Baking damper: attempt 2

We were out of bread today after eating all the damper I made three days ago. Restricting our grocery shopping outings to once a week, I didn’t want to buy bread today, so I made another damper. This time I used soda water instead of beer, and the recipe I looked up pointed out that you don’t want to knead the dough, because that drives the air out of it. Last time the beer damper recipe said to knead the dough lightly.

So today I mixed the dough roughly and didn’t knead it at all. And sprinkled a bit of flour on top before baking. And here’s the result!

Damper, version 2

It turned out well – better than the last one. Really delicious, in fact. My wife actually said she didn’t want us to buy bread ever again. Of course that relies on me making bread whenever she wants it…

I did have to go out today though, to take my wife’s 4G box that her office gave her to use for connectivity and get it repaired, after the trouble she had yesterday. The guy at the mobile shop poked a tray through the door and told me to put the box on it, then locked the door behind him, with me waiting on the outside while he checked it out. Ten minutes later he came back and told me through the glass that it was working, and had me check by connecting to the WiFi with my phone. Then he unlocked the door and handed it back to me, from the tray. Getting it home, it did work again, so that’s good.

I really don’t know what happened with the rest of the day!

New content today:

More walking and baking

For today’s exercise, my wife and I took Scully on a walk down to the local golf course, and then through a bushwalk along Gore Creek.

Scully at Gore Creek

It leads to Bob Campbell Oval, a cricket/soccer field near the water.

Scully at Bob Campbell Oval

From here you have to climb The Stairs of Cirith Ungol to get back to my place.

Scully on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol

At home, we were out of bread. Rather than go shopping, I made some damper! This is beer damper, made with 3 cups of self raising flour, a bottle of beer, a pinch of salt… and that’s it! Mix and bake for 30 minutes at 190°C. It turned out really nice.

Beer Damper

This afternoon I played some games with my wife. We played Azul.

Azul

And then Walking in Burano.

Walking in Burano.

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Patricia Trail and banana bread

It’s Saturday, so although she’s been working from home all week, today my wife had some spare time during the day. So we took a bit of a trip, choosing something to do that wouldn’t involve encountering any people, to respect the coronavirus distancing rules.

I wanted to find somewhere where we could do a bit of walking through some bushland, with Scully. Unfortunately for this plan, dogs are forbidden from National Parks. However, I found that there are some Regional Parks which allow dogs, and there are a few within Sydney. So we set out for the Berowra Valley Regional Park, and in particular the area accessed from the northern end of the suburb of Cherrybrook. Here there is a walking track through the park where dogs are allowed.

Scully on Patricia Trail

The track led through thickly grown forest and undergrowth, but the path was easy enough to follow. Although it was a bit muddy in places from the recent rain this week, and there was also a bit of grass growing on the path.

Scully on Patricia Trail

After completing the track, we did a loop back to where we’d parked the car, walking along the quiet suburban streets. We only saw a few people out and about – it was a lot quieter than the area where we live.

Back home I decided to bake some banana bread.

Home made banana bread

We don’t do a lot of baking, but with the purchasing of a few weeks of non-perishable foodstuffs we suddenly have plenty of flour in the house, so I figured I’d make use of a couple of old bananas. I used a simple recipe found online.

Home made banana bread

It turned out fairly good. Nice flavour, maybe a little denser than commercially produced banana bread. My wife had a slice with yoghurt and honey on top.

Home made banana bread

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Salad days

I don’t really have much to report today – I was busy doing boring financial stuff. Except I made potato salad.

Potato salad

Boiled kipfler potatoes, with the skin on, sliced; chopped boiled eggs; diced gherkins; chopped onions and garlic, lightly fried; mild English mustard; and coleslaw dressing. I like to use coleslaw dressing instead of mayonnaise because it’s lighter and tangier.

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Salad Sunday

I spent much of today… making a salad.

Usually a salad you just chop a few things and toss them in a bowl. Done in five minutes. Not this one.

I started first thing in the morning, by putting some dried chick peas into a pot and covering them with water to soak for several hours. After lunch, I boiled them for a half hour or so, then let them cool slowly. Then I tipped them out and dried them thoroughly, then spread them on a baking tray. Into a hot oven for 20 minutes, checking and giving them a shake every few minutes. At this point several of the peas popped, like popcorn, and flew across the oven, ending up on the oven floor. After 20 minutes I took them out, put them in a bowl, added olive oil, salt, and some garam masala, gave them a stir, and then back onto the baking tray and into the oven for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile I chopped some cauliflower into small florets, mixed them with olive oil, salt, cumin, and chilli powder in a bowl. When the chick peas came out, I poured them into a bowl to cool while I placed the cauliflower on the tray, and then into the oven to bake for half an hour, turning them occasionally.

While the cauliflower cooled after baking, I opened a pomegranate and extracted the arils – a job which takes about 20 minutes just by itself. Then I toasted some pine nuts in a frying pan. And finally, just before dinner this evening, I combined all the ingredients, with some tahini and a drizzle of caramelised balsamic vinegar, while I fried up some vegetarian sausages to go with the salad.

The salad turned out spectacular, if I do say so myself. My wife and I both loved it. The chick peas were crunchy and flavourful, the cauliflower provided tenderness, the pomegranate sweetness, the tahini nuttiness, and the vinegar a bit more sweetness as well as sourness. And there was just enough spice plus heat from the chilli to make it even more interesting. Absolutely delicious, and I’m glad I spent so long making it.

Otherwise today, I watched a bunch of cricket on the tele, and I wrote a bunch of rerun annotations for Irregular Webcomic! Oh, and I finally changed the IWC poll question, to something seasonal.

New content today:

Christmas cooking

Being two days before Christmas, it was time to get down to some preparatory cooking today. My family has a gathering on Christmas Eve, while my wife’s has the traditional Christmas Day lunch, so we manage to attend both events every year.

I began this morning with a trip to the supermarket to get some last minute supplies: celery, onions, milk, and some other stuff. Then we hit the kitchen and cooked up a big batch of spicy lentil balls using an old recipe we’ve made many times. These are good because you can make them ahead of time and keep them for a few days, they’re easy to reheat, and they’re nice bite-sized finger food. We’ll be taking half to Christmas Eve, and the rest for Christmas Day.

This afternoon we took Scully to the dog park. We know most of the regulars there, but today I saw someone I hadn’t seen there before: Trent Zimmerman, our local Member of Parliament for North Sydney. He’d brought his dog, Simba, to play in the park. The regulars said he often comes down to the park with his dog, so I must have missed him on every other occasion. One of the regulars went over and had a chat with him, and reported back that he’d asked him about the Government’s policies on climate change, given the recent bushfire emergency and the record breaking heatwave and drought we’ve been experiencing. Zimmerman is a relative moderate in the mostly conservative right-leaning Liberal Party, and he said he expects that there will be a shift towards policies that are more responsive to climate change and reducing carbon emissions. Well, we can wait and see – he’s only a backbencher.

New content today:

Final Ethics of the year

This morning was my last Ethics class of the school year. I walked to the school (3.1 km away) because the weather was cool and winds had blown yesterday’s smoke away, thankfully.

In this class we didn’t discuss ethical questions, but instead reflected on the year gone past and what the students learnt. I asked them what topics they enjoyed most, which ones made them think when other students expressed different opinions, and which, if any, changed their minds. We had a really good discussion, and the kids’ behaviour was excellent. Towards the end of the lesson I handed out completion certificates to each child. I told them I wished them well as they begin high school next year, and said I would miss them, as this would probably be the last time we ever see each other.

I genuinely will miss (most of) them, and it makes me a bit sad to think that I really won’t ever see any of them again. However when the bell went, they basically just got up, waved bye, and filed out the door. I think at their age it doesn’t really hit them when they have to say goodbye to someone forever. Come February I’ll have a brand new class with new names to learn, and no doubt I’ll grow fond of the new kids as well.

I decided to walk home through the Lane Cove Bushland Park, which is more or less an alternate “shortest” route home. The track passes through some dense bush, and it would be very difficult to go cross-country off the established walking track. I should have emerged back into a street near my place, but when I was almost there I found a fence blocking the track, with signs indicating that it was undergoing repairs and was closed for safety due to heavy equipment being used. The idea of jumping a safety fence and incurring the wrath of construction workers didn’t appeal, so I had to backtrack through much of the park and emerge an extra kilometre of so away from home, adding maybe 2 km to my journey.

On the way though, I went down some streets I’ve never walked down before, and found a lovely old estate house on a big block of land:

Fancy house

Back home, I didn’t have much time before picking up my wife and Scully to take them to their very first job as a Delta Dogs therapy dog team! This was an event held at Macquarie University for international students who won’t be travelling home to see family over Christmas, with the dogs there to give them some good cheer. They had a team of seven dogs there today, with Scully among them. Normally she’ll be working solely with my wife on hospital visits, but occasionally they have other sorts of events like this as well. Here’s Scully in her Delta uniform:

Delta Dog

While I waited to pick them up I had lunch at a nearby friend’s place, and we played a game of Wingspan (the same game I played last Friday games night), which I won handily. Then I picked up Scully and my wife to head home.

I spent this afternoon and evening doing some coding work on the mezzacotta generators, adding some stuff to a new band name generator which we’ve been collaborating on.

Oh, and last night I made a batch of eggnog, using Jamie Oliver’s recipe. It had to refrigerate overnight, so I didn’t taste it until tonight. Actually, I had some commercially produced eggnog at my friend’s place at lunch today, to compare it against. It was the first time in my life I’ve ever had eggnog. The commercial stuff tasted okay, but honestly not something I’d buy.

But then I had my own home-made eggnog tonight… and it was delicious! A much nicer drink than what I’d had at lunchtime.

Home made eggnog

Yummo! I’ll definitely be making more of this some time.

New content today:

Puppy Party

This morning my wife and I took Scully to her groomer/doggy daycare’s Christmas party. They held it at a nearby dog park.

Bloomingtails Doggy Christmas Party

They had special treats for the dogs:

Bloomingtails Doggy Christmas Party

Scully (centre) even got to meet our local federal Member of Parliament (centre, brown trousers, dark blue shirt), who was there with his own dog:

Bloomingtails Doggy Christmas Party

I considered telling him how the Government is doing a terrible job, but given the occasion I settled for exchanging a few words about our dogs and what a nice party the grooming/daycare place had put on. They even had a Santa Claus:

Bloomingtails Doggy Christmas Party

Scully asked for some special treats for Christmas:

Bloomingtails Doggy Christmas Party

It was a really great event, and they also had human food, and personalised gift bags for each dog. The grooming/daycare place is a small business run by one woman and her husband, and everybody loves the place. They won a local small business award recently, and deservedly so.

After the fun, Scully was worn out, and we relaxed at home for the Sunday afternoon. My wife and I played some board games and I made lentil and potato dhal for dinner, using the very first mature chilli from our chilli plant! It was good – I just chopped it all up and threw it in, and it added the right amount of heat to the dish. There are lots more chillis on the plant, with a few more starting to turn from green to red. So it looks like we’ll have plenty to use in the near future.

New content today:

Comic writing slog part 2

Another day of writing comics. I managed to get some momentum today and finished off the batch, ready to start photographing them tomorrow.

In some spare time I worked on another mezzacotta random generator, this time a random bird name generator. This was inspired by me discussing some actual birds with friends, and someone suggesting that since so many birds are named after colours and markings, it’d be easy to randomly generate new names. And yes, it was very quick and easy, using our generator framework.

Tonight I cooked soup for dinner, and used my new Bamix stick blender for the first time. It works really well – I can tell immediately that it’s better quality than our previous one. The old one got noticeably hot very quickly from the motor, and had to be mashed up and down to access all the vegetable chunks in the soup. The Bamix stayed nice and cool, and it creates a vortex in the soup that sucks the chunks into the blades, so there’s a lot less manual motion required. Really nice. The soup was chick pea, cauliflower, and carrot.

New content today:

Some cooking

This morning I finished off that new article for 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe that I mentioned yesterday. I’m very pleased with this one, as it’s so surprising how the shape of the Earth becomes important to a topic where it initially seems completely irrelevant.

Around lunch time I went for a walk, since the rain finally decided to stop late this morning. We had almost twice the average September rainfall in three days, but nobody’s complaining because it’s the only significant rainfall we’ve had since May and we really need it. The one thing it did was really increase the humidity, and although it wasn’t hot it was a bit sticky after walking a few kilometres.

Besides taking Scully out to enjoy the weather and get some exercise too, I spent much of the afternoon cooking. I boiled up some chick peas I had soaking since the morning, and then fried them up with some chopped potato, carrot, broccoli, onion, garlic, and a bit of tikka masala paste. This became a stuffing to go into some puff pastry, which I then baked in the oven for dinner. I also made some sweet treats for dessert. Mashed up a carrot cake loaf (bought from the supermarket), mixed with cocoa powder, apricot jam, and rum, then rolled it into balls and coated them in chocolate sprinkles – et voila! Home made rum balls. Last time I made them I used a banana cake and they turned out really nice, so I thought I’d try carrot cake as the base this time. Recipes I’ve seen all say to use a plain vanilla butter cake, but I like the extra flavour.

Another small thing I did today was that I found an interesting photo while trawling through my old photo folders looking for photos to illustrate my Globe proof. It’s not a great photo, but it is a photo of some very interesting birds:

Little penguins

These are little penguins, which I photographed back in 2006 while on a trip along the south coast of Australia. They are the only penguin species to nest on mainland Australia – in fact there’s a colony in Sydney Harbour, not far from where I live. The reason I was excited to find this old photo, despite the long distance and somewhat blurred image, was that I hadn’t counted this species among my list of bird species that I’ve photographed. I keep a list, and try to add to it whenever I get the chance, and I’m now up to 276 species.

I maintain a manual list here, and a while ago I started work on a version with a database of all my photos behind it. The new version isn’t fully populated yet, so most of the links lead to empty pages, and the page design needs to be made a bit more fancy, but you can see where it’s going if you click on some of these species: Bell miner, Crimson rosella, Little wattlebird, New Holland honeyeater, Pied oystercatcher. It’s going to be a bit of work adding in all of my photos…

New content today: