Grooming and crepes

Scully went in for a haircut and groom today. She was getting a bit shaggy, as she does in the last week or two before her next grooming appointment. Being a poodle, her hair doesn’t shed, it just grows longer like human hair, so it’s necessary to have it cut every so often. The dog groomer washes her first and gets her nice and clean, then trims her coat. Now she’s all soft and velvety. We just have a basic puppy cut, which is basically the same length all over, not one of those fancy-shmancy French poodle type cuts.

During the day I wrote some comics for the next batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips that I’ll be making next week.

And tonight for dinner I went out with my wife and Scully to a French creperie a couple of suburbs over. It’s run by some guys who emigrated from France and decided they missed good crepes so much that they should start a restaurant. And the crepes are very good indeed, accompanied by imported French cider. Tonight I tried the peri peri chicken galette – which is no doubt not very traditional, but I felt like it. Most of the rest of the menu is probably more traditionally French.

New content today:

Long weekend day 2

The heatwave has really hit today. Yesterday was hot, but today was hotter, and also more humid. Fortunately near the coast we had a sea breeze keeping things somewhat cool, and the CBD registered only 34°C, but some outer suburbs reached above 40°C. Over in South Australia Adelaide city reached 43°C and some suburbs got as high as 45°C.

So mostly today we rested indoors, trying to keep Scully from wanting to go outside too much. She has a weird thing she does when she goes outside in very hot weather. As soon as she leaves the shade and enters the sunlight, she lies down on the ground. I’m not sure if she likes sunbaking, or if it’s just suddenly all too much and all she can think to do is collapse. She doesn’t lie in the sun in cooler weather.

My wife and I made three more attempts at Codenames Duet Vatican City in our ongoing campaign. The first two games ended quickly as we picked assassins in early turns. But the third game was a nailbiter, and we got down to sudden death time with only one spy left to guess, and I had a clue, but it was very loose, because she’d had to indicate three words with her final clue. Unfortunately I chose the wrong word, and we lost by the closest margin possible. We shall have to give it another go another day.

We also watched the Doctor Who special “Twice Upon a Time” – the one which ends Peter Capaldi’s tenure as The Doctor and begins Jodie Whitaker’s. Yes, we’re a few seasons behind still – this is the first time we’ve watched up to this point.

And… for dinner I made potato salad. With purple potatoes. The local supermarket recently renovated a bit and now they have fancy potatoes, so I thought I’d try the purples one. They taste… just like potatoes. But they do look cool!

New content today:

Sourdough #4

Following on from yesterday’s sourdough dough making, this morning I formed the chilled dough into a loaf, let it rise a couple more hours and come to room temperature, then scored the top ready for baking:

Sourdough before baking

35 minutes later it looked like this:

Sourdough bread!

It turned out really good, and the best of the four sourdough loaves I’ve made so far since getting the starter just before Christmas. So kneading the dough was a good idea, and I’ll definitely be doing that from now on.

In other news, yesterday (Saturday 9 January) was the first day with no rainfall recorded in Sydney since 28 December, and only the 5th dry day since 12 December. So basically we’ve had four whole weeks with only 5 days with no rain. It really has been a cool, wet summer so far, as predicted from the current La Niña phase in the Pacific.

Apart form baking bread, and cooking soup for dinner, and helping with the laundry and stuff, it was a pretty relaxing day. It’s good to have a bit of a break sometimes.

New content today:

Pies are squared (away)

This morning I prepared some sourdough, to rise in the afternoon, then sit in the fridge overnight before baking in the morning. I’ve been using a simple “no knead” recipe that my sourdough friend pointed me to on YouTube. But after I’d prepared the dough he shared some photos of his latest dough, and it looked a lot nicer than mine. Smooth and clean, whereas mine looked… well, like this:

Sourdough before kneading

So I mentioned that I’m not kneading the dough, like the recipe he showed me, and asked if sourdough should not be kneaded. He said no, kneading it is fine and in fact good – he only showed me a “no knead” recipe because it was the simplest thing. I’ve been making bread from pre-mixed packets for months, so I’m familiar with kneading and how it changes the texture of the dough, so I was excited and went back and gave it a good 10 minutes of kneading. And then it looked and felt much, much better:

Sourdough after kneading

So this will be another experiment in my sourdough journey. But I’m confident and excited, hoping this will again be better than the previous one, in a steadily improving series of loaves.

In other food news, I went out for lunch with my wife and Scully, driving over to my favourite pie shop. It’s in the Northern Beaches region which has been under COVID travel restrictions for the past couple of weeks, but they’ve been relaxed now, so it was a good chance to go and get some pies. I had a butter chicken pie and a Mexican vegetable pie, both of which were delicious.

While there I added some masked lapwings to my eBird sighting list. That takes my eBird tally to 29 species spotted since 24 December. You can also add species you identify from their calls, but unfortunately I don’t know all of the bird calls that I hear around the region. I can identify several, but there are a few that I have no idea what bird they are, so unfortunately I can’t add them. Today I listened to 40 different Sydney bird call recordings from Birds in Backyards, but they didn’t include two of the most frequent ones I hear around here. I’ll have to find another site with more bird call recordings to learn what they are. One in particular is a distinct series of three descending whistling notes, which the repeats after a few seconds. I haven’t been successful in searching for that specific one.

To complete the food listing, this evening I made a spicy lentil dhal with potato chunks for dinner, served over rice. Very quick and easy, and delicious!

New content today:

Listing things to write

Several times in the past weeks I’ve sat down to write my daily blog entry and thought, “There was a thing I wanted to write about today, but what was it?” And I’ve been unable to remember what it was. So I’ve started writing down brief notes to remind myself. Let’s see how we go today…

I’m overdue for a haircut. I’ve avoided going for the past few weeks because of the current COVID outbreak here in Sydney, but now it’s getting long enough that I think I really need to get a haircut soon. The NSW Government has ordered mandatory wearing of masks in places specifically including hairdressers and beauty salons. At first I thought okay, I can just go to the barber and wear a mask… but then today I realised that there’s no way they can cut my hair normally with a mask on, as the barber trims sideburns and around the ears and stuff where the mask straps are. So I don’t know how that works. (Some searching now reveals on the NSW Government site that “You may also remove your mask for the proper provision of goods or services, for example, if you are having a facial or beard trim.” So I suppose that applies.)

Secondly, I had my first ever peanut butter and jelly sandwich today. In the USA food package that I received the other day was a jar of Smucker’s Goober Grape PB&J. Peanut butter and jelly is a very American food. We don’t really have “jelly” like in the US here in Australia, so it’s actually not easy to replicate the effect, except by using jam, which usually has at least small chunks of fruit in it. Indeed, to most Australians, the very idea of mixing peanut butter with jam/jelly sounds disgusting, so it’s not something that most of us would try to experiment with, either. So yeah, I’ve never had it before. I do enjoy making a sandwich with peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon, so I’m not averse to mixing PB with something sweet. And I like jam. But I still approached this PB&J with a bit of trepidation.

PB&J prep

I took some photos of the preparation. I’m guessing that traditionally in the US PB&J is probably made with plain white bread, but I never buy plain white bread – I always get wholemeal or something with lots of seeds in it. But today the only bread I had was my home-made sourdough. So I spread the PB&J on a slice of sourdough.

The verdict: Well, it was mostly PB since the top of the jar seems to have a lower proportion of jelly in it than further down. It tasted fine, PB with a bit of sweetness mixed in, not disgusting at all. I’m interested to see how it goes when I get further down the jar, where the jelly ratio looks higher. I expect it’ll be perfectly fine, even yummy.

In market news today, I received an email from Kirribilli Markets, where I’m supposed to have a stall this Sunday. I thought it might be notice of cancellation due to COVID, but no. It said that they’d been informed that the current railway sleeper replacement work being done on the Harbour Bridge was behind schedule, so instead of finishing this Friday, it would extend over the weekend. Which means no trains running to the station where the markets are located. They figured this would reduce shopper turnout enough that they felt the need to postpone the market for a week, moving it to Sunday 17 January. At first I thought this would conflict with my other market, which is on the third Sunday of each month, but then I realised that that market had already cancelled for January. So there’s no conflict – it just means this weekend’s market is moved to a week later.

Workwise today I had planned to complete all of the Irregular Webcomic! annotation writing by lunchtime, and then move on to writing new Darths & Droids strips. As it turns out, I had so many distractions that I still haven’t completed the IWC annotations, and probably won’t until tomorrow. I try to schedule a certain amount of “worklike” stuff each day, but it’s often amazing how long it ends up taking.

And I reached a milestone in my Italian practice today. I’ve been using Duolingo every day for a practice session for 183 days, more than half a year as of today. I’ve had longer streaks before, but I was interrupted by travel towards the end of 2019 and took a while to get restarted. But I’m pleased to have made it six full months of practice again.

Oh, and finally I got a photo of some rainbow lorikeets while taking Scully for a walk today.

Rainbow lorikeets

New content today:

Deconstruction for renovation

The construction noise started before 9 o’clock. One of the apartments downstairs is apparently ripping their entire kitchen out. There was pretty much continuous mini jackhammering noises all day, sounding like they’re chipping away tiles or bricks or something. It only stopped at 5 pm.

To get out of the house a bit, I took the wife and Scully for a drive to a bakery partway across the city. I was looking forward to getting one of their Mexican pies for lunch, a spicy concoction with beef, kidney beans, Mexican spices, sour cream, and cheese. I think it’s the best pie they do at this particular bakery. But unfortunately they were sold out! So I had to make do with a chilli beef, which is basically just a beef pie with some chilli pepper – no other spices to make the flavour more complex. Oh well. At least we got out for a bit, and it didn’t even rain.

Tonight for dinner my wife organised a table at a local bar, where we had cocktails and some share platters of sliders, tacos, arancini, etc. This was kind of our New Year’s Eve a day early, so we can avoid any crowds tomorrow night.

Otherwise today I mostly worked on Darths & Droids. The story is getting up to an exciting part in the writing, so I was keen to get more done today. I think tomorrow I need to start work on a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! scripts, for shooting photos next week.

New content today:

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

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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: