused ourselves from the table and went to walk around the town for a bit. SWT said she would like to go back to the Pandora shop to buy the pendent, so we quickly looked for the shop based on our memory of its location. Managed to find it and SWT made her purchase. I found out that she likes to buy pendants and earrings. She was happy with her purchase which cost her NZ$45 and then we went over to Crowne Plaza where we were to meet up with the rest to board the coach. Since we were early, made use of the toilet facility in the hotel before crossing over to the waterfront to take some photos. Soon all the members were there and we boarded the coach to start our journey. On the way, we made a stop back at the Jones Fruit Stall Suncrest Orchard in Cromwell for the members who had order fruits to collect their orders. Since I didn’t order anything, I just took photos of the flowers around and bought another packet of almond nuts for little big sis.

After a two-hours journey, we reached Lake Pukaki visitor center where there was a Mount Cook Alpine Salmon Shop for visitors to purchase fresh salmon sashimi to eat. Bought a box to share with SWT and we looked for a table outside to eat. The salmon sashimi slices were thick and fresh. We enjoyed them while admiring the nice view of the lake as well as the Mount Cook from afar. We spent about 30-35 minutes there eating and taking photos of the lake, Mount Cook and the surroundings. We had a great time there. The drive told us earlier on that the catch from freshwater trout fishing cannot be sold, they had to be given away. And that freshwater trout cannot be farmed commercially. We then boarded the coach again to continue the journey to the Lake Tekapo where we would spend the night. It didn’t take long to reach the lake and the driver told us that near the Church of the Good Shepherd was a well-known bronze statue of a NZ Collie sheepdog. The statue was commissioned by Mackenzie Country residents in recognition of the indispensable role of the sheepdog in their livelihoods. The sculptor was Innes Elliott of Kaikoura. The model was a dog called Haig, belonging to a neighbor. It took about 15 months to finish. So after we alighted, SWT and I walked quickly to take a quick snap of the Church of the Good Shepherd before going over to the direction given by the driver to check out the statue. Took a shot of it before walking back to the church to take more photos of the surrounding as well as the lake. It was a clear blue sky and so the photos turned out really well. Peeped into the church because we were not allowed inside. The interior was small but still functional.

We spent about 15 minutes there before checking into our hotel called the Peppers Blue Water Resort. We were told that Lake Tekapo is part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve because it is known for its clear nights and lack of light pollution. Lights from the nearby buildings and structures were purposely dimmed and shine downwards so that it is conducive for people to do stargazing. Lake Tekapo is also known to be a good spot to view the Southern Lights. Unfortunately, December was not the right month to do that. Cynthia told the group that we could walk out to the lake which was just across the road to do stargazing in the deep of the night if we were up to it. Secretly, I was hoping that I could stay awake long enough and that I would be able to persuade SWT to go out with me in the middle of the night to do that. Unpacked a little and we were out to join the rest to go to the restaurant further down the road for buffet dinner.

After we were done, SWT and I went for a stroll near the lake. There was a bridge across the river linking the town to the opposite land where the Church of the Good Shepherd stands. I was hoping to use that bridge to get over there to take more photos of the church or at least stand on the bridge to take photos of the church. Unfortunately, the bridge was out of bound so could only take photos of the church from far. Took some photos of the surroundings with the nice effect of the sunset. Then we slowly made our way back to the hotel. Cynthia told us that there are some alpacas, rabbits and so on in the hotel near the area where we were staying. So SWT and I walked over to search for them. It was already close to 9pm so we didn’t get to see any. Guessed they were asleep for the night.

By the time we got back to the room, it was already close to 10pm. I was tired and gave up the idea of stargazing. SWT was trying to drain the battery of her mobile phone so was still awake when I slept. Then in the middle of the night, I was woken up by noise from SWT who was trying to plug her mobile phone for charging. She told me that there were many stars in the sky and persuaded me to wear a jacket and joined her to go out to the balcony to take photos. Still half asleep but I was able to register what she was saying. So quickly put on my jacket, grabbed my Sony Nex-3 and tried to take some photos. The auto-mode gave me total blackness on the screen so I tried setting it to night mode and then used the railing to support the camera after pressing the shutter. It took a really long time to process the photo because of the really slow shutter speed. Managed to see some specks of white on the screen. Felt happy and then quickly ran back into the room because it was actually quite cold outside. Took off the jacket, kept the camera and went back to bed.

