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I have the task of bringing a sweet to an extended family gathering, and foolishly thought this would be a good time to try out the new oven making macarons.
My old oven was a 60cm electric convection oven.  The new one is a 54cm conventional gas oven.  Look at all that lovely cracking.  Turns out there could be up to a 20 degree difference in heat on the higher racks.  There goes half my usable oven space. :(
In addition to the heat distribution problems I need to get used to, half my baking trays and pans don’t fit in the new smaller oven.
I yearn for an electric fan-forced oven. But for now I need to learn to kick it old school. And maybe pick up a couple more smaller pans.

I have the task of bringing a sweet to an extended family gathering, and foolishly thought this would be a good time to try out the new oven making macarons.

My old oven was a 60cm electric convection oven.  The new one is a 54cm conventional gas oven.  Look at all that lovely cracking.  Turns out there could be up to a 20 degree difference in heat on the higher racks.  There goes half my usable oven space. :(

In addition to the heat distribution problems I need to get used to, half my baking trays and pans don’t fit in the new smaller oven.

I yearn for an electric fan-forced oven. But for now I need to learn to kick it old school. And maybe pick up a couple more smaller pans.

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So the new house is an old house. Almost a century old, actually.  I’m not sure how much work its had done over the years, but the most obvious renovations are about 20 years old.

There’s a lot more maintenance involved than our previous modern apartment (obviously), but nothing that’ll result in one of those incredible renovation blogs by people who’ve bought fixer-upper Victorian or Edwardian homes. Which is probably for the best, because I’d have more ideas than skillz.

There’s quite a learning curve getting to know the house.  The week after we moved in, we had a few days of high 30s/low 40s.  I thought it would be counter intuitive to open all the windows to cool the house, so I used ceiling fans for most of the day, and then switched on the a/c when it got too warm in the afternoon.  Turns out, opening the windows creates a lovely breeze that circulates around the house.

Two days in, ants invaded the kitchen.  I had just washed my springform cake pans, and they came in to grab the crumbs that were trapped in the folds of the metal.  Upside, my cake pans are extra clean now.  But it took a couple of hours to get rid of all the ants, and I had to re-clean the kitchen and all the bits I’d washed earlier.  I started investigating ant deterrent/extermination methods.

I’m not a crunchy hippie type, but I’d rather limit chemical insecticide use where I prepare food. I found this post on Easy Peasy Organic that recommended eucalyptus oil.  So the window (point of ingress) and counter-tops are now sprayed and wiped down with a diluted eucalyptus and water spray.  Minty fresh.  Ants haven’t come in to the kitchen since. But I can’t tell if that’s because the eucalyptus is working, or because I’ve become quite pedantic about keeping the kitchen clean in general.

The blog, and others, suggested eucalyptus would also deter spiders and other bugs. And I dislike spiders and other bugs too, so eucalyptus is being sprayed on other windows and used to wipe down other surfaces.  I’ll also be mopping with a few drops of eucalyptus.

The spiders are slowly being evicted, but we’re still getting the odd cockroach (flying ones, no less).  We figured they might have been hanging around from the previous owners and hiding when they cleaned.  I’ve vacuumed up some silverfish cocoons too, blergh. But we think we know where they’ve been getting in from now.

That first pic is a gap between the skirting and the floorboards.  At the widest point, it’s about 2cm.  A couple of the rooms are affected, but only one room has the extra wide gap.  Little House on the Corner was pretty informative, and we used draught excluder strips to fill that gap.  No more draught, and hopefully fewer bugs will get in.

Honestly, a 2cm gap is pretty obvious if you’re using draught excluder strips, but the affected room is our study, and our desks are against the affected wall, so this isn’t really a problem.

I’m also pondering something like Stop Gaps or DraughtEx for some of the wider gaps between the floorboards. Oddly, most of these floorboard related doodads originate in the UK and are harder to find in Australia.

We know the gap is caused by bowing in the floor, which isn’t unexpected in a house this old, and the building inspector didn’t notice any problems when he checked out the house and foundations, so I don’t think it’s a big problem. But we may get someone out to take a look just to make sure later on.

We’re also not in the master bedroom yet.  It currently has a feature wall and skirting boards in a shade of green that we’re really not keen on, so we’ll be fixing that in the new year before we shift in.

Meanwhile, we managed to unpack adequately to be able to host Christmas dinner at ours, but we still have a bunch of stuff to find homes for (and to rehome) and I foresee a bunch of Gumtree and Ebay listings in my future.

tl;dr: New old house fun.

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We have a flowering cactus!

We have a flowering cactus!

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Morrocan spiced lamb and mushrooms, tzatziki, chimichurri, left-over Christmas salad, and Turkish pita bread straight out of Turkish Kitchen’s oven.

Morrocan spiced lamb and mushrooms, tzatziki, chimichurri, left-over Christmas salad, and Turkish pita bread straight out of Turkish Kitchen’s oven.

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When I went to pick up the keys to our new place, we found them attached to this bottle of Croser, courtesy of our lovely real estate agent. With a letter addressed to Mr and Mrs my surname instead of Eric’s.
I’m quite sure that I hadn’t told her that our friends jokingly give Eric my surname…

When I went to pick up the keys to our new place, we found them attached to this bottle of Croser, courtesy of our lovely real estate agent. With a letter addressed to Mr and Mrs my surname instead of Eric’s.

I’m quite sure that I hadn’t told her that our friends jokingly give Eric my surname…

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Q: What is wrong with this picture?
A: Everything.
I’ve called the post office. They want me to drop it at a branch so they can return it to sender. I don’t know why they won’t just attempt to redeliver.
I know I’m “one of those people”. But non-regular parcel posties[1] do this regularly. They don’t ring the doorbell to attempt to make delivery, then just drop the parcel on the box in the open, or leave a card saying they attempted with a false timestamp.  And it makes me cross because I’m right here.  If they spent the extra minute to ring the bell, they save me a half hour trip to the dispatch centre.
Also, the thought of someone pilfering un-safely dropped parcels (mine or someone else’s) because the postie is too slack to do it right makes me Very Annoyed.

[1] I say non-regular because the regular ones I speak to and know me. They know better than to slack off and just dump parcels, even if they’re not for me.

Q: What is wrong with this picture?

A: Everything.

I’ve called the post office. They want me to drop it at a branch so they can return it to sender. I don’t know why they won’t just attempt to redeliver.

I know I’m “one of those people”. But non-regular parcel posties[1] do this regularly. They don’t ring the doorbell to attempt to make delivery, then just drop the parcel on the box in the open, or leave a card saying they attempted with a false timestamp.  And it makes me cross because I’m right here.  If they spent the extra minute to ring the bell, they save me a half hour trip to the dispatch centre.

Also, the thought of someone pilfering un-safely dropped parcels (mine or someone else’s) because the postie is too slack to do it right makes me Very Annoyed.


[1] I say non-regular because the regular ones I speak to and know me. They know better than to slack off and just dump parcels, even if they’re not for me.

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The last two things I posted.

Just saying.

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Pro-tip: Buying things off local classifieds

If you’re buying something off the local classifieds, don’t email the seller trying to bargain them down almost 50% the asking price for 3 sets of items, but leave your signature in the footer that shows you run a local hipster clothing and homewares shop that the seller’s sister knows for a fact sells similar items for at least 5x the asking price per unit.

That just makes you look cheap. Not savvy.

Update: Oh, and then after agreeing to the original asking price, asks if my sister can drop the items off at her shop.

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Parisian Dreaming

I had a dream the other night.

We were just outside Paris for some reason or other.  Near enough to see the Eiffel Tower from where we were, but not quite in the city.

We stood there on a bridge looking at the Eiffel Tower from a distance, and I said to Eric, “I wish we could go to Paris city proper.  It’d be neat to see the Eiffel Tower. I know it’s smaller than it looks in all the pictures, but there are some really nice streets I want to visit, and I hear there are some great boulangeries there that I’d like to try.”

This complete stranger was standing next to us and said “You don’t want to go there. That’s where you get the clap.”

Completely nonplussed, I can’t help but stare at this stranger and all I can manage to utter is “What?”. Dream self even felt the expression of ultimate confusion form on my face.

The stranger said “You know what the Moulin Rouge is like.”

I realise that he misheard boulangerie and somehow thought I was talking about the Moulin Rouge. Which I suppose do sound kind of similar.  And I find myself stuttering “Oh, um. I meant like a bakery. Not a place of entertainment.”

At this point, I think I broke my own brain. The dream kind of stopped abruptly while brain did a stacktrace to find out what the hell just happened.

When I later recounted this dream to Eric, he burst out laughing and there were some slanderous slurs against the sanctity of my brain function. Couldn’t really dispute it though.

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Productivity

So I’ve been feeling pretty feh lately.  Probably in part because it’s winter and all I want to do is hibernate, and working from home results in a lot less natural light than is probably good for me.  Perhaps I need to find a nice warm glasshouse to set up shop in.

But I’ve made some changes to try to get rid of this general malaise. They’re pretty trivial but it’s making me feel generally more productive and putting me in a better mood.

Backstory

I caved and bought Day One for my iPhone/iPad and desktop in May.  I started documenting what I did that day, and my current thoughts, ideas, plans and reflections.  The aim was to write at least 750 words (inspired by 750words.com).

I even created a separate entry for a To Do list.  I’d fill out the next day’s list at night before I went to bed.  In the morning, I’d check it and mark items off as I did them, and added more to the end of the list as they came to me.  When I filled out the next day’s entry that evening, I’d copy over anything that wasn’t completed and add it to whatever else came to mind for the next day.  Things that didn’t need to be done that day would be date stamped.  It’s a really crude method given all the technology we have today, but as I was writing and reviewing each night, this worked out.

Unfortunately this fizzled out when I went to LA for work. I was perfectly functional during the day, but I would conk out by 10-11pm every night (early by my standards) which gave me absolutely no brain to cope with words and things between dinner and bed.

I have an idea of how I can work this out in future though.  It’d probably involve bringing my iPad and a portable keyboard around and I can take notes while I eat, because I’d often eat alone.  I was sharing an accommodation with my coworkers, so meal times were ‘me’ time as often as I could manage.  Nothing reminds me that I’m an introvert more than when I have to share a living space with someone who isn’t my spouse.

After getting back, I was pretty wiped out.  I was in dire need of no-people recharge time, and I arrived to plague spreading around my friends and family from their various places of work. Things were getting progressively more feh.

And herein lies the revised de-feh-rification strategy.

Journalling

Lack of motivation is not going to inspire me get to the 750words stage of journalling.  I figured writing prompts will let me at least start getting into the right frame of mind to do this again.  So I picked up Grid Diary.

Grid Diary is a journalling app that gives you nine questions each day for you to answer.  You can set them to be the same every day, or you can randomise it (my preference).  The questions can also be modified if you would prefer different ones (I have to figure out how to do this).

The default questions are things like “What was your biggest achievement today?”, “What was the breaking news of the day?”, and “What did I do for my personal goal today?”.  They’re simple questions, and you can either choose to go the easy route and say things like “I didn’t achieve anything today” or you can think of a small victory you had that might count as an achievement . o O (“I didn’t walk into the door-frame with my hip today”), and that in itself puts your head in a better place.

Side note, the breaking news one is pretty good too.  I zone out and don’t really pay attention to current affairs, so if I can describe something topical that happened during the day locally or somewhere else in the world, then at least I know I haven’t isolated myself completely that day.

To avoid having dozens of diary apps all over the place, I’ve also created a plugin for Slogger, a command-line utility that can import entries into Day One, so that I can export my Grid Diary entry to Dropbox using IFTTT, and each day it gets imported into Day One so that I can easily review it with my other journalling efforts.

Update: Grid Diary now lets you export to Dropbox, so I have to update my plugin to handle that, and ditch the IFTTT trigger.

Small Victories / Good Habits

In addition to the writing, I’ve also started setting small goals for myself to help set good habits.  I keep track of these using Lift, which I looked into after seeing Karen Cheng talk about how she learned to dance in a year.

One thing I’m not a fan of with Lift is how everything is public and it’s essentially a social network.  It helps others to receive public encouragement for doing things, but as an introvert, I find this embarrassing and it is more inclined to make me stop doing things.  So I keep my goals to things I don’t care about people knowing that I’m doing.

For example, at the moment I’m on a 16 day streak of Making My Bed, 4 days of Do Yoga / Stretching (missed a day on Monday), four days on Floss, and two days of Take Supplements (D, calcium, womens’ multi, some mushroom thing I was told to take).  The short streaks were because Monday was a sick day and it took me a couple days to stop fumbling. :(

They’re simple things, but they’re good habits to have because, to be quite honest, working from home can turn you into a complete grub. Also, seeing constant progress at being able to keep doing these little things makes you feel somewhat *\o/*.

Planning

I’m using this new-found motivation to start up a couple hobby projects where I’m using Everest to create steps towards these goals so I can see what I should do next, any additional todo items I’ll need to address to get things done.

As the projects get more fleshed out, I’ll need to move from a list type approach to something a little more structured, but as this isn’t on a strict timeline, it’s pretty much all I need right now.  And the email and phone notifications keep it in my mind more than a passive app.

Future

I plan to put language study into Everest or Lift as well once I get a handle on what I’ve put on my plate just now.  Which one I use will depend on how structured I want to make my independent study.

If I decide to go with something intensive like Fluent In 3 Months, I might even need to use both.  Everest for progression milestones, and Lift for habit development.

Action Items

Now let’s see if I can put some of those skills I learned at the Time Management courses I took in high school to good use…

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