Take the cannoli

This morning, I intended to spend a quick few minutes cleaning up an old photo or two, scanned from prints that I’d taken on a camping trip back in 1993. Before I knew it, I’d spent most of the morning cleaning up and colour adjusting a dozen or so photos.

Newnes Hotel

This is the Newnes Hotel, built in 1907, as a pub and general store for the small mining settlement of Newnes, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. They mined oil shale there, but the mine was closed in 1932. Now the hotel operates as a general store and visitor information centre for bushwalkers and campers, since the area is remote and surrounded by the Wollemi National Park. There some abandoned runs of the town that you can visit.

Newnes ruins

For lunch today I took a long walk a couple of suburbs over to an Italian bakery – another one of our favourite bakeries in the area! I got a chicken pie for lunch, and a chocolate cannoli for a sweet treat. They also do vanilla cannolis and ricotta cannolis, and they’re all good.

I took a slightly roundabout route home to get some more walking done, and I stopped at an upmarket grocery store near the bakery to buy some fancy imported pasta from Italy. Local pasta is fine, but the imported Italian stuff has a different texture to it, and is really nice, so it’s worth an extra dollar or two now and then.

While in there, I noticed they had packets of sourdough crumpets reduced to sell as they were approaching their use-by date. Normally these crumpets are $7 for a pack of four(!), but they were reduced to $4.90. Still over a dollar a crumpet, but I decided I could splurge and try them to see how good they were. Regular crumpets from my usual supermarket cost $1.85 for a pack of six, or under 31 cents each. The normal price for these sourdough crumpets is $1.75 each, almost six times as much. That’s really quite insane. Even at the reduced price, they’re over four times as expensive as normal crumpets.

Anyway, I tried one when I got home, and they are actually very nice. But not over $1 a crumpet nice.

New content today:

A slower run

Monday morning was time for my 5k run for the week. I took a gentle pace, but felt like I was really pushing myself hard today, and having to struggle to keep going. I was hoping this meant I was clocking a fast time. I miscounted my laps again, discovering I was one short and had to keep going for another lap. But even though I got my sprint finish in, I recorded 27:53, which is slower than my last four times. I guess it just wasn’t my day today.

For lunch today I decided to make a fancy grilled cheese sandwich. I used three types of cheese: cheddar, Jarlsberg, and Parmigiano; added a spread of caramelised onion relish, and then sliced gherkins I used the kibble rye sourdough that we’d bought yesterday. It turned out delicious!

Other than that, I spent much of the day assembling new Darths & Droids comics.

Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday that Scully has notified us that the bindii is sprouting thorns for the spring. She’s started avoiding patches of grass where bindii grows, and sure enough, when I bent down to feel it, the thorns have appeared. Fortunately, as we discovered last year, the thorns are only there for a couple of months, and go away by summer.

New content today:

Bread and Codenames

This morning my wife and I took Scully for a long walk, over to our favourite bakery. I bought a loaf of kibble rye sourdough for regular sandwiches and toast, and also a loaf of fig and walnut sourdough, for a sweet treat. The bread from this place is really nice. I also got a mixed berry scroll, which I assumed would have a light flaky pastry like a croissant, but it turned out to be denser and more chewy – I guess something like a cross between flaky butter pastry and sourdough. It was really nice, and not too sweet – sweetened just by the mix of blueberries and I think raspberries.

A bit further along the walk we met another couple out with a poodle, a 7 month old puppy about Scully’s size. The two dogs raced around like crazy, playing with each other, which we all enjoyed because it would mean they slept for the rest of the day!

At home we played Codenames Duet, taking two attempts to win the Casablanca campaign game. The first game came down to a sudden death guess by me. I knew there was a word associated with the clue “reaction” left in the grid, and I narrowed it down to either “fever” (a reaction to infection) or “smell” (a thing you would have a reaction to). In the end I chose “smell”, but the correct word was “fever”, alas.

The second game was a lot easier, since I began with a 4-word clue, and we whittled down the spies rapidly. We won the game with a full turn to spare.

Apart from these things, it’s been a relaxing sort of day. We just started watching Series 10 of the new Doctor Who this evening (Peter Capaldi’s last season). We haven’t watched this series yet, so it’s going to be exciting over the next few weeks. We kind of lost track a couple of years ago after we first got Scully, and we’re just catching up now!

New content today:

Greenwich Baths and a new bakery

Scully and I went for a long walk together this morning, while my wife had some things to do. We walked all the way out to Greenwich Baths, which is about 3 km from home, and then back again. ON the way I took this photo of the harbour from Manns Point Park:

Sydney Harbour from Manns Point Park

As it happened, this is my 13,000th photo uploaded to Flickr. I’ve been a member for about 13 years, so that’s pretty close to 1000 photos a year.

This afternoon we all went for a drive, and we passed a nice looking bakery, which we decided to stop at and see what they had, on the way to my mother-in-law’s place for afternoon tea. It turned out to be a patisserie type bakery, as opposed to a boulangerie type bakery. The French have the right idea with two different words for these two things. Unfortunately here in English they’re both labelled as “bakeries”, and there’s no way to tell if a random bakery that you go to will sell bread, or cakes, or both, or one and not the other, or what.

Anyway, they had some lovely looking lemon meringue tarts and salted caramel tarts, and we got some to take over for the afternoon tea. We ended up spending most of the afternoon there. It was a lovely afternoon, sunny and warm in the sunshine, although slightly cool in the shade.

New content today:

Thinking about Star Wars

It’s Monday, and my wife spent most of the day at work, with Scully in the office for the morning, and then in doggie daycare for the afternoon. The doggie daycare really wears her out because it’s full on playing with other dogs for a few hours, and she comes home and just falls to sleep for the whole night, which is good. (Scully that is, not my wife.)

I used the time to concentrate on writing Darths & Droids, both comic scripts and story planning notes for the future. I had a long chat with co-authors about some plot elements, and added about 800 words of stuff to our accumulated story notes. I haven’t added up how many words of planning notes we have for the entire comic series for a while, but it’s a lot. Hopefully we’ll publish it all in some form some day – once the comic is done, since there are a lot future plot secrets hidden in there.

We had a bit of leftover challah from a loaf I bought last week, and I used it today to make myself some French toast for lunch. Normally I do French toast with salt and pepper, as that’s what I’m used to. I only ever had it as a savoury dish growing up, and in fact had no idea that some people like to have it as a sweet dish until I was maybe in my 20s. And when I found out I was disgusted… it was a bit like finding out that some people put honey on scrambled eggs or something like that. I think in my whole life I’ve only had sweet French toast maybe 2 or 3 times.

Anyway, I made myself French toast using challah, which seems to be a nice type of bread to use for it. I had the first piece with salt and pepper as is my usual habit, but then I decided to be bold and try a piece with honey. (It was the only sweet syrupy thing I had handy – we don’t have maple syrup.) And it was actually okay, I admit, particularly with the slight sweetness of the challah. Still not entirely convinced though, and I definitely preferred it with salt and pepper.

New content today:

Warm winter Sunday

Although it’s still winter for another day, it was very warm in Sydney today. The forecast was 25°C and we achieved a fraction above that, with a couple of degrees higher in the inland suburbs. My wife and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful day to go for a bit of a drive and get some lunch out.

I chose a bakery that I’ve been wanting to try for a while. It keeps showing up in my Google searches for bakeries in Sydney, with an average star rating of 4.9 out of 5. Now normally I’d assume it was an excellent establishment, but the photos of the place made me rather suspicious, as it looked very much like a run-of-the-mill suburban bakery, with nothing special about it.

Golden Bakehouse, South Turramurra

Indeed… it turned out to be fairly average. The food we got was decent, good even, but certainly no better than that. It’s not even a fancy bakery that makes cakes or anything – it just did fresh bread, a very standard range of small sweet treats, tarts, biscuits, slices, etc., and some hot meat pies. I can only conclude that the only people who ever come here are locals, and they think it’s pretty decent. It was fine, but it was no 4.9 stars. It was busy though, with customers arriving every minute or two. It was probably just the best bakery in the suburb. You can read my detailed review in Snot Block & Roll.

Back home, my wife and I played some games in our Codenames Duet campaign. We played the London and Cairo games, and won both of them. London was easy, but Cairo was a real challenge, with the grid of words very tricky for both of us, with several pairs of associated words split between spies and assassins, thus making giving clues difficult. We managed to scrape a victory together with some tricky clues and a couple of lucky guesses. Of course the campaign mode is just going to get more difficult as we play more…

New content today:

Back into running

After last week’s relative laziness, I returned to doing a 5k run today. I figured after a two week break I wouldn’t be setting a best time today, and I took it fairly easy. But it turned out that I clocked 27:02, my third best time, and only a second behind my second best time. And although I was certainly ready to stop by the end of it, I didn’t really feel like I was pushing myself hard today. I guess my body is getting more used to running that distance!

On the way home I treated myself to a couple of vegetable pies from the pie shop near the sports oval. A “pumpkin, coriander, and cheese” pie which also has a layer of mashed potato inside. The pumpkin is blended smooth and very soft, really like a thick pumpkin soup, and the cheese is a soft creamy sort, a bit like sour cream. It’s a nice pie, but feels a bit insubstantial. The second was a spinach, corn, and cheese, which is more solid and features a feta-like cheese.

This afternoon I worked on some photo processing and updating of some old travel diaries. And took Scully to the dog park. It was a lot warmer out late this afternoon than it had been even at lunch time. I checked the Weather Bureau and the temperature in Sydney was still rising around 4pm – it got up to almost 22°C.