Thoughts: The food from Fergburger and hot chocolate from Patagonia were really delicious. They would have tasted better if they were hot enough. Still got to be grateful to have someone to help us get lunch without us having to crack our heads over what to eat. Saw two more beautiful lakes today and felt really, really happy that I was able to visit NZ to see all these breathtaking wonders of nature. NZ has always been one of the countries that I want to visit in my lifetime. I hope that I will be able to visit NZ again soon on my own so that I can spend more time per place to explore more. The starry night I saw outside the balcony of my hotel room was really indescribable. Photos simply cannot do justice to the wonderful sight. Like the song by Rihanna, the stars were just like “Diamonds in the sky”.

Monday, December 7, 2015

7 Dec 15 – Day 8 (Milford Sound)

Woke up early today for our Milford Sound day trip. Before the trip, many people told us that it is always raining at Milford Sound. We were also checking the weather forecast before the trip and initially, it showed that most of the days would be raining or overcast. So far, we were really blessed to have pretty good weather with only one day of rain and one to two days of overcast. So we prayed very hard that it would be a good weather day today. As Milford Sound day trip was an optional tour, some members didn’t join. However, we managed to have a big enough group such that we were able to use our own coach and driver for the tour.

Since we didn’t have the whole group, we were able to space ourselves out on the coach, hence I chose a seat two seats behind the driver side. The driver provided us with some fun facts during the journey, for instance, most of the streets in Queenstown are named after cities in Australia. We traveled for an hour plus before we get a quick comfort stop. Then we continued for another one and a half hour before reaching our first photo stop, the Eglinton Valley in Fiordland National Park along Milford Road to Milford Sound. Before we got down the coach, the driver warned us not to wander off too far, especially when there was another tour group at the same place, and that we were to return to the coach on time, otherwise we would run the risk of being left behind. Took some photos then SWT and I went back up the coach. Just as we were getting up, we saw a Caucasian lady being left behind by her tour group. Told our driver and he said that he would be picking her up on the way to bring her to the next photo stop where her tour group should be. Our driver quickly gathered the rest of the group with the help from Cynthia, picked up the lady and we were on the way to the next stop, the Mirror Lake. The lady thanked our driver before running to rejoin the rest of her group while we got down the coach to do a short walk around the lake to take photos. It was a beautiful sight and it would have made a great photo if not for the light drizzle causing multiple ripples on the lake.

Hopped onto the coach to continue the journey and along the way, the driver told us that we would pass by a waterfall. It appeared on the left side of the coach where SWT was seated so she managed to take photos while I admired the scenery on the right side. Reached the next photo stop and we saw a couple of kea on the ground. Most of us quickly took a few quick shots of the surroundings and then focus on the kea. According to the driver, the kea can be very aggressive and we saw that there and then. A couple of the kea flew on top of our coach and started pecking at it. Got back to the coach to the next stop, Mount Tutoko – Topuni. We got off the coach to walk a bit on the bridge as well as to take photos before getting up to the coach again to go to the place where we were supposed to take the cruise. Reached there about 11:15am and made used of the washroom facilities while Cynthia went to get the tickets. She told us that usually she was not able to board the cruise ship with the tour group, however, today she was allowed to get on to the cruise ship with us and she was even given a lunch voucher to collect her lunch onboard the ship.

As it was still too early for boarding, we took some photos around the place and then went out to the pier to take photos of the cruise ships. It was windy and cloudy with slight drizzle. Soon, we were told to form a queue for boarding and had to stand in the drizzle. Boarded the ship around 11:30am, shared a table with a family of four. Made ourselves comfortable and then took out our lunch, the boysenberry Danish, which we bought the evening before. Cynthia distributed some chocolate bars to the group while the ship was leaving the pier, hence, that added on to our lunch. Despite that, our lunch seemed rather miserable compared to the cup noodles meal that the other families were having. Finished our food and sat for a while, enjoying the view through the windows since we had difficulty getting out from our seats with the family eating their cup noodles. However, the family was taking far too long to prepare their cup noodles, so we had no choice but asked them politely to make way for us to get out. Once out, we put on our hats and pulled up the hoods of our outerwear and headed up to the upper deck to take photos.

The sky was overcast with slightly heavier drizzle which later on became light rain that forced us back to the lower deck where we had lunch earlier on. Sat around, drank some hot tea to wait for the rain to pass. After some time, the weather seemed to clear up and some passengers began to make their way up to the upper deck. Cynthia offered to look after our bags and so we put our stuff on the bench that she was sitting on and headed up again. The sky had indeed cleared up and showing nice blue sky which was picture perfect. SWT and I counted our blessings for the good weather. It was windy on the upper deck but we enjoyed the scenery very much and took many photos. The upper deck was really crowded with our tour members as well as some Koreans from another tour group. There were some broadcasting telling the passengers about the places that the ship passed by but, unfortunately, it was inaudible on the upper deck. Saw a number of waterfalls but they were more like streams because of the lack of gushing water. I could only imagine the magnificent sights if there was enough water to create the waterfalls. As most of the Koreans were crowding the front part of the upper deck, SWT and I moved to the back portion, partly to avoid them and partly to avoid the wind.

The ship went very close to some big boulders at one point in time and we could hear the broadcasting mentioned the word seals. Looked closely and there were indeed some seals resting on those boulders. Was glad to have my Sony Nex-3 with me so I was able to zoom-in to take photos of them. Soon we saw a better looking waterfall from afar and was told that the ship would steer really close to the waterfall for people to experience the waterfall. The passengers grew excited as the ship got closer and closer to the waterfall and many of us, including SWT and I, took many photos of the waterfall. When it was really close, I kept my Sony Nex-3 underneath my outerwear and took out my mobile phone to take photos. Being slightly daring, I went to the front part to experience the waterfall in close range and to take photos. Felt exhilarated and then rejoined SWT at the back. Took more photos of the waterfall as the ship steered away from it. We were really happy and glad that the day turned out to be good and enjoyable. Returned to the lower deck, joined Cynthia and the other members who did not go to the upper deck and SWT went on to show off her nice photos while making jokes. Thanked Cynthia for looking after our bags and soon the ship docked at the pier around 1+pm and we had to get off the ship.

Went to the carpark to look for our coach, boarded and soon we were on the way back to Queenstown. The driver continued his usual practice of providing us with information of NZ. He told us that we were very lucky because the day before there was a windstorm and the road to Milford Sound was closed. Along the way, he pointed out that NZ is prone to rock-slides and tree-slides. And since there are many occasions of rock-slides and usually there are not enough time to clear the rocks, what the Kiwis do was to just lay a road on top of the rocks and hence, the roads are usually quite bumpy. That explained why SWT was having difficult times on coach ride in this trip. After traveling for some time, we had a comfort stop closed to 3:30pm and opposite the shop was an open field with a few cute-looking alpacas. SWT, being the slightly unlucky one, was not able to snap front shots of the alpacas. Returned back to the shop to do a quick browse while waiting for the rest to get ready, SWT complained jokingly to Cynthia that she was not able to take nice shots of the alpacas. So Cynthia told SWT that she would get her chance in two-days’ time when we go to the Manuka honey shop that Cynthia recommended.

Continued the rest of the journey back and when we were near Queenstown, Cynthia reminded us the plan for the next day and she distributed the paper bags from the burger shop called Fergburger that she had recommended to us the day before. She had decided to order the burgers for us because we were such a nice bunch of people. She explained the process of ordering and paying again and also reminded us to get our souvenirs in Queenstown tonight before we leave tomorrow. She recommended that we get the Manuka honey hand cream that we saw in the various shops before from the DF Souvenir shop, especially since we have the discount coupons. However, she was quick to disclaim that provided that the hand cream was not out of stock due to the bulk purchase by one of the members. 

