Chocolate Master Class, Southern Sun, Abu Dhabi

Our Chocolate masterclass attendees

The Expat Women’s group, here in Abu Dhabi, organized a Chocolate Master Class at the Southern Sun Hotel, followed by high tea. We had a fun afternoon learning about how chocolate delicacies are made, by Don Munasinghe, the Executive Pastry Chef at the hotel.

 Don described the contents of the various types of chocolate

 Don’s assistant was Sameera

They showed us an assortment of chocolate and fillings
which we couldn’t resist tasting

Don had prepared some empty chocolate bases and showed us how to add the filling

Then we had to try it for ourselves

Our efforts were a little less than pristine

I must confess to making the most mess trying to squirt the blueberry filling into the bases. Whereas Don’s fillings were exact with no added mess, mine, especially, definitely missed the mark on occasions.

Rolling dark chocolate truffle

While our filled trays were cooling in the fridge, Don showed us how to roll Dark Truffle Chocolate into balls, and then cover them in chocolate powder. His were perfectly spherical and all the same, while ours were a little oddly shaped, and different sizes. Obviously needs more practice.

Our chocolate master showing us how to make the chocolate bases

At each step, Don explained about the equipment that was best to use, and also how important it is to get the temperature of the chocolate right at each stage. Once the chocolate has melted, it has to be cooled to between 28 and 30 degrees before it is put into a mould. Then it must be quickly processed before it becomes too hard.

Some of the ladies did very well

I decided not to try this, as I was sure mine would end up all over the floor. I am not renowned for my culinary skills. Unfortunately, because I so obviously hung back, I was pushed forward when Don demonstrated how to wrap a cake in chocolate.

Can you tell which is mine and which is the one Don made?
The clue might be in the chocolatey fingerprints I managed to leave. 

Don mixed white and dark chocolate…

…smoothed them together, and pushed out stems…

…and then petals, to the amazement of us all.

 Our Master Chocolatier with our final masterpieces

After the class, it was time for tea. Here are some of the delights.



This was such a fun activity, and everyone enjoyed it immensely. If ever you get the chance to attend a Chocolate Master Class at the Southern Sun Hotel, don’t hesitate. No one minds if you make a mess, there’s absolutely no pressure. I am smiling now just thinking about it.

Elizabeth coughlan


Reflecting on Architecture in Abu Dhabi, UAE

I often find myself gazing at buildings in Abu Dhabi, as it has such amazing architecture; but one thing I absolutely love is when I see a building reflected on another building. I find the patterns fascinating.

This morning, I was down at the pool for my morning swim, and, as I completed my lengths, I couldn’t help noticing the patterns surrounding me. So here is a selection of what I could see this morning.

Turquoise reflections in windows

 Orange and blue

Reflection in a window

Reflection of a tall tower

 Glass tower in a glass tower

 Wiggly lines in blue

 Reflections in the pool where I swim

 Patterns all over

The weather is heating up here in Abu Dhabi, but I really need to take my camera and walk around the city to photograph all those amazing reflections before it becomes unbearably hot. Abu Dhabi is amazing!
Elizabeth Coughlan


King of the Ranges, Murrurundi, NSW, Australia

We went to the annual King of the Ranges Competition in Murrurundi

For the last 15 years, the small town of Murrurundi in New South Wales, Australia, has held the King of the Ranges Stockman’s Challenge and Bush Festival. Here, some of Australia’s top horse and rider combinations show off their skills, and compete for prize money  and various trophies.

It is an exciting time for competitors and spectators alike, as there is a whole raft of events over the 4-day festival. We only visited on one of the days, but next year we plan to spend the whole 4 days staying in Murrurundi so we can follow all the events.

Rider in the Stockman’s Challenge

In the Stockman’s Challenge, competitors have to complete a set of tasks within an allotted time. With bags and swag securely packed, the competitor leads the pack-horse through an obstacle course. They then unpack the bags, re-saddle the horse, and mend a broken fence, before showing off their stock-handling skills by moving cattle through a set obstacle course. Not at all easy.

Our next stop was the horse-shoeing competition.

In the horse-shoeing competition, competitors have to shoe one hind hoof, and one front hoof in 30 minutes, to the judges' satisfaction. This was serious competition, and everyone was working really hard.

I love having my nails polished.

Our next event was the Bareback Freestyle where the riders have to demonstrate control over their horse, while riding bareback.

This guy is cracking whips, while sitting on his calm horse…

 …and this one is somersaulting off the back of his horse.

 This rider is pivoting around on his horse…

…and this one genuflects to the judges…

…while this rider gets her horse to move a barrel along.

As you can see from this small sample, there were many interesting ways the riders showed their skill in managing their horses.

There were also some demonstrations to entertain the crowd. The first of these was a chainsaw artist.

This chainsaw artist started off with a large log…

…and ended with this carving,
which he will finish off in his workshop

Next up was traditional sheep shearing

The trick here is to get the fleece all off in one piece, apart from a small area on the stomach. This requires great skill on the part of the shearer.

Another demonstration was by working dogs showing their skills. This was especially interesting because all these dogs on show were rescue dogs, who had been re-educated and trained.

This dog was herding ducks,
which he had to put back into their cage…

…and this one showed his skill at sheep herding

All afternoon we were entertained by Des & Roley
as they played their “Old Timers’ Music”

King of the Ranges is such an entertaining event; we are so looking forward to going again next year.

Elizabeth Coughlan


The Big Dry, Upper Hunter, NSW, Australia

Drought-ridden land in the Upper Hunter

The land in the Upper Hunter, NSW, Australia, should be covered in lush green grass, where cattle and horses can graze to their hearts’ content. Unfortunately the land is dry and dusty, with not a blade of grass to be seen, as once green pastures have become a barren wasteland.

It has been more than a year since farmers in the New South Wales Upper Hunter Valley have received a decent drop of rain. Dams across the district have completely dried up and cattle producers and ranchers have little choice but to hand-feed their stock at great expense. Others have had to sell their herds and flocks because they can’t afford to buy any more feed. The situation is desperate.

Much of the land is completely parched

Remaining cattle seek shelter from the harsh sun

A compounding factor in this drought is the extremely hot temperatures which is making this drought different from previous ones. The region has experienced day after day of 40-plus Celsius, sucking the land dry.

Trees are dying, as their roots fail to find water

Great tracts of land are completely barren

Although, this goanna seemed quite happy

David and Brandyn went down to look at the Hunter River

This kangaroo shot past me, looking for the river, too.

The Hunter River starts in the Barrington tops, just above where Suzi and Neil live. The part that runs past their house is little more than a creek, where Brandyn loves to play.

Even in the drought, there is water in the upper reaches of the Hunter River

The water in the Hunter River was only trickling slowly, high up in the Hunter Valley. We decided to explore the Hunter lower down the valley, as we drove to Scone to stay with our daughter, Jane.

The Hunter River at Glenmore Bridge, looking rather low

At Bells Bridge we only saw damp patches

 Upper Razorback Bridge, no water at all

 The Hunter River, further down at Belltrees Bridge…

…and this is the Pages River at Gundy

As you can see, the water shortage is dire in the Upper Hunter Valley. But there is hope. It has begun to rain. Let’s hope there is enough rain over the next week to get the rivers running again, and the land to flourish. This is such a spectacular part of the world, we just need to see it burst into new life.

Elizabeth Coughlan

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I couldn't resist this one!