Home baking with pastry

I was planning to make quiche for dinner tonight. Normally I use pre-made pastry sheets from the supermarket. But tonight I decided to have a go at making my own pastry – for the first time ever. I found a simple shortcrust pastry recipe, and made it up. It wasn’t difficult at all. However, after making the dough, I thought it looked like a lot, so I checked the total weight of ingredients, versus the weight of a pack of 5 pastry sheets… and found that I’d made close to twice as much pastry as I would normally use for one quiche.

So I used half the pastry to make the quiche for dinner.

Cauliflower quiche

And then after we ate I used the other half to make a couple of small apple pies. I’ve never made pies before, but I didn’t use a recipe. I just stewed some apple with cloves and cinnamon until it was soft, then rolled and baked the pie shells, then filled with the apple and topped with the remaining pastry.

Apple pies

They turned out pretty good! A little amateurish around the edges, but I had one still hot with a scoop of ice cream for dessert, and it was a fine apple pie. Now I’m really full…

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Double ethics classes

This morning I had my normal Year 5/6 ethics class. We started a new subject: Vanity. The first lesson of the topic was really just about exploring the idea that people look different, and asking whether some people look better than others, and if it’s okay to want to look good, or specifically better than other people. We got through the material a bit quickly, as most of the answers were agreed to by the class, without a lot of discussion or differing opinions.

And then straight after my usual class, I took relief for another ethics teacher who was away this week. He has a Year 3 class, younger than I’m used to (although I have taken a Year 2 class a couple of times before to fill in). The kids can bit more excitable and uncontrollable at that age, but they’re also a bit more obedient when asked to do things. It was a large class and they had a tendency to blurt out answers over the top of each other without putting their hands up to wait their turn. I stopped that fairly quickly by saying I noticed the polite students with their hands up. It kind of bubbled along a bit, but never got out of hand, so that was good.

The topic was Persuading, and today’s lesson was about advertising in particular. I showed the kids a couple of (fictional) advertisements and we discussed how honest they were, and if they were trying to persuade you to buy something by being deliberately misleading. It was a really good discussion, and I think the kids really latched onto the idea that advertisers are trying to sell stuff, so they’re not motivated to be entirely honest.

After the double class, I hung out a bit in the shopping area near the school, and then grabbed some food for a slightly early lunch before heading home. I picked up Scully at lunch time, and it was rainy again today, so we got a bit wet coming home. Fortunately she behaved at home all afternoon, since I didn’t feel like heading outside in the rain again.

This evening I did my usual Italian practice on Duolingo. I’m now up to a 300-day streak of uninterrupted lessons every day. I did have a longer streak a few years ago, but it got interrupted by an overseas trip and reset my counter, and then it took me a while to get back into it. But I’m feeling a lot better now about some of the different tenses, particularly the subjunctive and the conditional. I’m still working on modal tenses.

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More Japanese food

I didn’t have anything particular that I needed to do today, nor any plans for anything. It would have been a good opportunity to go for a long walk and take photos or something, but unfortunately the weather decided today was a good day to break the four-week long dry spell we’ve been having. After yesterday’s lovely 25°C autumn day, today’s maximum was only 17°C, and there was steady rain from about 10:00 to mid-afternoon.

So I worked on some comic writing, until a friend messaged me and suggested going out to grab some lunch together. He suggested a new Japanese place near him. So I grabbed my umbrella ad caught the train over. The restaurant had a selection of bento box lunch specials, and I chose the panko prawn set, with the option of sashimi (there were other options including a salad, tofu, and something else).

Bento box - panko prawns

It was pretty good!

My wife messaged me to see if I could pick up Scully on the way home. Apparently Scully had been a bit barky this morning, and my wife wanted to get her out of the office early. So I picked her up and brought her home, where she then slept on my lap for a few hours until my wife also got home!

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Sushi and books

This morning I had another Outschool class, a second session of the ethics course, on the same topic of greed as last Friday, with a different student. I just had the one boy this time, so it was very one-on-one, and we had a pretty deep discussion of what greed is, and whether it’s wrong or not – or rather in what circumstances it’s wrong or not. I could tell he was really thinking hard about the questions I posed, and he said he enjoyed it at the end, so that’s good!

For lunch today I decided to walk up the street to the local shops and get something. I didn’t have anything in mind, but settled on sushi when I passed a sushi shop. I took my bento box of sushi to the nearby square, where there’s a grassy area and trees and some steps to sit on, and ate there with some other local workers who had come out for lunch. And a gaggle of magpies, who stalked everyone looking for handouts. But I never feed birds, no matter how persistent.

After eating I stopped in the bookshop to browse around for a while. I saw some mildly interesting things, but nothing inspiring enough to buy. I flipped through an Italian recipe book and found a simple ratio of ingredients for making pasta dough, which I committed to memory. I’ve been thinking now that I’m making my own bread and pizza bases, I should give hand made pasta try. I think dinners for this week are more or less covered already, so maybe I’ll try next week.

On books, I recently finished reading the Dungeons & Dragons adventure Curse of Strahd, which is a 5th edition conversion and expansion of the classic original 1st edition adventure Ravenloft. Ravenloft has long been a favourite of mine, and I’m very pleased with the expanded content in this version.

Sticking with the D&D theme, I’ve now started on another book in my list of unread books: Grimtooth’s Ultimate Traps Collection, Foil Hardcover edition. This is a classic old school series of books containing various dungeon traps originally published in the 1980s, collected together into a republished compendium. The book weighs a ton, and should take a while to get through. I like the nostalgic feel of reading old gaming material like this.

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Standard sort of Sunday

I did the same walk as yesterday with Scully, but today my wife came along as well. She didn’t recall ever having done the new route which Scully chose yesterday, and Scully picked it again today, so that was good. I stopped at the bakery along the way for a piece of chocolate babka, which is really delicious, and a good Sunday morning tea treat.

At the Oyster Cove marina, I spotted this white-faced heron, which I managed ot get close enough to to take a half-decent photo with my phone.

White-faced heron

At home, I worked on more Darths & Droids strips, getting the buffer back into something resembling good health after running it down to the bone recently.

During the afternoon I got into a chat with some friends on Discord, and we talked about TV shows we’ve been watching. It was interesting because every time anyone said anything about a show they’d watched, they put it in spoiler tags to avoid spoiling anyone else who was interested in watching but wasn’t up to that bit yet. I’ve been watching The Irregulars, and am up to episode 6 of 8. Two of my friends are also watching it and are up to different episodes. So although we’re all watching the same TV show, we can’t really have a proper conversation about it without being super careful.

Remember back in the days before streaming, when TV shows aired on television at a specific time, and everyone you knew would be watching the same episode at the same time? So you could all talk about the latest episode and speculate what would happen next week? I miss those days. I watched The X-Files in its initial run, and one of my friends and I would get together every week and compare our impressions of the last episode and theorise wildly about what was going to happen in the next mythology episode. This is a joy that young people these days will never know.

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Time with Scully

Today, being Saturday, my wife wanted to work on her sewing projects. Scully (our dog) likes to occasionally come up and request to curl up on people’s laps, but my wife being busy at the sewing machine and moving to cut fabric wasn’t able to offer a stable lap. So Scully settled for second best and came up to me, as I was working on making some new Darths & Droids comics. So she ended up curled up and fell asleep on my lap for an hour or two.

At lunch time my wife had an appointment up the street, so I took Scully for a long walk, doing a big loop that takes us past the good bakery, and down to Oyster Cove on Sydney Harbour.

Oyster Cove Scully

There’s a nice little park here that Scully likes. And it’s good for bird spotting. I recorded twelve species here in eBird today: Australian Brushturkey, Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon), Masked Lapwing, Silver Gull, Little Black Cormorant, White-faced Heron, Australian White Ibis, Rainbow Lorikeet, Noisy Miner, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Welcome Swallow. And there’s a good view.

Oyster Cove Scully

On the way back we walk through a bushland area where there are some walking tracks. Normally we go one way, but Scully always looks interested in going the other way at an intersection, so today I just let her go that way and I followed. It’s a different route with a steep climb at the end, and leads to a street which we walk down a lot, so once there she knew where we were again. It was very interesting watching her following the track, and stopping every so often as if to try to figure out where she was, and then start walking again.

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First online ethics class

Today I did some grocery shopping, then spent some time working out my detailed lesson plan for this afternoon’s Outschool class.

It was my first class in the Critical and Ethical Thinking course, so I wanted to be prepared. Given I only had two students enrolled I wanted to have plenty of material ready, in case we got through it quickly. I needn’t have worried so much.

The students showed up in Zoom on time, two girls. They were both very articulate and engaged with the material. I asked both of them for their opinions on each of the questions I raised, after telling various stories starting with King Midas and the golden touch, and then going through some more real world examples of greed, or potential greed. They gave some good responses, and I had to skip over a few questions towards the end to finish on time.

I asked if they’d enjoyed the class and they both said yes, and indicated they’d be back next week. So that’s really good! Hopefully by then another student or two will have signed up.

Tonight is virtual board games night, and my wife is out with her friends having a dinner. I dashed out for some fish and chips for my own dinner. And now I’m losing at games of 7 Wonders

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Change of season

We’ve been experiencing a rather cool autumn. After last year when we had an extremely mild winter, it feels unusually chilly for this time of year. I’ve taken to wearing a jacket when going outside about a month earlier than last year.

The leaves on the deciduous trees are changing. Mostly in Sydney that means plane trees turning a dull shade of light brown. There are a few liquidambars scattered around that go a lovely deep red, but they’re not that common, and for the most part of course all the other trees are evergreen. So it’s not spectacular, but it is noticeable.

I took this photo of a path I walk down while collecting Scully from my wife’s office. The plane trees a mix of green and brown. This is basically what autumn looks like in Sydney.

Autumn path

The coolish weather makes it lovely to be outside. And after last month’s ridiculous amounts of rain, April has been extremely dry so far. We haven’t had any rain since the 8th, three weeks ago. And what we had in that first eight days was only about 10% of the April average rainfall. What we have had the past week or so is smoke – the bushfire control authorities are taking this cool weather as a chance to burn a lot of the undergrowth in forests around the edge of the city, and the prevailing wind conditions are wafting it across the city.

I took this photo at the dog park this afternoon while walking Scully. It’s normally a lovely view, but you can see the brown smoke across the lower level of the sky.

View while walking the dog

Tonight for dinner I tried a variant of one of my regular dishes. Pasta with butternut pumpkin, nuts, chilli, and feta. I normally use walnuts, but tonight I tried pistachios, which worked really well. And made it pretty colourful.

Pasta with butternut, pistachios, and feta

Oh, and in good news I have two students signed up for my first online Critical and Ethical Thinking class, tomorrow. Tomorrow’s class is in a time zone suitable for Australia/Asia, but I also have another parallel class on the same topic in a time zone better suited for the Americas (Sunday afternoons in US time zones).

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A final act of punishment

This morning was my Ethics class. It was the final lesson on the topic of punishment, which has been dragging on for four weeks. I don’t like the topics that go 4 weeks, as the kids (and myself) are really sick and tired of it after that long. I much prefer the shorter 2 or 3 week topics.

Anyway, today we went through a scenario in which a teacher/coach catches some girls on the netball team teasing another new girl who has a different accent. The coach decides some punishment is needed, but isn’t sure what, and so asks four of the other team coaches what they think. One says to give them a taste of their own medicine and have some other girls tease them. Another says to ban them from playing for 4 weeks. Another says they should have to do something to make it up to the teased girl. The fourth says they should have to think about what they did and the reasons why it’s wrong.

The exercise was to get the kids to discuss the merits and flaws of each suggestion. They pretty much agreed the first idea was bad, as it would lead to a cycle of teasing back and forth, escalating the situation. They had an insight that I didn’t with the second one, and said banning the girls from playing would punish the whole team, not just the ones who did the teasing, so it wasn’t really a fair punishment. They also agreed that this sort of punishment isn’t a big deterrent against teasing – it’s just more likely to make the girls be more careful not to get caught. They thought that the third idea, doing something to make up for it, was a good idea, suggesting things like helping the teased girl with a project or something. They liked the idea of having to do a good deed to make up for the bad one. They also liked the fourth idea, that the kids should have to think about why teasing is bad, but they couldn’t come up with any good ideas on how to make them do that.

They concluded (with appropriate prompting) with the concept that a punishment should be “fitting” to the crime, in that it should be proportionate and not too severe, it shouldn’t lead to escalation, it should in some way attempt to make up for the damage caused, and it should lead the committer to reconsider what they’ve done so that they’re less likely to do it again.

Overall it was a pretty good discussion! And I think they really had some good insights into the topic by the end of it. Next week we start a new topic: Vanity.

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Unexpected CT scan

I had an appointment this morning to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist about my swollen tonsil. I had a couple of courses of different antibiotics back in February, but they didn’t help, and it took until today to get an appointment with the specialist.

The doctor took a look, sprayed my throat with anaesthetic, and did some poking. Then he suggested I get a CT scan to check whether the swelling is a simple cyst or something more complicated. So he wrote me a referral to a radiology place. It was just two doors down the street, so rather than phone up I just walked in to make an appointment. The receptionist said, “We could do it now.”

So fifteen minutes later I was lying in a CT machine having a scan of my neck. They injected some iodine contrast solution, which is always a fun experience. (If you’ve never had this, it makes you feel a hot flush throughout your body. In particular around the bladder/groin region – so it feels a bit like you’ve wet yourself, even though you haven’t.)

I have a follow-up appointment with the ENT specialist in 3 weeks to see if he recommends a tonsillectomy. He did imply that that was going to be the most likely course of action.

After all that, I decided to treat myself to lunch from the nearby pie shop. And since it was then after lunch and I was near my wife’s office, I picked up Scully and took her home for the afternoon, so we could go to the dog park later.

I made fajitas for dinner. We have some pomegranate left over from the salads I made last week, so we added a spoonful of pomegranate arils when constructing the fajitas, which added a nice zing. Recommended!

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