Monday, 14 August 2017
We are just back from a a wekend in Burnie and Launceston for orienteering. The weather was much better than predicted and we had a great time. We had 2 sprint races around Burnie on Saturday where Zali and Jett picked up $6 each in splits-cash and I learnt never to eat a vanilla slice less than an hour before a sprint race. The race on Sunday was the Northern Classic which was held on bushy farmland just outside of Evandale. On the very first leg of my race I made the most costly mistake (time-wise) I've made in years. After running right on the red-line for most of the leg, I suddenly decided to follow my nose rather than my compass and consequently I ended up at wrong distinctive tree. Then I faffed around so much I ended up under the normally-useful clue description, which in this case was not useful at all.
I eventually decided just to relocate from the top of the hill and from there I was able to work it out and go straight back to the control - it took me over 20 minutes for this leg! Whilst I was under the clue-descriptions I came across a few features on the ground (root mounds, thickets..) which I couldn't find on the map, it was only after I relocated that I realised how far from the control I actually was, and thus why I couldn't find any of those features on my map! ha.
Wednesday, 9 August 2017
I thought I would be back at work from Monday, but I've suddenly got an extra two weeks before that happens so aside from being able to co-ordinate the final few jobs in the kitchen, I've also had time to do a few more things around the house including hanging up the cool hooks Zali made at school...
and painting the walls and ceiling of the kitching/dining/living area. It looks great now, but it didn't go completely smoothly..that's a lovely trail of white paint there.
I first painted the walls in this area when we moved in a bit over 10 years ago. Back then I used Dulux Spanish Cream Quarter to create a warm feeling in the room. This time I've used a brighter white called Dulux Natural White. It looks great with the paintings and new kitchen cupboards. And it's also lovely to have the ceiling painted and looking brand new as it's taken a hammering from overly-tall christmas trees, various light installation and removals, and other damage since the house was first built. Prepping and painting the ceiling was hard though - I cut my hand up while I was washing the ceiling when I stepped down from the step ladder onto the wet floor in my ugg boots and skidded so fast that I hit the floor with quite a thud. As I know how hard it was to paint, anyone found damaging the walls or ceiling will find themselves doing an extra coat as I've got lots of paint left over! Jon is probably the person most in danger of such a punishment, he's already been implicated in such crimes as the "double-sided stickytape on the ceiling incident (note double sided stickytape and its residue NEVER comes off), as well as the more recent 'new-holes-in'the-ceiling-for-the-novelty-light' incident. He will be under surveillance.
The other job I've done in this first bonus week is to finally finish the doorstep. I took the metal strip thing off it years ago with the intention of sanding it back and re-varnishing it but it took until recently when I borrowed Clare's dad's 'Fesstool thing, which sucks the dust away as you sand. It was invaluable when I did the walls in the bedroom, and I've since used it for the windowsills in the kitchen (I didn't want everything around it to look great while the windowsill was all black and waterdamaged). In fact it was so good that I also moved onto the ones in the kids room, then eventually addressed the doorstep. Yesterday I finally attached the new metal thing on and adjusted the door so it will be draught-less - yay!
My foot was a little sore last week and I was pretty busy with the kitchen installation anyway so I haven't been out for any adventure hikes recently. However I did manage a run in my local trail running area (Peter Murrell Reserve) yesterday. After about half an hour I stopped for a moment to fiddle with my phone and noticed a track I hadn't seen before, so I decided to investigate, and it was great! It ran the length of the park and the vegetation was a different to the rest of the park - it was really pretty. The photos don't really do it justice but as you can see I was pretty excited by my discovery!
I thought last Thursday would be my last chance to do something after school with the kids for a while (turned out it wasn't but more on that later), so we went bowling and it was great fun. Aside from the fact that we had the alley pretty much to ourselves, the kids just are so awesome to do stuff with. They are funny, surprisingly competant at bowling and they get on so well. It's a delight to hang out with them.
The only bad thing about was that I didn't win either round. Hmmph. Jett came from behind with a last round spare to steal the win from me in game 1, and in game 2 Zali was too good for both of us.
Tuesday, 1 August 2017
After assembling the 12 drawers and 5 base cabinets, and thus reaching the extent of my cabinet making abilities I've turned my attention to a bit of re-use work in the laundry.
So while the real-life builder is busy doing all the tricky things like attaching stuff to the wall, putting on cupboard handles without drilling 58 holes all of which are in the wrong place (as is my want), and generally dealing with all the issues I would never be able to solve (unless the solution involved drilling a lot of holes), I've been deconstructing and reconstructing the old drawers so that they fit into the existing dodgy shelving I added into the laundry a few years ago. Not only is it good to not chuck out absolutely everything, it's going to make my tool storage area a lot more spacious..
so behold the before (left) and after (right)..
I've been busy (and dusty) in the last week or so, doing as much demolition as I can in preparation for the kitchen updates. We're keeping most of the cabinet carcasses but removing doors, drawers and other stuff, as well as putting in new cabinets surrounding the fridge.
Yesterday I loaded all the rubbish into the trailer and took it to the tip. There I was directed to unloaded it onto the wood pile, which was littered with everyone elses' 25 year old tas-oak veneer kitchen cabinets.
I guess when it's time, it's time.
My next job is to build the gadzillions of flatpacks that are waiting enticingly for me on the floor..
Wednesday, 26 July 2017
The weather on the last day of our hike couldn’t have looked more beautiful - it was amazing to think it is the middle of winter! We set off down Wineglass Bay beach with perfect blue skies above us.
and Jon couldn't have been happier about the fact his pack weighed 9kg less than the day before!
Look at the amazing colours in this photo taken on the isthmus..
and look how big the kids have got since our very first overnight hike - also to Wineglass Bay, back in October 2013..they've done a lot of hiking since then!
Hazards Beach also looked lovely..
We had plenty of time to stop on the last day, so we did! I wish I had got more group photos from the other days - we had a great time together and we got amazing weather.
All too soon we were back at the carpark with nothing but reality and a stop at the Swansea Bakehouse to look forward to!
As the only one who had really examined the map before the hike, I was probably the only person who harboured grave concerns about day 2. In fact my original itinerary for this trip was to just walk the 4 flat kilometre stretch from Cooks Beach to the Hazards Beach camping site on the second day. However when I had described this plan to Clare she pointed out that it would have been a bit lame to just do that. So the plan was changed to going over Mt Freycinet and Mt Graham to the Wineglass Bay campsite instead. It’s not that the distance was that far - although it was 14 kilometres, or that steep - although it would involve going from sea level to 620 metres, it was that our packs would be heavy. Really really heavy. The reason for this is that there isn’t a water tank at Wineglass Bay and we would have to carry our water for the next two days. I’m not sure of the reasoning for the lack of a tank - I suspect the Parks department don’t want to encourage too many people to camp there - which, given the rather messy condition of the site when we got there, is probably a good thing.
Anyway, as we set off at 9:45, my pack was second in weight only to the last time I camped at Wineglass Bay when it was just Jett and I and we stayed for two nights. For that trip I had all our gear and food for two days, plus 6 litres of water. This time I had a tent, just (!) 4 litres of water, and probably a third of the food for four of us for the remaining 1 and a half days. My pack was heavy, but not has heavy as Jon’s - he was carrying 10 litres of water, a tent, and the rest of the food - 28kilos all up. Zali and Jett both had their normal packs with all their own clothes and camping equipment except for the tent, plus about 1.5 litres of water each.
The profile of the day's walk
Whilst it was still windy, the weather was pretty good as we headed down Cooks Beach.
Our first challenge was to get up to Freycinet Saddle. After a few rest stops we made it by 12:30pm.
There we happily ditched our packs and climbed the rest of the way up Mt Freycinet. I’d never been up there before so it was good to finally make it! It was a shame that we didn't get any group photos from the top but we all seemed to arrive at different times. It took just over half an hour to get to the summit.
After lunch back at the saddle we then faced the second major challenge of the day - we had to get over Mt Graham with full packs and already tired legs. It was a hard climb, every step with those heavy packs was a strain! I can’t imagine how Jon did it but he managed to keep a steady pace and a smile the whole day. The hardest bit probably only took us about 30 minutes but it was a huge relief to make it. I must mention that both Annabelle and Chloe did really well - their packs were at least as heavy as Zali and Jett’s, and aside from a few problems with blisters they didn’t struggle at all - they were excellent hikers! I’m glad Zali and Jett didn’t have much trouble either as I wouldn’t have had the spare energy to convince them to keep going!
Once over Mt Graham we had the downhill stretch to Wineglass Bay to go - that's it in the distance below.
