R.I.P., Debra

Doyle: Brilliant writer, editor, wife, mother, sibling, friend, and all-round awesome person. I will miss you. So much. So very, very much.

Fuck you, 2020.

In which I use leftovers, with success and happiness

Earlier this week, I made beef cheek and skirt steak stew with onions. Lots of leftovers resulted, so we had it a second night for dinner. With still some left.

Then I made roast chicken with various veg. Again lots of leftovers resulted, so we had it a second night for dinner. With still some left.

Today I used the chook carcass plus another previous frozen carcass to make stock. I recovered the leftover bits of meat, then put the stock on the boil to condense.... got distracted with a 2 hour plus skype call with my niece/nephew-in-law, and ended up condensing three litres into about three tablespoons (!). Happily I caught it minutes before disaster struck.

I mixed some of the super gelatinised stock with the chicken meat and diced leftover veggies (carrot, onion, cauliflower).

Then I got some suet from our cattlebeast out of the freezer, grated it, added some minced thyme, and used it to make pie pastry.

Then I got some leftover roasted butternut squash out of the freezer.

Then I made mashed potatoes.

Then I rolled out the pastry and cut circles, and used my new super awsome steel-reinforced silicon mini muffin tin to make mini pie pastries, which I baked till just gold on the edges.

Then I added the chicken mix topped with pumpkin, or the beef stew topped with mashed potatoes, and baked them for another about twenty minutes.

They are so cute. And so delicious. And I am so happy.

Grocery shopping in lockdown

I thought I could hold out for a month, but I ran out of cat food. Priorities, we haz them.

We are allowed to have one person from our home 'bubble' go out to our nearest grocery store to shop; click-and-collect and home delivery services are overwhelmed so we are asked to reserve them for people who are at-risk (health conditions, aged over 70, etc).

In some ways, the grocery store had it well managed: a covered walkway up to the store, with X marks on the pavement every two meters. Signs saying "leave your bags in your car". People, some (including me) wearing mask and gloves, standing on the Xs and moving forward in an orderly manner. A staff member in the shop foyer telling when to enter, and cleaning each trolley with spray disinfectant before it was used.

Still in an orderly manner, I and the people in front of me went through the turnstiles and into the produce section. And then... everyone went feral, like they'd never seen a carrot or apple before. Every aisle was two way, so you couldn't maintain a 2 meter distance from other shoppers. Not much choice of what to buy -- if you wanted potatoes, it was a ten kilo sack or nothing at all. One brand of mustard remaining on the shelf. No baking paper. One lone box of Ziplock bags, which I grabbed. If you touch it, you buy it, so there was no standing looking at the ingredients list on the back of the package. If you want crackers, you grab the first box you see and keep moving.

I hadn't been grocery shopping for three weeks prior to that, and I didn't want to go for the next two weeks while lockdown continues, so I loaded up on cat food (of course), kitty litter, milk, and cheese: all stuff I can't make at home. (Yes, I did try making cat food, but they refused to eat ground beef, chicken thigh, goose breast, ox liver.... pretty much every single thing I gave them.)

The poor checkout people were overwhelmed, trying to keep people on the X marks in the lane, spraying down the conveyor belt after each customer, piling groceries into trollies, conversing from behind a perspex shield. I thanked the girl at my register: they're providing a vital service and keeping the community fed.

Naturally, as soon as I got back to car it started raining, so I stood there in the drizzle spraying each item I'd purchased with ethanol before putting it into bags in the car. It was quite a marathon.

My neighbours, both over 70, should not be going into town for shopping. I keep offering to do it for them, but they refuse. They want to get out of the house, they say. They've arranged to shop at the same time as friends so that they can catch up, they tell me. They have health issues that put them at risk, but they don't seem to care. Not much I can do, after offering and being refused for the fifth time.

I'll stay in lockdown as long as the PM says we need to: I trust and support her implicitly. But I will be glad when we come out of Level 4.

And....we're in lockdown.

I'm really glad that our PM has moved swiftly and decisively. It's NZ's only chance to get through this.

I'm working from home, which is a lot harder than working from work -- so many things I don't have handy, so many files I can't access, so many new programs I have to set up to make the linkages between home and work IT systems. I'm moving all teaching to online, which is a lot harder than teaching face-to-face -- every question has to be answered individually rather than discussed in a group, every lecture has to be pre-recorded, every exam has to be rewritten for 'open book' circumstances since they can't be invigilated.

We were fortunate enough to see one set of friends on Friday, and another set on Saturday. They're the last people I'll see, other than my DB, for a month. Luckily we like each other a lot.

I'm going to try to work through my pantry/freezer and not buy anything at all for as long as possible, as much for the exercise as for practical COVID-avoidance reasons. We're super lucky that we produce pretty much all of our own meat, fruit, and veg, so we'll survive.

I will insist that we go out to a park or beach for a walk once a week -- to keep the car battery from going flat! Nope, that too is not allowed. I will have to go at some point to pick up cat food and dog food, I guess. And maybe milk. But other than that, it'll be isolation all the way for as long as we can manage it. The initial period is 4 weeks. I think it's going to be a long, stressful four weeks.

All y'all: Stay safe, stay well, stay sane.

getting ready for the holidays and 2020

Sometimes we spend Xmas huddled in front of the fire. Sometimes we spend it spraying ourselves with ice water in front of the a/c. And sometimes, not too often, it's perfect shorts-and-T-shirt weather. I think this year might be Goldilocks weather, woohoo! We don't actually do anything for Xmas, but nice weather is nice weather.

We've had enough overly-hot weather recently that the leeks, spring onions, coriander, lettuce etc have all bolted. We've had enough overly-cool weather that the tomatoes are being slothful, although I have got five cherry tomatoes so far. The capsicums, beans, peas and zucchini are flowering and just starting to set fruit, which bodes well.

And I....I....have FOUR WEEKS off work. Plus, we are going to take 4 days and go away! On holiday! (Leaving the neighbour, bless him, to feed the cats and chickens and cows, and a friend to take the geriatric Great Dane.) For only the third time in about twelve years, we are getting away from everything!!!

Well, almost everything. We will be taking hell puppy with us. I found a hotel mad enough to let a large, hairy, drooly, bouncy, 120 lb Gordon Setter stay with us. But it's got three rooms (bedroom/ensuite, living room/kitchen, and covered outdoor hot tub patio) so hopefully we can stick his crate outside-ish and get some decent sleep. There are heaps of day-long tramps in the area, through forests and around lakes, so puppy should be well and truly worn out each night. (I, undoubtedly, will be in a state of total collapse, but I reckon it'll be worth it.) And if I get to the point that I want to murder him, there are local doggy daycares we can drop him at.

Is it going to cost the earth? Yeah, probably. Do I care? No. Between hell day job and everything else, I'm teetering too close to the brink.

It's summer...

...which makes me think I'm a veg-seasonal person. Yeah. I probably am.

The cauliflower, broccoli, broad beans and leeks are having their final fling -- which I appreciate: tonight's dinner is roast chicken + roasted parsnip, carrot, potato, and leeks + steamed broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus. I celebrate the first season's whatever, but also cherish the last season's whatever.

And with home grown tarragon, sage, thyme, and garlic, it will be beautiful. And it'll cost me half nothing, other than a bit of butter, oil and salt. That makes me a happy hamster.

The garden is looking awesome, with everything flowering: tomatoes, capsicums, and raspberries. The rest are sprouting: beans, snow peas, garden peas, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumber and carrots.

Gosh golly wow, how I love gardens. Growing food is so therapeutic. It also makes the very tiny back of my brain think that we're prepared for the zombie apocalypse (assuming that a Great Dane and a Gordon Setter, plus two geriatric cats and an assortment of chickens, can chase off the bulk of the zombies).

It never lasts long

Spring came, prodded the daffodils, and then retreated behind winter's skirts again. It's flirting with a return, and I am pretty sure we won't have more frosts, but the weather is still quite unpredictable.

My success in getting my staff member a pay rise and promotion never bore any actual fruit: Head of HR agreed, wrote it down, and then....nothing happened. I email the head of HR every two weeks to remind him, but it's been radio silence. I know he's a busy bloke, but still, it's hideously unfair and I hate that my hands are tied.

Work overall sucks. I'm just gritting my teeth and sticking it out till retirement, solely for $ purposes. I'm sure there are some good things about my job other than the salary, but I can't think of any offhand.

I have this week off work, just to get away from the dreaded day job for a few days, during which time I'm doing a lot of garden digging, harvesting, planting, uprooting, and general tidy-up. I found a purple cauliflower hiding at the back, nearly big enough to be picked: my high point of the month. Sad, but true.

well, that'll teach me to moan about winter!

And.....it's spring.

Not according to the calendar. But the garden is sure convinced. The stuff blooming is incredible -- wattle, magnolias, daffodils, even poppies. In JULY. (Which, for those of you in the Northern hemisphere, is the equivalent of January.)

The hens are equally convinced. They lay/don't lay based on light/dark hours, but even though we're barely a month out from the shortest day of the year, they're laying up a storm. Five dozen eggs in just this one week! And one of the hens is already sitting on a nest to hatch the eggs. That too doesn't usually begin until September.

And we've had a glorious few days of weather. Sun. As in, SUN! Big yellow thing in the sky! Still, clear, sunny days.....holy crap, my mood has lifted so much it's unbelievable.

Plus, we had a faboo meal this week at a local restaurant (Little Savannah, in case anyone's in the neighbourhood). The beef was perfect, the ostrich sublime, the biltong excellent, the beer/wine list impressive, and the dessert was not just delicious but also free (!) because the restaurant comp'd it due to it being wifey's birthday. (And they served it with a candle in the ice cream, and a slew of staff came out and sang happy birthday to her.)

And... AND (!) (because it's been that kind of week)..... after over a year of banging my head against the wall, begging my boss, begging my boss's PA, begging our HR rep, etc, I finally leapfrogged the whole effing lot of them and went straight to the head of HR/payroll. (It helps that he knows me a bit from some shared committee work, and so he was willing to give me a brief slot in his calendar.) I was prepared for a knock down drag out fight to get one of my staff the promotion/pay rise she is sooooo overdue for. He cut me off at the knees -- before I said a word, he offered me MORE than I was even going to ask for her! Moved up three pay grades, and a $15K raise backdated for a month. I thought I was going to faint.

This has been one of those weeks that restores my faith in people, my job, and my life. Imma happy hamster :D