By the time we returned to Queenstown, it was already after 5:30pm. Asked to be dropped off at the town center so that we could buy the things that we had in mind from the day before as well as to get dinner from KFC which Cynthia recommended us to try. She said that the fried chickens are not as salty as those back home and that they are juicier. Walked around the town, popped into souvenir shops to check out the prices of the Manuka honey, royal jelly, hand creams and possum-merino products again. Confused by the vast price difference of the various royal jelly and concluded that it is best to get from the shop that Cynthia is going to bring us in two-days’ time. Saw some cute soft toys and took photos of them. SWT was contemplating whether to buy the chocolate from Koko Black but in the end, she gave up the idea due to the high price. Therefore, the next alternative was to go to the Remarkable Sweet Shop to get her chocolate fix instead. We bought three pieces of handmade chocolate each where mine contain alcohol and hers were of unusual flavors. On top of that, I also bought two long tubes of bubble gum for Ry.

Left the shop and we headed over to the DF Souvenir shop to get the Manuka honey hand cream that we had been seeing from the various shops before. Unfortunately, that brand of hand cream was really out of stock. Checked out the other brands and in the end, we decided to get the Alpine Manuka honey body lotion instead because that item was having a buy-5-get-1-free promotion. So we took a pack each. Not willing to leave without a product from the Wild Fern brand, I bought a tub of body butter. Went on to the section where the shop sells possum-merino products and found two beanies which look rather nice. Checked the tags for the percentages of possum and merino and got confused. SWT told me that higher percentage of merino means it can keep the wearer warmer. She walked off to see other things while I lingered in the section, trying to decide which beanie to buy. In the end, I decided to ask the sales staff for advice. Turned out that the higher percentage of possum means it can keep the wearer warmer. Told SWT about it and she said that it is better to trust the sales staff since they should know better. 

I had gotten all the things that I needed to buy but SWT was still shopping for stuff for her niece and some ex-colleagues. Walked with her, giving some suggestions here and there as well as helping her choose and check the items. Finally, we were all done and proceeded to make payment. Took out the discount coupon and got our 5% discount off the total price. Left the shop as happy customers and we went to look for the KFC to get our dinner. Browsed through the menu and SWT said she will get the chicken wrap kid’s meal. With no one to share a meal and not willing to let go of the chance to try the fried chicken, I ordered the 2pc Quarter Pack which consisted of 2 pieces of fried chicken, one regular fries, one bread roll, one whipped potato and a regular drink. Walked slowly back to our hotel, settled down and discussed about which burger and sides to order for the next day. In the end, we decided to order the venison burger called the Sweet Bambi and a box of 6-piece crumbed calamari to share since Cynthia warned us that the burger is relatively big and SWT is a small eater. Wrote our orders, the costs and the amount enclosed on the given envelope before putting the money inside. Called Cynthia in her room before walking over to pass her the envelope.

Knocked on her door and she invited us in but we stopped just enough to close the door behind us. SWT handed over the envelope and took the opportunity to complain jokingly that the Wild Fern hand creams were out of stock. As it turned out, Cynthia also didn’t get to buy as many as she had intended. She was only left with one when she visited the shop couple of days ago in the evening. Chatted a while more and I signaled to SWT to move off so as not to take up more of Cynthia’s time. Returned to our room, opened up the curtain to get a great view of the Lake Wakatipu, took photos of our food before sitting down to eat and chat. The fried chickens were indeed less salty, very tender and juicy. Fortunately for me, they were smaller in size too compared to those back home. However, I was still unable to finish all the food and so left with the bread roll and the whipped potato. Rest a while before taking my shower, packed an overnight bag for the next day as suggested by Cynthia and went to bed.

Thoughts: Was really glad that I joined the optional tour to Milford Sound and took the cruise. Even though the traveling hours were long, we got some great photo stops along the way in the Fiordland National Park. The sky was overcast with slight drizzle initially and even rained for a while, fortunately, the sky soon cleared up and gave us blue sky to compliment the beautiful scenery while we were on the cruise. Would have been great if we were able to hear the narration while cruising. After listening to the information given by the driver, I concluded that NZ has a lot of lakes, rivers, mountains, green rolling hills, glaciers, windstorms, tree-slides, rock-slides, sheep, and so on. The Kiwis live in the wonderful land of nature and at the same time face the various dangers post by the nature. I guess it is a love and hate situation.

Though was a bit disappointed that I could not get the Wild Fern hand creams, I was happy to have managed to get a possum-merino beanie. Dinner was great even though it was just KFC because we got to enjoy the meal leisurely at the comfort of our hotel room and admiring the wonderful view of the Lake Wakatipu.