Although it was only about 5-6kms from Mt Graham, the trail is pretty rough so none of it was particularly easy hiking. Nevertheless with a few stops and a steady pace we made it down to the beach just as the sun was setting! It had been a long day!
It got dark so quickly after we arrived that I didn't get any good campsite photos but we had a nice little spot nestled in the trees. Dinner was a relatively uninspiring and messy re-hydrated laksa for us, and a more enticing looking pasta for Jo's subgroup. After a long day it was lovely to snuggle into my sleeping bag on my new super-comfy thermarest and think about how the next day was going to be easy compared to what we'd done!
I originally planned an overnight hiking trip for the school holidays because I was a bit worried that the kids would spend the entire fortnight on the couch surrounded in devices. As it turned out they did sit on the couch surrounded in devices but they also dragged themselves away to go for a few runs, attend waterpolo training and to participate in some orienteering events - so they weren’t completely inactive which was good. By the time the final weekend rolled around it didn't take too much cajoling to get them packed and ready to go.
Being winter, and Tasmania, the place least likely to get snow was the Freycinet Peninsula, and due to some track work, the only way to avoid having to walk the most boring section twice, was to take the water taxi to Cooks Beach, then hike our way back from there. That would make a nice 24k hike over two days with an optional 6k trip to Bryan’s Beach on the first day.
Clare was always going to be part of our crew and at the last minute Clare’s sister-in-law Jo, her friend Suse and two of their children joined the gang which was great. Also great was Jo’s idea to run down to Cook’s beach on the first day. I immediately signed myself up to join her as it’s a lovely run of 14k and our packs for could come on the boat with the rest of the crew. As the boat was $45 per adult it was also a nice way to save some money!
As we were driving up to Coles bay the captain of the water-taxi rang up to say it was quite windy and would everyone who was coming on the boat be able to disembark in rough conditions? Also they might get a bit wet he said. Knowing that I’d be staying firmly on land I assured the captain they’d all be perfectly fine and they wouldn’t mind getting wet. Heh Heh.
As soon as we arrived in Coles Bay Jo and I drove around to the national park so we could get a slight head start on the boat people. We didn’t see them but they would have zoomed past us just a few minutes after we parked I think.
Our run was great. It took us about 95 minutes of moving time and we had about 15 minutes of breaks and photo-stops on the way down. I haven’t been on the section between Hazards Beach and Cooks Beach for many years - and it was really lovely.
As we arrived at Cooks Beach we saw the conditions that the boat people would have had to disembark in just an hour or so before we go there.
In fact the conditions were so different to the photos on the official Aqua-Taxi brochure that it reminded me of our ice-fishing experience in Norway where the brochure showed a guy sitting comfortably in the sun, his haul of fish beside him, while the reality was more like sitting in a wind tunnel with someone feeding hailstones into the fan.
Brochure - note toe-deep water, ramp on sand..
Reality - note the distance the ramp is from shore and how high Clare has had to roll her trousers!
Out of interest, this is what Jett looked like last time we took the Freycinet Aqua Taxi.. I think he enjoyed it a lot more this time.
When Jo and I caught up with the gang later in the day they described the landing as somewhat ‘dramatic’. They had to walk on a floating gangplank that ended in thigh deep water surrounded by breaking waves. Not only was the gangplank floating in the lumpy swell, but they had to bring their heavy hiking packs ashore too, so balancing was a challenge! Jon and Clare also had to do a second trip to get Jo and my packs off the boat.
Jon hauling my pack and his pack to the campsite.
When Jo and I reached the campsite it was evident that the boat people had recovered enough to put up all the tents, have lunch and then head off to Bryan’s Beach, so we had a quick break then walked the delightful 3k track to meet up with them. These photos are from Zali's phone.
Bryan’s beach was lovely - we spent time there admiring the views across to Schouten Island before heading back to Cooks Beach.
By the time we got back to camp it was starting to get dark so we cooked up a delicious dinner of re-heated vegetarian curries (only made possible by arriving on a boat!), and had a delicious meringue dessert made by Suse and her daughter Chloe. These photos of the campsite are from the next morning.
Then it was off to bed to listen to the wind, waves, and Clare’s gentle snoring until we fell asleep. Actually I’m just joking about Clare’s snoring, we didn’t hear any snoring, but Clare is beginning to think she is allergic to her own sleeping bag as she has snored herself awake the last few times she’s used it. We think more testing in controlled conditions is required.
Anyway, it was a great day and a perfect start to our winter hike.
Friday, 21 July 2017
I haven't had time to do any big jog/hiking adventures lately, so I've been continuing my exploration of the local Kingborough trails I've previously ignored.
The photos above are from the Dave Burrows walk just south of Margate. It was only about 2.4 k, but a delightful run to the water and back. It was so nice that I took the kids along to run it later in the week - their first ever training run. I wasn't allowed to join them of course, so I just sat in the car. I snuck some photos of them heading off though!
As the Dave Burrows walk was a bit short, on the day I ran it I combined it with a short drive down the road and then a run along Snug River trail to Snug Beach. It was also lovely..
I suspect a smaller trail continues up the river past Snug Primary School, I explored it for a little while but then turned around to do the published route plus a little bit extra at the beach on the other side of the river.
Today I went to Howden and ran along the very inappropriately named Stinkpot Bay trail. It was only 1km out and back but it was beautiful.
As it was so short I combined it with a 2km run along the road to join up with the Wingala Gully Track. This track wasn't anything special but nice enough. The stretch along the road was more interesting as it allowed me to sticky beak at all the lovely houses and farms. It's a really lovely area.
It's been really nice to stop and visit these places that I drive past so often! Kingborough has so many lovely beaches and waterfront areas.
Monday, 10 July 2017
After hanging around the house for most of the day fruitlessly waiting for someone to come and measure the kitchen bench, I finally went out for a run at 4pm. The extra time at home gave me an opportunity to browse the kingborough trails website and find a brand new run to do from Blackmans Bay and along the Suncoast Headland Track which was really nice.
Sunday, 9 July 2017
Over the last few years I have conducted extensive research into the attributes of the perfect vanilla slice. I have decided that for my taste at least, The Tasmanian bakery chain - Banjos, make the best option when considering price, filling, overall texture, size & quality of icing. This is what their version looks like (but usually they are a bit bigger) - the photo is taken from their website:
Having settled on this as my role model, the next step for a food scientist such as myself is to attempt to recreate it at home, so after further research I settled on a recipe from Donna Hay. I think my first attempt turned out pretty well..
The only thing I wasn't too happy about was the pastry, it seemed to go soggy very quickly.
My second attempt a few weeks later turned out very similar to the first, possibly with a yummier filling, but once again the pastry was a bit soggy. Seeking improvement I started researching other vanilla slice recipes and they seemed to use a different method for cooking the pastry to Donna's recipe.
Armed with this new technique, I was pretty sure that my third attempt was finally going to produce the perfect slice...
not so much..
I mean.. not if you like your filling to set anyway..
We've called this the Vanilla Slush, and everyone was so busy trying to keep their portion from dripping over the side of their plates that they weren't able to compliment me on the miniscule improvement in the crispness of the pastry. Hmmph. I'm sure you're wondering what could have gone so wrong, well my first thought is that it was because I forgot to add the sugar until after the filling had thickened, I mixed it in afterwards and wondered if that maybe broke down whatever had started to bind it all together. But then I read the comments on the Donna Hay site and discovered that swapping the prescribed thin cream for thickened cream would cause it not to set, due to the added gelatine. I had in fact used thickened cream for my third attempt as we didn't have any thin cream - who would have thought the results would be so drastically bad!
So clearly there needs to be a forth attempt.
Saturday, 8 July 2017
The other project I worked on this week is the Secret Zen Garden, outside the Green/Oslo room. Until this week it was a dead triangle of space under the deck with just the air conditioner outlet, a dead man-fern, and an overgrown NZ Flax bush. The NZ flax had grown so large it was actually pushing the retaining wall apart so it took a few hours of hard work & sweat to remove it (and yet another trip to the tip), but it eventually surrendered.
I cleared up the rest of the area then used some scrap wood and collected river rocks to create a small zen feature. It didn’t look all that ‘zen’ though with the air conditioner unit right behind it, so I bought some cheap pine (thankfully only $1.87 per metre since I confused my calculations and bought twice as much as I needed) and built a screen which I am pretty happy with.
in progress - air conditioner screen and feature done..
The other thing that needed screening was the bottom half of a doorway which is a leftover oddity from when we extended the deck. The half of the door above the deck is covered by a blackboard, which has left the bottom half a metre off the ground (including a cat-door for athletically talented cats). As I had leftover pine (clever me!) and some other wood scraps, I made a cover for that which I think looks cool and is a nice contrast to all the horizontal lines of the air-conditioner screen.
The last job to do was to get some nice pebbles to fill in the rest of the space. I could only put a tiny plant in the very corner of the garden as that’s the only section which gets wet when it rains (that’s where the flax grew).
The rock pile on the stump covers up some pvc plumbing, and I found the horse shoe in another section of the garden.
Overall I’m really happy with it - particularly the two screens - it’s so much nicer than what was there (sorry - again no proper ‘before’ photo!).
This week I’ve been working on a number of garden projects including continuing my work on our very steep and a bit shady bank that is next to the driveway. About six weeks ago I finally finished removing all of the ivy from it which took a few weeks and a few trailer loads with of green waste. Since then the slope has been sitting waiting for something new to happen. So this week I bought some sleepers and pegged them into the slope, then planted some new plants there. I left the old plastic sheeting (installed by the previous owners) to make it harder for new weeds to come though (I’m sure the ivy is just regrouping somewhere, waiting until I go back to work before making a new attack!).
Anyway - it still doesn’t look all that neat and tidy, but it’s a big improvement on the weeds and ivy which were there. I wish I’d taken a 'before' photo to prove it! You'll have to make do with the 'after' photos.
When we turned up to a local orienteering event on Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, the kids weren’t too keen on running the Medium course (the smaller events only offer Long, Medium and Short courses). The medium actually wasn’t all that long (3.3k) but it was quite a hilly area which was putting them off. The short course was only 2.2k but it looked a bit too easy to me- so I was trying to convince them to run the technically harder & longer medium course (which was the one I was going to do). My reasoning was that since they beat me in a race the previous weekend, they we’re totally capable of running the same course as me. They weren’t convinced though.
Then I had an idea: At the moment the kids and I are sort of competitive - They are faster on shorter easier legs but my navigation is a lot better which gives me the edge on the harder legs. This will only be the case for a few years as the courses I run are only going to get shorter and I’m only going to get slower. The kids are of course going to get faster, stronger & smarter. So we may as well enjoy this ‘crossover’ time as it won’t last very long !
My cunning plan involved offering the kids $1 for every individual leg that they beat me on if we run the same course. At this event the medium course had 13 controls which meant 14 opportunities for them to make money. If they muck up one control they can still earn cash on the other legs, the overall time doesn’t matter. (Orienteering’s electronic timing system makes it possible to see who was fastest on each leg - a fun way of dissecting where you went wrong! )
So before I’d even finished explaining my idea, the dollar signs lit up in their eyes and they’d both signed up for the medium course and were ready to go.
Suddenly the kids were super motivated and so was I - I ran around that 3.3k course like someone with a lot to lose - $28 to be precise. I pushed myself up the hills, ran hard on the tracks and tried to follow my compass through the scrubby sections like Thierry Gueorgiou. There were lots of short tricky legs through the scrappy forest so I knew I had to be accurate to stay out of bankruptcy,. 36 minutes later I sprinted into the finish and then had a satisfying wait of about 25 minutes before the kids came in one after the other. The kids had struggled a bit in the areas of low visibility and lost a bit of time but had some good legs as well.
And the final payout? Well I ended up owing Jett $2 - one dollar for a longish leg up a hill and although I pushed myself he beat me (and everyone else on the course) by 20 or so seconds. Hmmph. The 2nd payout was for the 2nd last control - he took a cross country route whilst I chose to stay on the track and run the slightly longer way around. Zali ended up claiming $1 - I sprinted as hard as I could to the finish control but she beat me by a couple of seconds anyway- double hmmph.
Funnily enough I ended up winning the course by almost 11 minutes! ha! I suspect I would have won anyway but that extra motivation certainly helped.
We’ve since had the opportunity to do the same thing on another course - this time a “cryptic” course at Rosny. The clue descriptions were just cryptic clues you had to solve, then you had to work out where the control actually was, as it wasn’t within the control circle. Unfortunately it too us a while to work that 2nd part out, so we all lost time. Sadly for me I didn’t’ work out that there were also decoy controls so I mispunched 3 controls and ended up owing the kids $5 each. Ouch! And expensive way to be reminded to check the control numbers!
Today they’ll have another chance to get some cash as we race around the Domain. I’m resting up in preparation.