New content today:

Tempting the Fates

I slept poorly last night, with the muscle strain in my side bothering my whenever I lay on either side, so I had to sleep on my back. My normal sleeping position is lying on my side, so it was a bit uncomfortable and interrupted. However during the day today the strain has eased off again. It seems better than yesterday, so hopefully tonight will be easier and it’s well on the way to healing.

This morning was Ethics class at Lane Cove school again. The NSW government has introduced further restrictions on school activities to control COVID-19, but I received an email from my school’s Ethics coordinator to advise us that we were continuing with classes for now, since we can operate within the guidelines. I started a new topic today: Fate. The lesson was mostly telling a story about the Oracle at Delphi and asking the kids what they thought of fate, predestination, and predicting the future. It as a good discussion, and they mostly had fairly sensible points to make and mature views about it. So that was pretty good.

Oh, I found on my phone a photo of the queue at the pie shop that I went to before golf on Sunday:

Pie queue

It was a pretty long queue. The camera compresses the perspective a bit – people were socially distancing 1.5 metres apart in the queue. This is a very popular pie shop, as you can see!

This afternoon I started work on a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips. I got a bunch of strips written, but need to write some more before I can move on to the photography. That will be the goal for the next few days. If I write fast hopefully I can take photos on Friday, otherwise it’ll be Monday.

New content today:

Pies and golf

My golfing friend let me know that he was planning to play at the Pitch & Putt par 3 course today, with another friend of ours, and asked if I wanted to join in. I didn’t have any other plans for the day so I decided to accept.

The plan was to meet at 1:30, so I decided to go via my favourite pie shop and get lunch on the way. I left with plenty of time, fully expecting to have lunch and get to the golf course early so I could practice some putting before we started. But as I approached the pie shop, the traffic got really heavy and I heard on the radio that there was a serious accident a few suburbs ahead, which had backed traffic up all the way to where I was.

I stopped and got pies: a Singapore curry beef pie and a chicken, avocado, and brie pie. The first I got really because I decided to try something that I normally wouldn’t get. I don’t know if I’d had the Singapore curry before, but I probably won’t get it again (unless I forget some time in the future and decide I want to try something I don’t normally get again). The chicken pie was just what I wanted though, so that was fine.

Back on the road, the traffic continued to be slow, and I arrived at the golf course ten minutes late. But that was okay, and we started playing straight away. Our friend, the new player, claimed not to have played golf much and to be very bad. Indeed, his hitting off the tee was not very skilful, usually hitting the ball low along the grass instead of properly flighted into the air… but somehow he managed to whack the ball hard enough to reach close to the green most of the time. And his putting was pretty good (he said he’s played a lot of mini golf). He ended up beating my total by 4 strokes, scoring 2 better than even my best score on this course! It was clearly a hustle of some sort, spoiled only by the fact that we didn’t agree to play for money beforehand.

Before golf this morning, my wife and I took Scully on a long walk. We passed our favourite bakery and I got a loaf of potato and rosemary bread, and a challah.

Challah is very rare here in Sydney – we don’t have much of a Jewish population. I’ve never seen it for sale anywhere else that I can recall. I also had no idea how to pronounce it, again because we have virtually zero exposure to Hebrew speakers in Sydney. I guessed it might have a similar guttural “ch” sound like “chutzpah” but wasn’t really sure. So I looked it up, and yes, it looks like it does. The problem is I don’t know if the bakery staff know how to pronounce it either! It’s weird asking for something when you’re not sure if either yourself or the person you’re asking knows how to pronounce it!

New content today:

Pre-rain bakery walk

The forecast for today was heavy rain and strong winds, beginning from late morning. The early morning was nice and sunny, so my wife and I made use of it to take Scully on a long walk to the bakery. There was a long queue of people waiting outside at socially distanced 1.5 metres intervals, and I joined on the back. I bought a loaf of black Russian rye bread, and my wife wanted to get a challah but they didn’t have any today, so I got a loaf of fig and walnut sourdough, which makes a delicious fruity toast.

For lunch today, I decided to use some leftover buttermilk from the other day when I made mushroom pancakes for dinner, and made myself chocolate pancakes with banana and bush honey.

Chocolate pancakes with banana and bush honey

Bush honey is a blend of honey from various Australian bush flowers, mostly various species of eucalyptus. It’s the name used when the bees visit a bunch of different species of tree and they can’t really be sure of what’s in it. I prefer a richer, more complex and toasty taste in honey, to light floral ones. I usually try to get honeys made from trees like stringybark, leatherwood, or grey gum, but they are not very common or easy to find. Most people seem to prefer lighter honeys from trees such as yellow box, blue gum, ironbark, or red box, which are often easier to find in shops. Bush honey is a richer, more “unrefined” blend than these, so it’s okay if I can’t get the more intense flavoured honeys that I prefer.

Now that I’m writing this, I’m curious about what sorts of honeys are common overseas, and which are the lighter flavoured ones and which ones the rich and complex types.

New content today: