Exploring Hunters Hill

It was a rainy, grey Saturday morning. Weather forecasters are telling us that an east coast low pressure system is developing, and we’ll be experiencing heavy rain and gale force winds on Monday and Tuesday, and it seems to be ramping up towards that already. There wasn’t a lot of rain today though – just some showers interspersed with long breaks.

We decided to go out and find a new bakery to have lunch at today. I checked Google Maps for somewhere not too far away, and find a likely looking spot about 10 minutes drive away. My wife and I went with Scully and managed to get an outside table at Stoneground Bakery in the suburb of Hunters Hill. It seems like a nice bakery and we also bought a loaf of sourdough bread to take home and have with dinner tonight.

After eating, we decided to take a walk around a few of the back streets to give Scully some exercise and loop back the long way to the car. We passed a few interesting places on the way:

St Kevin's. Hunters Hill walk

This is St Kevin’s, an old sandstone cottage, now being used as a solicitor’s office. It’s listed on the NSW heritage register as a significant historical building. Hunters Hill was one of the earliest areas of Sydney to be settled by the wealthier free settlers in the colony, and there are a lot of old houses in the area.

St Joseph's. Hunters Hill walk

This was actually originally a school, known as “Toronto”, but it’s now been converted into the St Jospeh’s Aged Care facility.

Hunters Hill walk

Down the hill from here is Tarban Creek, which flows under the Tarban Creek Bridge (visible in this photo) into Sydney Harbour. The creek is rather wide at this point! You can also see how grey the weather was today.

New content today:

Recovery day

My sore legs were recovering from yesterday’s 5k run, so I didn’t end up doing very much particularly active today.

I did go out for the weekly grocery shop, but even that was low key, as our shopping list literally had only 4 items on it (crackers, Weet Bix breakfast cereal, arborio rice, and eggs) – although we never list staples that we buy every week, such as milk, bread, yoghurt, fruit, vegetables, and some prepared vegetarian foods. I basically browse the fruit and vegetable section and decide what strikes my fancy to cook/eat during the week and just grab some things. Today I got: kipfler potatoes, a red onion (those two to make potato salad), cherry tomatoes, a cauliflower, half a butternut pumpkin, a bunch of broccolini, several apples, an orange, a pomegranate, and three bananas. I also got some chick pea burger patties, and falafels.

I took Scully out briefly before lunch, but otherwise spent the day goofing off and making a couple of new Darths & Droids comics. Oh, and I processed a bunch of old photos from a trip to Thailand in 2005 that I took on 35mm film and scanned a while ago. This is Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai:

Wat Phra Singh

Tonight for dinner, my wife and I went out to one of our favourite restaurants, a local seafood place that does really nice fish dishes. It’s the first time we’ve been there since the restaurants closed for COVID restrictions a few months ago. Being winter, I had my favourite winter warmer dish – the snapper pie. Mmmm…

New content today:

Back into 5k

Scully seemed perfectly fine today, following yesterday’s nasty incident. So that’s good.

Also good today, I got back into my exercise “routine”. I said I’d start doing 5k runs again, at least once a week, and today I did one for this week. Previously I timed myself going up the street to the oval as part of the run, and then I completed 9 laps, which brought the total distance to 5 kilometres. But the walk/jog from my place to the oval is uphill, and in fact climbs about 70 metres in 900 metres horizontally, so that part slowed me down and puffed me out early in the run.

Instead, today I walked casually up to the oval, and only began recording my run when I started doing laps on the flat playing field. I figured I needed to about 12 laps rather than 9. I set out at a slow jog, hoping to be able to keep that pace up for the whole distance without slowing down to a walk. I was struggling by 8 laps and really had to push myself to not drop to a walk, but I managed to get to 11 laps when I decided I’d take a look at the distance to see how far I had to go, and if it was just 100-200 metres I’d sprint it out. But when I checked at 11 laps, my tracker had recorded 5.1 km, so I’d finished!

My split time for the 5k was 29:16, which Strava tells me is my second best effort (best is 29:06, back in November). So I’m pretty happy with effort after a break of so many months. My legs are pretty sore though, even after a full suite of stretches and warm down – they definitely need to get used to this again.

To celebrate – and to overcompensate for all the kilojoules burnt! – I spoilt myself with pies for lunch on the way home. I did decide to be good and only get vegetarian ones, planning to get the delicious Thai curry vegetable, and a pumpkin and lentil. But when I got to the pie shop, they’d sold out of both of those, and in fact all of the vegetarian options, except for the roast vegetable and the spinach, corn, and cheese, which is definitely the least healthy of the vegetarian pies they make, stuffed with cheese as it is (although it’s delicious). So I got one of each of those, and really enjoyed them.

New content today:

Scully bullied

Today was a bit of a blah day. I didn’t feel up to doing much, and there was a nasty incident this morning.

There’s a neighbour in our apartment block with a dog which hasn’t been socialised, and the owners usually keep it away from other dogs. The owners are very nice, and very careful about keeping their dog away from other dogs. But this morning I was taking Scully down to the grass for a toilet, and walked around a corner, and this other dog and the lady owner were right there, just a couple of metres away, and before either of us knew what was happening her dog launched itself at Scully and started attacking her!

After a second of shock I grabbed the other dog and pulled it away from Scully, gave it to the woman, and picked up Scully to check if she was okay. Fortunately the other dog is quite small too, not much bigger than Scully, and it appeared not to have actually bitten her, because there was no broken skin or blood anywhere, but obviously Scully was shaken and shocked. The owner was shocked too and extremely apologetic and asking if Scully was okay and if I was okay – I’m sure she was just as horrified as I was. She said she felt horrible and asked me to contact her later and let her know if Scully had been hurt.

Examining Scully back at home more carefully, I couldn’t find any damage at all. I guess the other dog, although it was behaving aggressively, didn’t actually bite her. Which is good. I called the vet to see if they recommended bringing her in for precautionary antibiotics or a more thorough examination, but they said if she’s not showing any signs of distress or injury then she’s most probably okay.

Apart from that, I spent some time baking a loaf of bread today. We still have one pack of bread mix from our COVID lockdown supplies to get through. I think I’ll get bread stuff occasionally still, since it’s nice having freshly baked bread at home.

New content today:

A miraculous recovery

So, two days ago I wrote about how my photography website had become corrupted due to a bad WordPress update. I decided to finally bite the bullet and start building my own site, starting with some catalogue pages to show off my work, and then think about adding shopping and payment facilities later. So I sat down and thought the first step was to blow away the WordPress and WooCommerce installs to start from a clean slate.

But first, I’d take a quick look at the WordPress code to see if I could figure out what the error was, just in case it was something I could discover and fix quickly. So I started by loading the site to see what the error message was… And the site loaded! With all my stuff there! The WordPress theme had defaulted back to the default, but my content was all there. It looked like the theme files for the theme I’d chosen were corrupted, so I deleted them and reinstalled the theme… And the entire site was back, including the customisations I’d made to the theme, with colours and header image graphics! What’s more, the admin pages now seem to be working without the intermittent server errors that I was having before the automated upgrade. So it’s actually working better than it was before.

I have no idea what happened, that made the site look completely trashed for a week or two, and then magically brought it back to life. But whatever happened, I’m happy that I didn’t have to either diagnose and debug WordPress/WooCommerce. Or build my own shop site from scratch. Phew!

Today was again cold, but also cloudy, and it’s started raining this evening. I only went out once, to take Scully for a walk before lunch, and spent much of the day writing and making Darths & Droids strips. I read another 6 pages of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Si Salvi Chi Può in Italian, making 10 pages in 2 days. Since the book is just over 200 pages long, if I keep that rate up I can finish in 40 days, so it’s not really that big a task.

New content today:

Starting a new diary

This morning I braved the cold morning air to walk down to North Sydney for a doctor’s appointment. It was pretty cold, and I was glad I wore my rugby jersey and a jacket. I was home in time to take Scully out for a mid-morning walk and play.

And then soon after I had to head off for a lunch meet-up with one of my friends. We had lunch at a Japanese place near his house, so he could walk there, but I had to drive over. It was good to catch up, as we hadn’t seen each other since about March, when the COVID restrictions began here.

This afternoon I applied my new discipline to Italian lessons. I did some Duolingo, and then turned my attention to starting the next Wimpy Kid book. I eased in, translating four pages, then – as has been our tradition – reading them aloud one sentence at a time in Italian followed by English to my wife. So she’s been enjoying the stories along with me. This one has begun with Greg lamenting the pre-Christmas holiday season, where he has to try to be good for a whole month, which is basically impossible. 😄

New content today:

Sunday roast, and discipline

Today we had Sunday lunch with my wife’s family, a total of eight of us (plus Scully). It’s the first time we’ve all gotten together since Christmas, so it was good to catch up and hear what everyone’s been doing during the COVID isolation. We had a traditional roast pork and vegetables lunch, followed by a nice butterscotch pudding and ice cream.

We were a bit full still from the lunch, so I didn’t cook a proper dinner tonight. We just had fried eggs, my wife on toast, while I had mine on a couple of the leftover lunch bread rolls.

I’ve also been thinking about how to restore my photography site web store. Given the issues I’ve had with WooCommerce, I really want to ditch it. I looked into the Square payment processing API a bit this afternoon and I’ve almost decided to give that a go. It means building a whole web store site by myself, then handing payment processing over to Square, and populating my own order information database. It’ll be a bit of work, but at least it’ll be code that I understand and trust not to be unreliable. It’ll take a week or two to do the work – I’m hoping to get at least a catalogue up and running by the time my market stall is on, two weeks from today.

The other thing I did today was to restart my stalled Duolingo Italian lessons. I restarted them a while back, but was interrupted by the knife injury to my hand, which made it hard to type rapidly, and hadn’t restarted again until today. I read a thing somewhere (reddit probably) recently about how to get motivated to do stuff – and was struck by several comments saying that seeking motivation to do something is the wrong approach. You need to have discipline. You need to go and do the thing that you want to do, or know you should do, rather than wait/seek for the motivation to do it. Discipline is the only way to get through a lack of motivation, and often the only way to actually get stuff done.

I want to learn Italian and get better at it, but I was slacking off. So I decided to be disciplined and just start today, and make sure I keep practising every day. No excuses. Just do it. I’m also going to start the other exercise that I’d previously been doing, which is to read the next book in the Wimpy Kid series, in Italian. So far I’ve read the first five books in the series, which are at about the right level for me to read in Italian – not so easy that I am not learning by reading, and not so hard that I have to stop and look up words too often. I can make it through about 5-10 pages in half an hour or so, which is a pace that isn’t too frustrating. I finished the fifth book at the end of 2018, but hadn’t managed to get motivated to start the sixth book. But today I’m applying discipline and putting the book – Si salvi chi può – on my desk, to begin reading tomorrow.

I’ve also decided I’m going to start doing my 5k runs again this week. At least once a week.

I’m going to get busy again.

New content today:

Friday/Saturday combined update

I missed Friday’s post due to being busy in the evening. I went out for dinner with my wife and Scully to a local Mexican place. Nowhere near as good as Mexican food in California, alas, but it’s passably good. But the place was busy and we were the only ones sitting outside in the cold winter night (since Scully was with us), and the service ended up being a little slow, so we took longer than expected. And then when I got home, my fortnightly board games night with friends was already underway, so I dived straight into that, and didn’t get time to write a blog post.

Saturday morning was housework time – cleaning the bathroom and the shower, and vacuuming and stuff. It was cold today, we only reached 17°C, and there was a slight breeze which made it feel colder. But still not as cold as it sometimes can get in Sydney – in fact I’d say we haven’t had a seriously cold day yet this winter.

I saw the first magnolia flowers a few days ago, but only took a photo today.

Winter magnolia

This isn’t a lone earlybird bloom either. There were several on the same tree, and more on another couple of magnolia trees that I passed today. I pay attention to when the magnolia flowers first appear every winter, and have been noticing that they are consistently getting earlier every year. This year is just ridiculously early. The first photo I have of magnolias last year was from 10 July, so this year they’re a week earlier again. A few years ago, they wouldn’t appear until August, and years before that, late August or even September.

The TV news tonight had a story on the dry, mild winter we’ve been having, saying that it could be a precursor to another horrible fire season like we had last summer. It’s all a bit depressing really.

On the positive side… I did some tax accounting and ticked off a few tasks that I needed to do with respect to recording deductions and stuff like that. The new tax year just started here in Australia, so I have the 2019-2020 tax return to do soon. Fun fun fun.

New content today:

COVID haircut

I was overdue for a haircut, having had my last one before all this COVID-19 stuff became serious. So I went to my usual barber today. asked how long he’d had to shut down for, and he said that they were open the whole time – barbers and hairdressers were considered essential services here in Australia and never had to shut down – however he had almost no customers come in in April or May.

At lunchtime I took Scully out for a walk to the fish and chip shop and got my lunch there. I often get a “lunch box” combo, which is pieces of fish, calamari rings, a crab stick, and chips, but this time I asked if they could do a variation and replace the chips with potato scallops. They did for no extra cost, and that was good, because they make really really good potato scallops there, and I like them better than the chips.

And then this afternoon I took Scully to the dog park for a run around and play with some other dogs. Another small dog kept grabbing her small-sized tennis ball – Scully is not very fast when it comes to chasing a ball. She will fetch and return a ball, but she doesn’t tear after it like some dogs do, and always loses the race if another dog decides to chase the ball I’ve thrown. This one today wouldn’t let it go either, and its owner had to chase after it and get it to drop Scully’s ball. Three or four times! Ah, the fun never ends…!

I also wrote a few comics and made vege burgers for dinner. And with my wife we completed our retrospective run of watching every Roger Moore James Bond film that we started a couple of weeks ago. We didn’t watch them in order, starting with The Spy Who Loved Me and finishing tonight with The Man With the Golden Gun. Some bad ones in there, but some fun ones as well.

New content today:

Star Wars day

I was pretty much immersed in Star Wars today. In the context of thinking about Darths & Droids story and writing, and then assembling a set of new comics. I wrote a lot of background material and story planning notes. Which I can’t share at this time.

The other main thing I did was bake some bread, which is a bit time consuming, with all the kneading and letting it rise and so on. I haven’t done it for a while because of my hand injury, which would have made it tricky to knead the dough as required. The current mix I’m using is soy and linseed, which I’m not as happy with as the sourdough mix that I bought previously. The resulting bread is a bit crumbly, almost slightly cakey in texture, rather than pliable and breadlike. I guess the flour doesn’t have quite as much gluten in it as it could.

New content today: