Boxing Day holiday Monday

Today was a public holiday, in lieu of Boxing Day since that fell on Saturday. Not that we did much anyway. I took Scully for a walk with my wife, but we didn’t make it too long, because there were storms incoming. We had some heavy rain in the early evening, and the forecast is for at least showers every day for the next week. It really is turning into a very wet summer.

I made some dough using the sourdough starter today. It’s rising now, and then I’ll put it in the fridge overnight to see if it turns out in a better state for baking tomorrow. Hopefully it’ll turn out better than the first attempt, a bit lighter and less dense.

In the cricket, India took a commanding lead today and virtually crushed Australia to a loss, although we managed to hold on to the close of play. It’s probably going to be over pretty quickly tomorrow though, with India levelling the series at 1 game apiece.

For dinner tonight I made myself pan-fried potato gnocchi with onions, a touch of chilli, and leftover Christmas ham. It turned out good, but a little dry, so I threw on some caramelised onion relish from a jar, and the result was amazing. I’m having to use either ham or turkey in all my meals to use up the leftovers!

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:

Aussie care package

Today I had a task to go up to the supermarket and select some Australian goods to send to someone overseas – someone who had no experience sampling typical Australian snack foods. I started i the sweets aisle, and I basically went bananas. By the time I left the aisle I had a dozen different types of sweets, mostly in bags, but also a few chocolate bars. Of course I chose the iconic musk sticks, although I’ve yet to meet a non-Australian who can bear to eat more than a single bite.

I had so much stuff I completely forgot to get anything savoury, and even neglected to get some Vegemite. I went straight to the post office to get a box to pack it all in, and did that at home, then went back out to mail it. It cost nearly twice the cost of the sweets in postage, but that was inevitable. The person I’m sending this too is sending me a return package, full of American goodies. These packages will probably take a month or more to arrive, but it will be cool for both of us to open them up and see what’s inside.

New content today:

Weird food day

The day started oddly, because my wife had an appointment and couldn’t take Scully, so I had to mind her at home. Scully doesn’t like it when my wife leaves the house, and sits and pines at the door. I had to distract her with peanut butter.

But I was also making myself French toast for breakfast, using some leftover challah that we’d bought the other day. I’ve done this a few times and it’s really delicious. I prefer French toast with salt and pepper, as I grew up with it as a savoury dish. I remember when I found out that other people put sweet things on it, and I thought that was really weird. I’ve tried it that way, but I still prefer salt and pepper. Even with the slight sweetness of the challah instead of normal bread.

My wife had another appointment at lunchtime, and this time I walked up the street with her and Scully, and I sat at a cafe with Scully and had lunch while we waited for her. This was better than being at home, as Scully doesn’t seem to mind being out alone with me – it’s only when we’re all home an my wife leaves that she gets really upset.

I had an açai bowl for lunch. I love these things. It’s totally like having a huge bowl of ice cream for lunch, except everyone thinks you’re being healthy! It’s just win-win.

Açai bowl

And then for dinner tonight my wife felt like having something fast and greasy, so we went up the street to a place called Plan B, which does American style burgers and sides. I had the chilli cheeseburger. (N.B. This was several hours later than the açai bowl. I’d had time to get hungry again.)

Chilli cheeseburger

I’m savvy enough to know that perhaps this is not authentically American, but to an Australian this style of burger looks very American, with the mayo and the melted cheese and stuff, and the lack of tomato and lettuce. It was indeed particularly greasy, and I’m not a fan of this “American style” processed cheese, but it did taste pretty good. Overall, it was a positive, but I don’t feel compelled to return here again in a hurry – there are several nicer meal options in the area.

Oh, in other news, I’ve hit a 150 day streak of Italian language practice on Duolingo again. I had a slack period at the start of the year, but I’m back into making sure I do a few minutes of practice every day now.

New content today:

Golf lesson

This morning I had a golf lesson – my first lesson ever, even though I began playing a bit over a year ago. The lesson was great. The pro loosened up my swing a lot, got me to do a bigger backswing and bigger follow through. It felt a bit out of control, but the greater momentum meant the club path was actually more smooth, and I connected more cleanly more often. And hit the ball way further than I’ve ever hit it before.

We started with a 9 iron, which I could hit maybe 80 metres on a good day. Within 10 minutes he had me hitting it 100… 110… 120… metres or so. I was quite literally hitting the ball and just going, “Oh my god… look at it go…”

Then we moved onto the driver, which was the main reason I booked a lesson. I’ve been unable to hit the ball at all with any consistency with the driver. More often than not I was mis-hitting and skewing the ball sideways, or dribbling it about 20 metres along the grass. I could only hit it cleanly maybe one stroke in 4 or 5, and then it would only go maybe 120 metres.

With my newly modified swing, I was hitting it cleanly 9 times out of 10. And it was flying. We were practising on practice tees directly adjacent to the first tee. The hole is 193 metres long. Two of my practice drives landed on the green. (I wanted to run up and putt them for birdies, but had my lesson to finish!) I did slice a few off to the right, but I know how to correct a slice, and usually my next drive was straight.

After such a good lesson, I wanted to practise a bit more and consolidate what I’d learnt, so I paid for a round of 9 holes and started right away, playing by myself and hitting two golf balls (counting strokes for each ball separately, so it’s effectively two simultaneous rounds). My driving was a lot better than it’s ever been, but I still hit a few stray tee shots. Unfortunately my short game was a bit off today, which held my score back a bit. My previous best two scores on this course were 49 and 53. Today I scored 52 and 53 with my two separate balls. Both could easily have been lower than 50 if I hadn’t had a couple of blowout holes with badly missed chip shots and bunker shots. (I did look for the practice drives I hit earlier onto the first green, but other players had removed the yellow practice balls already.)

There was one incident of note. I teed off on the 4th hole, a shortish par 3 hitting over a creek gully. Both my balls landed just off the left edge of the green, about 5-10 metres from the hole, which was placed near the left edge of the green. But by the time I walked over to putt, a greenkeeper had moved the hole about 15 metres further away to the right, and was plugging up the hole I’d aimed at!! I took this photo as soon as I’d walked over and around the back of the green (so it’s looking back towards the tee, where the guy in the white shirt is standing in the background). You can see my two golf balls in the foreground, and where the hole was when I teed off:

Hole 4, Lane Cove

My friend who started me in golf tells me that moving the hole while you’re playing it is outrageous and the greenkeeper should have waited for me to finish putting before starting work on it. But this is a cheap and very casual suburban course, not a fancy expensive one, so I guess the staff are much more relaxed about everything. Oh well. It maybe cost me an extra stroke on each ball having to putt that greater distance, but who knows.

I’m still pleased that my lesson was so productive, and am looking forward to playing again soon!

Tonight (as I write this) is an impromptu online games night, but before that I went out for dinner with my wife and Scully. We went to our favourite seafood restaurant. They had a dessert special…

Orange frangipane tart with cherries and chocolate mousse

It’s an orange frangipane tart with cherries and chocolate mousse, and some almond praline. This is not the fanciest dessert I’ve ever had, but I’m a huge fan of cherries and chocolate together, and this was definitely one of the most delicious desserts I’ve ever had. It was ridiculously good.

New content today:

Lots of vegetables

Because of my scheduled golf lesson tomorrow morning, I moved grocery shopping to from Friday to Thursday and did it this morning. I bought a bunch of different vegetables for the week ahead: cauliflower, zucchini, potatoes, red capsicum (or pepper to non-Australians), green beans, and mushrooms. That should be enough to mix and match for a week’s meals, when combined with pasta, rice, lentils, and other stuff from the pantry.

When I got home I discovered we still have broccoli that I bought last week, as well as the Brussels sprouts that I knew we had. I cooked the sprouts for dinner tonight with garlic and chilli and miso paste, and we had that as a side to some hemp burger patties. Basically, we’re loaded with vegetables.

Last night I started watching a new movie on Netflix, #Alive. I enjoyed Train to Busan, so another Korean zombie movie seemed like a good idea. I stopped halfway through to go to bed at a reasonable time and will watch the rest in a day or so. I’m enjoying it so far. It even seems like it could be set in same time/events as Train to Busan. I wonder if they’re meant to be part of the same continuity.

I’ve also just watched the second last episode of The Queen’s Gambit, which has been enthralling. I’m looking forward to the final episode.

In other news, the Australian Museum had a ceremony today before reopening on Saturday after a long closure for extensive renovations. This has always been my favourite museum in Sydney, and I’m very excited to go visit soon and see what it looks like now. I’ll have to make a trip some day before school ends for the year and it gets overrun with students every day.

New content today:

My personal summer

Today I began my usual summer ritual of switching to cold showers. Yesterday I had my last warm shower for the next few months, barring unusual circumstances. I do this every year, usually some time in November, switching to cold showers for the summer. I usually reach the end of March before going back to warm showers; sometimes a week or two into April, depending on the weather as it cools down into autumn.

The weather here has really started to warm up in the past week or so. More than that, it’s gotten humid. Last year it didn’t really get humid until about February – the early summer was very hot and very dry, which of course led to those awful fires we had. But the switch to a La Niña pattern in the Pacific has brought a cooler, moister trend to eastern Australia. So hopefully a lot milder fire season, although the problem this summer may be storms and flooding.

Today was a relaxing Sunday mostly. My wife and I took Scully on a long walk this morning before it got too hot. We stopped at the bakery to buy some bread, getting a white sourdough load, and also a fig and walnut sourdough loaf for a sweet treat. My wife wanted to get some challah, but I remembered when we arrived and didn’t see any that they only bake that late in the morning, so it’s only available after about 11 am. So I chose the fig and walnut loaf instead.

Both loaves were still hot from the oven, and even after walking all the way home (over 2 kilometres), the fig and walnut loaf was still deliciously warm as we cut it open and had some simply spread with melty butter.

My wife and I played a couple of games of Codenames Duet, continuing our campaign after a bit of a break. We successfully completed the Bogota city game, but failed with a first attempt at Dubai.

And finally this afternoon we had Luna from next door over to play with Scully for a while. It’s a bit weird having another dog around. Even though they look somewhat similar, I feel like Scully is very familiar and I know her personality very well, and she’s almost like a little person. Whereas Luna just feels like a dog and is somewhat unpredictable. She’s also very face-licky – you need to be on your guard unless you suddenly want Luna to run up and lick you all over the face. Scully doesn’t do that, thankfully!

New content today:

A tale of profiteroles

This morning I drove my wife and Scully down to a local market a few suburbs away, so she could browse around and then walk Scully home for some exercise. She bought a box of profiteroles from a bakery stall there…

… which we took to her mother’s place after lunch to share with the family. They were pretty good.

I didn’t do much else today – it was really kind of a relaxing day off.

New content today:

Sweet treats are made of this

On our weekend trip last weekend my wife and I found a hidden gem in the town of Berry, a place called The Treat Factory. In the grand tradition of little country towns, this was a place that manufactures all manner of chocolates and lollies, and as well they also do a line in jams, mustards, sauces, and similar things. While there, we browsed the stuff for sale, and I saw… liquorice rocky road. I had to buy some.

Liquorice rocky road

This is part of the chunk I brought home. It’s like rocky road, but it also has liquorice allsorts in it. Wow… what a brilliant idea! I’m halfway through eating it and it’s just as awesome as it sounds.

And while on sweet treats, I have a special dessert I made for myself today to have during fortnightly games night. I started with cream and Arnott’s Choc Ripple biscuits. And some rum:

Choc Ripple cake

I whipped the cream, and then folded in some mascarpone (not shown separately) and added a dash of the rum. Then made alternating layers of cream and biscuits.

Choc Ripple cake

The final result is covered and placed in the fridge for several hours, to allow the cream to soak into and soften the biscuits. Essentially it’s like a poor man’s tiramisu. I heard about this from a friend who was making it himself a few days ago, and he claimed it’s a classic Aussie dessert that everybody knows – although I’d never heard of it before. Other friends of mine said they knew it, but oh well..

Choc Ripple cake

The other main thing I did today was make Darths & Droids strips. Oh, and grocery shopping. Not much to report there really. Except blueberries have gone up from $2 a punnet to $2.50. They’ve been cheap recently and I’ve bought some every week to go on my muesli, but it looks like the price is starting to go up again.

New content today:

Stormy Saturday

Saturday began with a sleep-in, after last night’s games night ended quite late.

It rained during the night – nay stormed. I was woken by thunder around 2am. The rain had cleared by morning though, and the morning was intermittent light showers, but the forecast warned of heavy rain developing throughout the day, culminating in more storms tonight.

I took Scully out at lunch time while my wife had some appointments, but I didn’t want to walk too far in case we got heavy rain while we were out. So I drove over to a nearby suburb and the Italian bakery that we go to sometimes (it’s a longer walk than our other bakery), where I got some lunch. Italians are not known for meat pies, but being a bakery in Australia means you tend to adapt, and these guys have done a great job coming up with a chicken pie. Most places just chop up chicken meat and cook it in a sauce, but I believe this bakery must roast their chicken, before deboning and pulling it to pieces and then making a sauce around the already roasted chicken, with lots of vegetable chunks. It’s like a delicious chicken casserole in a pastry case.

And being an Italian bakery, they do a baked ricotta cheesecake, which is to die for. The ricotta filling is whipped and light and creamy. Truly excellent stuff.

After eating these treats on a bench nearby, Scully and I took to the car again and went over to the home centre where the pet shop is. I needed to buy her some more canine toothpaste. We try to brush her teeth every day, to protect them from decay.

This afternoon, with heavy rain falling outside, my wife and I played another Codenames Duet, finally conquering Baghdad in the campaign. We played a flawless game, and it was most satisfying.

New content today: