This week was quite busy and at times stressful, but it was finished off beautifully on Friday.
Monday was an easy day for me. After group meeting we went shopping. As we had arrived back from our end of year trip late on Friday we hadn’t been given our timetables over the weekend. Consequently, none of us knew who would be going shopping on Monday. I had decided to write the green kitchen’s shopping list on Sunday regardless. My reasoning was that even if I wasn’t shopping for green I could email it to the person who was. As it turned out, I was shopping for the others instead. I emailed my list for green kitchen to the shopper and then wrote the others list after group meeting. I was grateful that we had been given extra time to shop this week. That meant I had time in the morning to write the others list and didn’t have to rush. Thankfully, the others list didn’t take me long though as then I needed to help the third shopper with his list as he isn’t comfortable using the iPad yet. When all three lists were ready we left. Suzannah offered to shop with me but I said that I would go with a CSR in order to be independent. Plus, last time I went shopping I shopped with Suzannah. The CSR was busy at the time though and was taking some time to become available. So in the end I asked Suzannah to work with me anyway. We had quite a few items to buy this week but I managed to stay just below budget. After unpacking the shopping back at Kickstart I began writing my end of year evaluation. I can’t believe it is already time to write them again. They are due in two weeks, but I am going to be away in Melbourne the weekend before they are due. In the past when I have had end of term evaluations due I don’t start working on them early enough. That means that I end up cramming them in and rushing to have them finished on time. I am determined not to do that this term. My goal was to try and write about two goals each day this week, and then my key competencies and favourite outings during the weekend. That means that I will have the entire week next week to finish it off. Then, I can submit it early before I fly home to Melbourne. After lunch I had been given the afternoon to help one of the other girls. She had asked for my help to prepare a roast pork for her kitchen. I was excited about the challenge but confident seeing as I had mastered it independently for my goal. Like me, she was comfortable to make the roast vegetables and gravy herself and only needed my help with the meat. I told her how to prepare it so that it crackled and then taught her how to use the thermometer. I was able to catch up on a couple of things while it was cooking, which I was grateful for. Once the pork was ready to be served I taught her how to remove the crackling. I had suggested that she use the electric knife as I had found it so much easier. I wasn’t comfortable however in teaching her to use it without a staff member around. Thankfully Barbara was available and stood by to watch. I taught her how to set up the knife and the basics of how to use it safely, including making sure the chord was out of the way. Barbara helped her to cut nice thin slices. It was a successful afternoon and I enjoyed working with her.
Tuesday began with some more time to write my end of year evaluation. Then I had an hour to update the recipe collection. I had requested this time in my weekly goals as I had hoped to be able to work with Suzannah. I wanted to get as many of Kickstart’s recipes that aren’t electronic yet typed up before I leave. When Barbara was writing the timetable for this week though we didn’t know that Suzannah was going to be a staff member with us until the rest of the year. So instead, I used the time by finding any of the Kickstart recipes that I had collected that weren’t electronic yet. I used an app on my iPhone called KNFB reader which I have recently bought. The KNFB reader is an OCR app which has been designed for blind users. It has built in features that help make sure a clear photo of the text is taken. These features include tilt guidance which makes your phone vibrate if you are not holding it straight. Another feature that I love gives you a field of view report. The app takes a photo of the text and lets you know if the text is on an angle and if it can see all four edges of the page. These features together help blind people to take great photos to optimise the results that the app achieves. If you take a good photo the text recognition is amazing. The app is quite expensive but I did some thorough research into it before I decided to spend over $100 on it. I decided that it was worth the money though and am definitely not regretting it. After I had sorted through my recipe folder Barbara took the recipes and promised to have them typed up for me as soon as she could. After morning tea I was lucky enough to be invited to a local primary school to be a part of their junior school assembly. One other student and I were invited to talk about being blind, in particular Braille. We had borrowed several Braille books from the Homai library which also had great tactile pictures in them. We began by talking about our canes and then I read them the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. After that we showed the students how we write Braille and she finished off the visit with a song. I loved being a part of it and seeing all the children. They all seemed interested and I certainly found it fun reading to them. We left each class with one of the tactile books so that the students could have a closer look at the pictures and Braille. There were roughly 150 students there but I found it quite easy to talk to them all. Before we left they presented us with a gift to say thank you, which I thought was truly lovely. When we returned to Kickstart I had a quick lunch before starting to prepare my kitchen’s meal. I was making chicken schnitzels with potato salad, corn and carrots. I used chicken breasts. I put them on the board and covered them with glad wrap to make sure they didn’t make a mess. Then I flattened them slightly with a rolling pin. In three separate bowls I put flour, egg and breadcrumbs. I also put some lemon pepper with the breadcrumbs to give them some flavour. I dipped the chicken into each bowl before putting them on a tray. Originally I had thought that I would fry them but had changed my mind because I thought baking them in the oven would be much easier. When I put them into the oven I tried to use the thermometer but I couldn’t get it to work this time for some reason. I had been hoping to try it with different things other than a roast. While they were cooking I worked on the potato salad. Rather than using a dressing from a bottle I was going to try and follow a friend’s recipe to make my own. I cut up some potatoes and boiled them. In the meantime I mixed together some garlic and mayonnaise. I cheated a little bit here. I was supposed to add some fresh mint to the mixture but I was running out of time. I had also been told to put the mayonnaise, garlic, mint, salt and pepper into a blender but I ended up mixing it together with a spoon. When the potatoes were ready I drained them and then added them to the bowl, tossing it all to cover the potatoes. Finally, I cooked up some bacon which I cut into small pieces and mixed through the salad. I thought it tasted nice but it wasn’t the same as my friend’s potato salad. At the time I put the schnitzels and potato salad in the fridge and went to the gym. That night I cooked the corn and carrots. I mixed a little bit of honey in with the carrots for a change, but I couldn’t taste it in the end. Everything was nice and I thought it turned out well, much better than I had been expecting. The schnitzels were nice although next time I think I would like to try and make them thinner. I got some nice feedback from my kitchen which is always a relief.
Wednesday morning began with time to choose my menus for next week, but again I did them the day before so that I wouldn’t waste time waiting for the iPad. Instead, I began working on my chocolate caramel slice. I was making it independently this time, which I was looking forward to although I was a little nervous too. I was making it for the Blundell morning tea on Friday, which was another reason I was nervous about making it. I made the base easily. Last time I had pressed it into the tray using only my fingers. This time I used the base of a glass to make it flat, which seemed to work well. Once the base was out of the oven I set to work on the filling while it cooled. I put the butter in the pot and then measured the cremelta. Finally, I tipped the can of sweetened condensed milk into the pot. It was then that I realised my mistake. Without thinking, I had put the cremelta in with the filling when it was supposed to be with the chocolate for the top. Thankfully, I hadn’t started melting it yet and the pieces of cremelta were quite big. I was able to get them out of the pot and salvage most of the condensed milk that was stuck to it. I couldn’t believe my silly mistake. I then measured the golden syrup into the pot and set to work melting it. I used a whisk to combine it. Once it was ready I poured it onto the base. I had hoped that keeping it on the heat for a little longer than I did last time would make it runnier and easier to manipulate, but that didn’t work. I used a scraper to get all of the caramel out of the pot and then to flatten it out. I found this challenging, particularly as the caramel was so thick and sticky. When I was finally happy with it I wiped the edge of the tray with a paper towel, as some of the caramel had stuck to it and I didn’t want it to burn or stick once it had been in the oven. Then I put it in the oven and set to work cleaning my dishes. When it was ready I took it out of the oven and let it cool on the bench while I finished my dishes and cleaned up the kitchen. Then I put the slice in the fridge to set for four hours. I used the rest of the morning to work on my end of year evaluation. When I checked my slice in the fridge I was a little disappointed to see that it wasn’t very flat. One corner in particular was sunken down further than the others. I hoped that this wouldn’t affect the chocolate on top too much and that you wouldn’t be able to see the mistake once it was all cut up. After lunch we had a quick group meeting and then I had some time to prepare the chocolate for the top of the slice. I measured out the cremelta and cooking chocolate and put them into a metal bowl. I sat the bowl inside a pot of water which I put on the stove. They melted easily and I was able to feel with my spoon once all the lumps had disappeared. Then I poured it over the slice. Like last time, the chocolate was nice and runny so it spread itself easily. I used a scraper to push the chocolate to the sides and the corners in the hope that it would all be covered nicely, even with the slight dips in it here and there. Then I put it back in the fridge to set and washed my dishes before I went to the gym. I was able to run for about three minutes before my knee started hurting, which is still far from ideal but better than the last time I tried. After hours the hostel students came to Kickstart to practice Swish. It seemed to go quite well this week. We talked briefly about a day to hold the tournament so my goal for this coming week is to start organising it in terms of the times, choosing teams and the food and drinks that we will provide. After hours I cut up my slice, completely independently. The chocolate had completely covered the top of the slice this time, which I was definitely relieved about. It was even better than the last one I had made. I think I did quite well overall when cutting it although some of my cuts were crooked again. I used the smaller sharp knife to begin with like we discovered was easiest last time. Then I changed to a butter knife to go around the edges and to make sure the cuts had completely gone through the base. I was sure to put both knives into the warm water before cutting too as I found that made a big difference last time. I managed to get sixteen relatively even squares out of it. None of them crumbled when I took them out of the tray which was a relief. Overall I was happy with the squares and felt proud to offer them at the Blundell morning tea.
Thursday was a nice and relaxing day for me. Two other students and I went into town to the Town Hall to see the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra (APO) rehearse. Blind people from Auckland had been invited to sit in on this rehearsal and to get to speak to some of the musicians and touch some of the instruments during their break. When we first got there we were given the opportunity to ask the CEO of the APO any questions that we had. She told us that for the Nutcraker Suite, which was what they were rehearsing for a concert that night, they had around eighty musicians in the orchestra including approximately twenty-eight violins. I found that fascinating. Then I talked to a violinist, French horn player and a double base player. I was also able to touch the violin and French horn and see a double base case. I was particularly interested in touching the French horn as I had never seen one before. Then we went in to see the orchestra rehearsing for half an hour or so. We were sitting in the centre at the front, right behind the conductor. I had never seen such a large orchestra live before and the sound was just amazing. After the rehearsal we left. The three of us had been challenged to find our way from Kickstart to the Town Hall ourselves. Luckily, I knew roughly where it was. I also had my GPS up and running to give me confirmation of when we were close. We found our way there well. We bumped into a couple of the other people who were attending the rehearsal and together we looked for the right door. Then a couple of friendly sighted people found us all and took us to the right place. On the way back we stopped for lunch. At times when we were walking the others said that they were disorientated and not sure where they were. I told them to trust me as I am confident in that area. I was always sure to communicate with them too. I told them what streets we were coming up to, if we were going to cross them or turn the corner and what side of the road we would be walking on. I hoped that that helped reassure them if they were nervous. As we were walking I always made sure the other two were still with me, especially when it was quite busy. I made sure I could hear their canes at all times and when I couldn’t I looked around to check where they were.
Friday was a busy and exciting day. It was the Blundell award ceremony. When the staff arrived at 8:00 I helped out with the setup. I cut some cheese and set up some platters as well as helping to set the table. At 9:00 I had a meeting but I made sure that I had done all I could to help out before I left. After my meeting I had some time to get changed. I managed to do my make up perfectly and independently the first time, without a single mistake which I was very happy about, particularly the mascara and lipstick. When I was ready I went up to reception to meet Sally and Richard. I had been asked to do this as I had won the award last year. When Sally and Richard arrived I presented Sally with a posy of flowers and Richard with a buttonhole. Then I lead the group down to Kickstart. It was a lovely ceremony and I congratulate the two recipients of the award, in my opinion it was well deserved on both parts. Afterwards, we briefly showed Sally, Richard and the chair of the Board of Trustees the game of Swish before heading upstairs for morning tea. I helped out by making cups of coffee and making sure the guests had something to eat before chatting to the other guests. It was a really lovely morning and I enjoyed mingling with everyone. My chocolate caramel slice was on the table and it seemed to disappear quite fast, which I was very happy about. I managed to grab myself a piece and I was definitely happy with it. A lot of the guests gave me good feedback about the slice too. After the guests had left I helped to tidy up the house before relaxing for an hour or so. We were going out that afternoon to celebrate in style. We were indulging in high tea. I had been looking forward to experiencing high tea since the start of the year when the idea first came up. It was the outing that I had written the risk management for much earlier in the year. I also liked the idea that we were going out while we were all still dressed up and to celebrate the recipients of the Blundell award. We drove into town to the Langham Hotel, which is very fancy. The high tea was lovely. I began with a dark hot chocolate as I was unsure about any of the teas. It was delicious and I was glad I chose it. Then they brought out an array of savouries, sandwiches and sweets on a lovely tiered stand. There was one stand between each pair on the table, you shared with the person sitting opposite you. I was a little nervous about trying some of the food at first. In the end though I ate everything that I was given, including the salmon which I don’t usually like. I was glad that I had tried everything even though I was worried about some of it at first, because I enjoyed most of it. It was delicious and presented so beautifully. I loved the shape of some of the food, in particular the sandwiches that were shaped like a handbag and a t-shirt. When we had finished the food on our stands they brought out scones for us with butter and a couple of different jams. By this stage I was very full and could only eat half of one scone. Another student shared his ice tea with me and then some of his mango tea too. I was very grateful for that as I had wanted to try both an ice tea and one of the herbal teas, but had been too sceptical as mentioned. I enjoyed them both. The staff at the Langham were all so lovely. I loved being able to experience such a classy afternoon tea, our BLENNZ van was even valet parked!
Until next time.