Mother’s Day lunch

Being Mother’s Day here in Australia, we had a family day today. In the morning, my wife and I took Scully on a long walk to let her get some energy out. Then we drove over to my wife’s mother’s place, picking up a lemon meringue pie on the way from the really nice Italian bakery. We had pizzas for lunch, and then the pie. We hung out for some of the afternoon with her family, before heading home for the evening.

New content today:

Anzac Day Sunday

Today is Anzac Day, Australia’s (and New Zealand’s) day of remembrance for our war dead. Since it falls on a Sunday this year, we don’t get a public holiday, at least not in New South Wales – some states get a public holiday tomorrow.

We had a lunch with my wife’s family, at a Thai restaurant. They had massaman curry duck, which we ordered and it was really good.

New content today:

Easter Sunday lunch

Today was a family day, being Easter Sunday. My wife’s immediate family always has a gathering for lunch. My mother-in-law made roast chicken and vegetables, followed by butterscotch pudding. I brought my sourdough challah (see yesterday) and also made a salad of rocket, pear, walnuts, and blue cheese. My wife’s brother brought chocolate Easter eggs and little bunnies from a fancy chocolate shop near where he lives. We have these every year and they’re really delicious, filled with ganache of various flavours. There’s even a “hot cross bun” chocolate, filled with apple and cinnamon ganache.

Given this big lunch, we’re only having a light and non-complicated dinner back at home tonight. My wife is having leftover lentils from yesterday, while I’m making some grilled cheese sandwiches.

New content today:

More birthday events

Today we had a Sunday lunch with my wife’s family – a larger event than the usual family gathering as it was for her grandmother’s 98th birthday, and various uncles and cousins who we don’t see very often were there too. It was at a restaurant in a park by one of the beaches on Sydney Harbour, and it was a lovely autumn day, warm without being too hot. Lots of people were having picnics on the grass, and kids were running around playing and dogs were having fun and the sun was sparkling off the water and the yachts in the nearby marina were basking in the light.

And the food was really nice too. It was one of those extended lazy lunches – the sort of thing that happens when a large group goes to a restaurant, and everyone chats and nobody actually gets around to ordering food for nearly an hour. I was glad my wife suggested we have a snack before before leaving home to drive over there.

That really ate up most of the day. I did some housecleaning work in the morning, and that was about it.

New content today:

Christmas lunch, etc.

It’s Christmas Day. I slept in a bit this morning, but then got up to glaze the ham for Christmas lunch. We had a gathering of just 7 people at my mother-in-law’s place, to keep within the current COVID restrictions of no more than 10 people.

It’s a traditional lunch with roast turkey, baked ham, roast vegetables, followed by Christmas pudding. And chocolates and various other sweet treats. It’s very filling. For dinner tonight I basically just had a couple of slices of toast.

Gifts were pretty low key. Mostly people got comestibles such as mustards, sauces, pickles, chocolates, gingerbread shortbread, and so on. All stuff we know each other likes, and can use.

That’s basically the whole day. Merry Christmas from me, and Scully!

Merry Christmas from Scully

New content today:

Sourdough conclusion

It’s Christmas Eve, and that meant some cooking tasks. First cab off the rank was completing the sourdough Sourdough and Conjunctionthat I began yesterday.

After rising overnight at room temperature it looked like this (compare to the pre-rising photo from yesterday):

Making sourdough, step 3

It rose nicely, more than doubling in size, but spread out and went a bit gooey. The next step was to try to manipulate it into a rough loaf shape on a baking tray. This was tricky because it had become quite sticky, and I needed a bit of flour dusting on my hands, and a butter knife to scrape it all off, but I finally managed to produce this:

Making sourdough, step 4

I consulted my friend who’d gifted me the starter and he said it looked like it had been a bit overproofed. Which he said would make it sticky and not rise as much during baking, and quite sour, but should still taste good. He suggested letting the final rise happen in the fridge, which I did.

A few hours later I baked it, and after 40 minutes it turned out like this:

Making sourdough, step 5

The bottom (not shown) was nice and browned, but the top had a pasty look. It was firm, and sounded hollow on tapping, which indicated it was baked properly, so I let it cool. Then came the moment of truth:

Making sourdough, step 6

It was baked through, not doughy in the middle. Yes, it hadn’t risen much during baking, and so was a bit dense rather than airy. But cutting some slices and having them with a bit of butter…

Making sourdough, step 7

It was indeed delicious! Nicely sour, and very more-ish. So it turned out edible and delicious, which is all I could ask for in a first attempt. My friend advised me to to try letting it rise for a shorter time next time, and then baking it in a hotter oven to try to brown the top a bit more. I knew sourdough would be a learning experience, but I’m happy to have achieved something worth eating on the first try. Hopefully things will just improve from here.

The next thing I had to do was make some mini-quiches, in preparation for Christmas lunch tomorrow. COVID cases have been apparently under control the past couple of days, and the NSW Government announced a slight easing of restrictions for Christmas Day, to allow people to gather with their families in the lower risk regions of the Northern Beaches (which is where my wife’s family lives). The high risk region is still under a strict lockdown, but what this means is we can travel to my in-laws for Christmas lunch as planned.

After I made the quiches, we did a quick run over in the car to drop things off, since tomorrow we’ll be wrangling an entire leg of ham. We drove over during peak hour, on a work day, on one of the most notoriously busy and congested roads in Sydney… and it was eerily quiet and deserted. Almost nobody is travelling into the Northern Beaches region, which is good to see.

Finally, Christmas Eve is traditionally the day my side of the family gathers together. But today with the various COVID restrictions, that wasn’t possible, so we had a big Zoom meeting instead. We had 8 separate groups, including my aunt in Germany, in on the call, and it was hilarious and fun.

It’s a bit of a weird Christmas Eve – one of very very few I’ve ever spent not together with my extended family. The end of a weird year.

New content today:

Family lunch

Today was mostly about a family lunch at my wife’s mother’s place. We had six people (and Scully), and we had food delivered by my sister-in-law’s work, which is a catering company, doing home deliveries as a new venture during COVID restrictions that have cut back their usual business. The food they make is really good – mid to high-end restaurant quality, with some of it par-cooked so that you need to finish it off at home so that it’s freshly prepared when you eat it. There was plenty of it and it was delicious. Lamb moussaka, potato gnocchi with tomato, basil, and parmigiano, Greek salad, and for dessert an apple and blackberry crumble.

It was a big lunch, and after coming home we spent the rest of the day lazing about and having only a light snack for dinner.

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:

Long weekend Monday

Today I spent time with my wife again, since it was a holiday. We decided to go out for morning tea to a cafe we like that’s about an hour’s drive away, in the semi-rural outer suburbs of Sydney, called Geranium Cottage. (Yes, the website looks like it was designed in the 1990s.)

We like it there because they do a good plate of scones with strawberry jam and cream. We split one of those, and also a serve of the home made banana and walnut bread. Wife had coffee, but not being a caffeine drinker I stuck with water. The menu here is full of tempting treats, and they also had a chocolate brownie, which the menu annotated with “(very rich)”. So we sat for a while enjoying the rural ambience, and then ordered one of those too. I was so full after this that I didn’t bother having lunch at all, and ate nothing until dinner this evening.

On the way home we stopped at a small park where Scully could run around off lead and get some exercise. We park across the road in the yard of an historic church, St Jude’s Anglican of Dural. The original church building is a small sandstone structure completed in 1848, which now paints a picturesque scene:

St Jude's Anglican, Dural

And the rear:

St Jude's Anglican, Dural

It looks like it can only fit about a dozen people inside. It’s preserved now as a heritage listed building. On the grounds is also a larger, more modern building, which is presumably used for services these days.

We’ve just been watching some TV shows this evening. We’re getting into the second season of Lost in Space on Netflix, and we also watched some comedy shows on broadcast channels. It’s good to sit back and have a laugh every now and then.

New content today:

Long weekend Sunday

Today was Australia Day. There aren’t really any specific traditions associated with the day – it’s just a day off work for people, and they usually hang out with family or friends, have a barbecue, and go for a swim at the beach or something. Although being on a Sunday, most people already have the day off, so we pragmatically have an extra public holiday tomorrow on Monday so we don’t feel ripped off. 😃

I spent the day with my wife and Scully. We went out to get some pies for lunch (which is pretty Australian, so that works!), and then popped into her mum’s place for an afternoon visit. She lives in a place overlooking part of Sydney Harbour, one of the sheltered coves leading up to a river. Normally there are a handful of boats out there, but today the cove was packed with them, full of people having fun, eating, drinking, and jumping in the water to cool off.

Australia Day cove

The weather has turned really humid after the hot, dry December we had. It was only 32°C today, but maybe 70-80% humidity, which made it more oppressive. I took my swimming gear in case I decided I wanted to have a swim, but I couldn’t get enthused enough to bother changing. Instead I took Scully for a short walk along the shoreline, but even she decided to turn around and head for home before long out there.

We got some groceries on the way home, and I made vege fajitas for dinner.

New content today: