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:

Housework (and running poodle)

Yeah, the title pretty much sums it up. Vacuum cleaning, washing up, laundry (my wife did that), changing bedsheets, cleaning the bath, cleaning Scully (haha – we gave her a bath). And for dinner I made risotto, which is 15 minutes of prep followed by a solid half hour slaving over the stove, constantly stirring.

It was pumpkin risotto, with toasted pine nuts and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Pumpkin risotto

I make risotto a bit – it’s not hard, but it is time and effort intensive. Today’s one turned out very nice. We had a bottle of white wine open, so I added a splash, which you should do, but it’s rare that we have a bottle open, so I usually don’t. The real Reggiano cheese from Italy makes a difference too. I bought that recently to replace the Australian brand of parmesan that we usually buy.

Oh! One other thing I did today. I’ve been meaning for a while to try to take some photos of Scully running towards the camera, using my DSLR in AI Servo focus mode, so it tracks moving objects. So today I went out with my wife and Scully, and we found some grass where I could lie down and aim my camera at Scully while my wife tells her to sit and stay, and then walks over to where I was lying, and then calls Scully to come over. We used our special “cheese command word”. This is an emergency recall command, which we always reward with cheese, and it’s pretty much the only time she ever gets cheese, which she loves. So when she hears this word – “Schnell!” – we picked a German word so we never say it accidentally when talking – she comes absolutely running flat out towards us.

We repeated this exercise 4 times, and I took a bunch of photos rapid-fire. About half of them turned out blurry, but… we got a couple of very nice shots.

Scully running

Definitely going to try this again another day.

New content today:

Old camping trip

This morning I decided to bite the bullet and renew my passport. It expires next month, and I’ve had it on my desk for a couple of months to remind me to renew it, but of course with COVID and travel restrictions, it kind of dropped down my priorities list. Still, I decided today that I really should renew it before it expires, and so I filled out the forms online, printed out the PDF, and went up to the post office to have photos taken and submit the form. As part of the process, they cancelled my old passport, so I’m unable to leave the country now for about the next three weeks – not that I was going to anyway.

Since I was out, I went for a bit of a walk to get some fresh air and sunshine. And in the afternoon I walked up to my wife’s work, where’s she’s now working full time following an increase in her previously part-time hours. I had to pick up Scully, who goes to work with her, as the “office dog” – she even has a job title: “Wellbeing Officer (volunteer)”. I took her from the office to the dog park and we had a bit of a run around and did some ball chasing and meeting other dogs and so on.

In between, I spent much of the day processing some scans of old photos from a camping trip I did back in the 90s with some university friends.

Kanangra Walls and Mt Cloudmaker

We started up here at Kanangra Walls (the sandstone cliff formations) in Kanangra-Boyd National Park, west of Sydney. And we walked way down into the valley below and camped by the Kowmung River.

Kowmung River

I haven’t been camping for a long time. I’d like to get out into the wilderness again some time.

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:

Dentist redux, and giant kangaroos

I had my return visit with the dentist first thing this morning. He fixed up the chipped filling that he’d noticed on Tuesday. The past few times I’ve had work done, the anaesthetic took a long time to work and he ended up putting a second needle in, but today thankfully it worked pretty quickly and I didn’t need a second needle. Which meant it wore off after only about 4 hours, compared to last time where my mouth was still numb for something like 6 or 7 hours afterwards.

In conversation, I mentioned to my dentist that I was selling photographic prints, and I could get one made for his waiting room if he wanted. He said he was actually thinking of renovating the waiting room, and looked at my photography website on the computer screen, and said he liked Australian landscapes. So if I don’t hear from him soon I’ll follow up and see if I can get one of my prints in his waiting room, with some of my business cards on the desk.

In other photography news, a few days ago the producer of PBS Eons contacted me to ask for permission to use one of my photos in their latest episode. Since these episodes get 0.5 to 2 million views on YouTube, I gave them permission, and the episode came out today. You can watch it on YouTube here, or with the embedded version below:

My photo is the one used to show the drawing of the giant kangaroo Procoptodon goliah, from about 4:42 onwards.

And while on videos, in other news a friend of mine is working on designing original games that will be included in the new VR board game platform Hands on Deck, currently under development. His original game Neapolitan is planned for inclusion in the first release, and can be seen in this video (the first game shown).

New content today:

Some photos from my weekend trip

This morning I processed several of the photos I took on my weekend trip to Mudgee. Most of them are of birds.

Here’s a face-off between an Australian raven and a magpie-lark:

Australian raven vs Magpie-lark

A black swan:

Black swan

A red-browed finch:

Red-browed finch

And I think the shot of the trip, a crested pigeon:

Crested pigeon

This afternoon I worked on some Darths & Droids comics, both writing and assembling. I also took Scully out to the park to play with other dogs for a bit. Thankfully the rain eased off this morning – we got a lot of rain over the past three days, making this the wettest July in Sydney for the past eight years, according to tonight’s news.

New content today:

Back to work after the weekend away…

Scully was so exhausted after our weekend trip that she basically slept all evening and solidly all through the night – which was good because that meant my wife and I got a good night’s sleep too.

Monday dawned cold and wet. It’s been raining heavily here in Sydney, and there are several flooding incidents around the city and the surrounding region. The rain hasn’t let up all day, and we’re in for more overnight and tomorrow.

After doing some grocery shopping in the morning, I spent most of the day assembling Irregular Webcomic! strips and then writing annotations for them, to complete this latest batch of comics. After doing that I had a bit of time to go through photos I took on the weekend trip. I’ve identified all the birds I took photos of, and am quite amazed that I got photos of three new species I hadn’t photographed before, so that’s pretty good!

New content today:

Exploring Hunters Hill

It was a rainy, grey Saturday morning. Weather forecasters are telling us that an east coast low pressure system is developing, and we’ll be experiencing heavy rain and gale force winds on Monday and Tuesday, and it seems to be ramping up towards that already. There wasn’t a lot of rain today though – just some showers interspersed with long breaks.

We decided to go out and find a new bakery to have lunch at today. I checked Google Maps for somewhere not too far away, and find a likely looking spot about 10 minutes drive away. My wife and I went with Scully and managed to get an outside table at Stoneground Bakery in the suburb of Hunters Hill. It seems like a nice bakery and we also bought a loaf of sourdough bread to take home and have with dinner tonight.

After eating, we decided to take a walk around a few of the back streets to give Scully some exercise and loop back the long way to the car. We passed a few interesting places on the way:

St Kevin's. Hunters Hill walk

This is St Kevin’s, an old sandstone cottage, now being used as a solicitor’s office. It’s listed on the NSW heritage register as a significant historical building. Hunters Hill was one of the earliest areas of Sydney to be settled by the wealthier free settlers in the colony, and there are a lot of old houses in the area.

St Joseph's. Hunters Hill walk

This was actually originally a school, known as “Toronto”, but it’s now been converted into the St Jospeh’s Aged Care facility.

Hunters Hill walk

Down the hill from here is Tarban Creek, which flows under the Tarban Creek Bridge (visible in this photo) into Sydney Harbour. The creek is rather wide at this point! You can also see how grey the weather was today.

New content today:

Recovery day

My sore legs were recovering from yesterday’s 5k run, so I didn’t end up doing very much particularly active today.

I did go out for the weekly grocery shop, but even that was low key, as our shopping list literally had only 4 items on it (crackers, Weet Bix breakfast cereal, arborio rice, and eggs) – although we never list staples that we buy every week, such as milk, bread, yoghurt, fruit, vegetables, and some prepared vegetarian foods. I basically browse the fruit and vegetable section and decide what strikes my fancy to cook/eat during the week and just grab some things. Today I got: kipfler potatoes, a red onion (those two to make potato salad), cherry tomatoes, a cauliflower, half a butternut pumpkin, a bunch of broccolini, several apples, an orange, a pomegranate, and three bananas. I also got some chick pea burger patties, and falafels.

I took Scully out briefly before lunch, but otherwise spent the day goofing off and making a couple of new Darths & Droids comics. Oh, and I processed a bunch of old photos from a trip to Thailand in 2005 that I took on 35mm film and scanned a while ago. This is Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai:

Wat Phra Singh

Tonight for dinner, my wife and I went out to one of our favourite restaurants, a local seafood place that does really nice fish dishes. It’s the first time we’ve been there since the restaurants closed for COVID restrictions a few months ago. Being winter, I had my favourite winter warmer dish – the snapper pie. Mmmm…

New content today:

Stitches are out

I had my appointment this morning to inspect my healing hand and have the stitches out. I went to the hospital for 08:15 and was seen to after a short wait. First a hand physiotherapist saw me and removed the bandage. He checked the fingers for sensation and range of motion, and that the wound had closed properly.

Next a doctor saw me and inspected the wound. She determined the stitches could e taken out. She also told me to begin a program of massaging and exercising the hand as often as possible, to break up the scar tissues and adhesions and improve the range of movement. She said to massage it firmly, even though it hurts, as much as I can stand before it gets too painful.

I took this opportunity to ask her, “So, can I play the piano now?”

She said, “Yes.”

I said, “Great! I couldn’t play before.”

She completely ignored that and turned the conversation to something else. She may have been trying to suppress an eyeroll.

Now… sure, she’s a hand doctor, and she’s probably heard people attempt that joke a hundred or more times, but for me it’s (hopefully) the only chance I’ll ever get to use that joke in my whole life. The least she can do is politely pretend to laugh. Heck, if I was training hand doctors, reacting to that joke would be part of the bedside manner that they’d have to nail to pass their final exams.

After the doctor, a younger guy took over and removed the stitches carefully with tweezers and a scalpel. It was a bit tricky with a few of them, as the knot was embedded under a protruding fold of skin, but he got there in the end. It turned out I had a total of twelve stitches, not the ten that I’d heard stated on the day of the operation. He also gave me advice on how to massage the hand and stretch it to improve the mobility and strength over the next few weeks, advising again to do as much as possible within my pain threshold.

I was out of the hospital by just after 9 o’clock. To celebrate having the bandages off, I had a pie on the way home. 😄

At home, I worked on converting another of my Sydney photo walks to a web page, and this was a very long one. I also added a lot of historical research. This should be an interesting one because it illustrates the walk most of the way from where I live to the Sydney Opera House.

And I’ve also been studiously massaging my hand muscles to reduce the scar tissue. It hurts like hell when I’m doing it, and takes several minutes to calm down afterwards. But already I can see an improvement in the range of motion, so that’s positive. Now to keep it up for the next few weeks…

New content today: