This week is my last full week in the programme and it has been another incredibly busy one. We have started to wind everything up now. I have been doing a lot of things for the last time, including filming, seeing the students from the hostel and more. I have started saying all of my goodbyes, which I never find easy, especially after spending such an amazing two years here. The end of the year is always busy with different events and paperwork. Added to this is the fact that I have been trying to fit in as much as I can before I leave. After this week though our main focus will be cleaning and packing up.
Mondays for me here at Kickstart always seem to be very busy. I don’t really understand why. The day began with the usual group meeting. After that I had an hour to feed the worms. I checked both fridges to find any old vegetables. I cut up some celery and broccoli for the worms and then put all the other vegetables that I found into the compost. Then I soaked the worm buckets. After morning tea I was a part of a course for RTV’s. I had been invited to talk about my experiences with O&M and to explain why I think good O&M is essential. Shiree had invited me to speak at this course as she feels I am a confident independent traveller. I only talked for about twenty minutes or so. In that time I explained how I first hated using my cane. I compared that to these days when it is normal and I feel strange going out without it. I answered their questions too. They seemed to enjoy my talk and I hope that it helped them to gain a better understanding of O&M and its importance. After that I had some spare time. I used the time to wash out the worm buckets, wash my clothes and started working on the minutes from that morning. After lunch I went shopping. This week we are all cooking individual dinners. We won’t be cooking for our kitchens anymore. The rest of the group went to Countdown earlier that morning but as one other student and I had been busy at that time we had been given the afternoon instead. During the weekend I had planned out the meals I was going to make. Some other students prefer to simply buy bits and pieces at the supermarket and then throw meals together from that. I prefer to plan mine out carefully so that I know exactly what I am going to get. Suzannah helped us to find what we needed so we were finished nice and quickly. When we returned to Kickstart I put all my groceries away and then finished working on the minutes and dried the worm buckets. We all needed to bake something for the morning tea that we were putting on on Tuesday. But as most of us didn’t have time in our timetables for it we had to bake after hours. I had decided to make my chocolate caramel slice. Two other students and I were baking at the same time. Two of the other students had been baking earlier too, which definitely made it a challenge. There weren’t many clean dishes around such as the mixing bowls, measuring cups and chopping boards, but we managed. I worked on the dining room table while the other two were in a kitchen each. We all rushed back and forward between the kitchens looking for things from time to time. Other than that though my slice went well. I made the base easily and it turned out nicely once it had been in the oven. While it was cooling I made the filling, which also went well. I was much more prepared this time. I had learnt from last time to make sure that I had everything I needed out and ready before I started. It was especially important when making the filling as I had to keep it moving so that it wouldn’t burn and stick to the bottom of the pot. I made sure to have the base ready for the filling to go on top before I put the caramel on the stove. I also had the scraper nearby so that I could get all of the caramel out of the pot. Once the caramel was ready I poured it onto the base and spread it with the scraper. I always struggle to make sure it is even. It is so sticky that it is just about impossible to feel if it is even because it sticks all over my fingers. I was happy enough with it fairly soon after pouring it onto the base so I put it in the fridge and washed my dishes. The downfall to this slice is that it takes so long to set before you can put the topping on. After waiting for the kitchen to be free and struggling to find everything that I needed I hadn’t put the slice in the fridge to start setting until about 7:00. After it was in the fridge I began to cook my dinner. I had originally planned to make a mince pie with vegetables but in the end I decided that would take too long. I cooked up 500g of mince. Then I put half of it in a bowl to keep for the pie another day and used the rest in tortillas. Other than the mince I had lettuce and tomato in the tortillas. They were quite nice and by the time I got around to eating them I was quite hungry. I had planned this meal so that I could use the mince for two different nights and save me from cooking every single night. After that I cleaned my dishes from dinner, did my chore, recorded some of my lines for this term’s film, had a shower and relaxed while I waited for my slice to set. At 10:30 I set to work on the topping. The caramel had worked out quite well. It was mostly even except for one side which seemed to rise up a little. It wasn’t too bad though. The caramel hadn’t stuck up the sides of the tray this time either which I was happy to see. I melted the cremelta and chocolate and poured it over the slice before returning it to the fridge, washing my dishes and heading to bed after a very hectic day.
Tuesday morning was entirely dedicated to the thank you morning tea. Each year Kickstart puts on this morning tea and invites anyone from the school, admin or outside of BLENNZ who have helped us in any way throughout the year. Originally I had wanted to have my slice cut up ready first thing in the morning but by the time the topping had set I was fast asleep. Instead, I cut it Tuesday morning. I used the same techniques as last time including heating the blade up in some water before cutting. It went quite well. Some of my cuts were a little crooked again but I didn’t think they were as bad as last time. I put the slice on two plates and put them on the table ready. Then I washed the dishes I had used and set to work helping out with setting up the morning tea. I put the mini pies on trays ready to go in the oven and then helped to put together the club sandwiches. One other student and I worked with Barbara on this. When I joined them they had already buttered the bread so I helped by spreading egg on them, then putting cheese and lettuce on top. Finally, we put a piece of bread, a slice of ham and a final slice of bread on top. Barbara cut the crusts off the sandwiches and cut them into triangles while the other student and I arranged them on the plates. Before long the guests arrived. It was lovely to see so many people at Kickstart enjoying each other’s company and of course enjoying the food. I had a lovely chat with various staff members. When everyone had left I helped clean up and then relaxed for a while. After lunch I had been given the whole afternoon to start preparing for the Swish tournament. Suzannah, another girl and I went to Manukau City. We bought some keyrings from the $2 shop to give to each player and then we went to Countdown. I had written a list of the things that I wanted. We bought some savouries, sweets, drinks and bits and pieces such as plastic plates and cups as well as boxes of chocolates for the winners. After baking so much food for the thank you morning tea we had decided to simply buy the snacks for the Swish tournament. Then we returned to Kickstart where we put everything away and then I had a massage. For dinner on Tuesday I made chicken schnitzels with roast potatoes, kumara and carrots and some broad beans. I had never tried broad beans before so Jude had given me some and told me how to cook them so that I could try them. The dinner was easy to make, delicious and very filling. Thankfully it didn’t make too many dishes either which was a relief. After dinner on Tuesday I was pretty tired. I had an early night to prepare me for another busy day on Wednesday.
I began Wednesday with an hour to do spring cleaning. I hadn’t started on spring cleaning neither my chore nor my room yet so I was glad to make a start. I have decided that I am going to try and clear as much stuff as I can off my shelves and out of my drawers first before I start cleaning. I plan to keep most of my stuff in my suitcase and live out of it for the last week. That way I won’t need to clean around them. I had a few things in my room that I had borrowed off staff that I returned, including Kathi’s bamboo sushi mats and the list of extensions for the staff on campus that I used when working at reception. I also gave a few of my things to Kickstart including the wrapping paper I bought, my sleeping bag and a blanket that I had as it was easier to give them away rather than take them home. After that I spent an hour with Barbara. The only part of a house that I can think of that I haven’t learnt to clean is carpets. I wanted to spend time with Barbara discussing how to do this. We began by discussing the importance of regularly vacuuming carpet. She explained that this not only gets dirt and other mess out of the carpet but it also disturbs fleas and their eggs if you have pets. Regularly vacuuming carpet also helps to keep the pile up. She told me that most carpets these days are nylon or synthetic. She recommended finding out what sort of carpet I have in my house when I am in my own place and then researching what product to use on it. She told me how to spot clean carpets. Barbara strongly recommended using something to absorb any liquid that is spilt on my carpet first before using the chosen cleaning product on it. Barbara also suggested getting my carpets professionally cleaned around every eighteen months or so. She also told me that the people who clean carpets can also clean the upholstery on couches etc. After this session I spent time with Suzannah making sushi. Making sushi was another thing that I had wanted to attempt while at Kickstart. When shopping on Monday we bought a packet of nori, sushi rice, chicken and avocado. Neither Suzannah or I had made it before so it was certainly a fun experiment. We began by reading the instructions on the sushi rice which told us to soak the rice for thirty minutes and then boil it for twenty. We didn’t have enough time for that so decided to try cooking it for less time instead. We soaked it for five minutes or so before boiling it for about ten. By that time the rice had absorbed all the water. The rice was incredibly sticky. We tipped it out onto a plate to let it cool slightly. In the meantime I used a pastry brush to slightly wet the nori. Kathi had lent me two bamboo mats to use which I was very grateful for. Once the rice was cool enough I wet my hands and began to spread the rice over the nori. A friend had suggested making sure that your hands are wet when dealing with the rice, which was a grate suggestion and definitely helped to stop the rice from sticking to your hands. Once the rice was spread I lined the chicken down the centre of the rice and put a line of avocado next to it. Then I began rolling the mat up. The roll was quite fat in the end and was only just holding together. As we progressed we improved. By the third and forth rolls that I made I was doing a good job. They were smaller, tighter and were holding together much better. I had put less rice in them which helped. I also put the chicken and avocado closer to the edge of the rice rather than down the centre. The other change that we made after the first attempt was placing the nori on the edge of the bamboo mat and rolling it whereas I had originally put the nori in the centre of the mat. Having it on the edge made it much easier to roll and much easier to keep it tight. I used a serrated knife to very carefully slice the sushi. Some pieces looked a little dodgy but towards the end they were looking great and I was really proud of them. I offered sushi around to those people who eat it and then had some for lunch myself. I thought it was really nice although next time I would hope to have more time so that I could cook the rice for a little longer. Some of it had a hard centre. Other than that I was very happy with them. I hadn’t wet the nori too much which I had also been warned about. After lunch I washed all the dishes and then had a session with Kathi. In the session we went over a couple of answers that I had written for questions in the forms that I am completing for the courses at Monash. Then Kathi had a look over my C.V. which I had updated. She made a few slight changes to it and suggested a couple of things for me to add, which I did. Once the C.V. is ready I will be able to print it and include it with the form for Monash. When that is done I will be able to send the form away. After that I had some more time with Barbara. This time we were ironing my shirt again. I did it completely myself this time although Barbara was watching to make sure I was okay. I told her what I was doing as I went. It went well. I found it quite easy and managed to have it all ironed fairly quickly. I was safe and managed to get all the creases out of the shirt. When that was ready I had an hour to organise bits and pieces for the Swish tournament later that night. I was very grateful to the others who also had time in their timetables to help with the preparation. I had written a list of things that needed to be done for myself but I was able to allocate the jobs to the others. With five of us working on the jobs they were done in next to no time. They would have taken me quite a while to do if I had been doing them myself. I was able to organise the score sheet and other bits and pieces while the others set up the room for me and prepared the snacks. It was particularly useful because the computer that I had planned to use for keeping score and following the fixture was freezing. I had to rely on my new laptop instead. I had been worried about that at first because I am not hugely confident with NVDA and the laptop can be slow at times. I put together the score sheet and got a copy of the fixture on there though and it seemed to be working perfectly. After hours I cooked my dinner for that night. As I didn’t have a lot of time the meal worked well. I made a mince pie using some of the mince that I had left over from my tortillas on Monday. I put some pastry on the bottom and around the sides of a small ovenproof dish. Then I filled it up with mince and put a layer of pastry on top. I wasn’t sure how long to cook the pie for so I checked it fairly regularly until the top was crispy. It was very delicious and I was happy with how it turned out. I had just enough time to clean my dishes and get together the last-minute things before it was 6:00 and the tournament was starting. When everyone had arrived and was seated in the meting room I welcomed them all. I briefly went over how the night was going to work and then we got into playing games. I was genuinely very impressed at how everyone played. There were some great games and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I was the umpire for all ten games and I had a staff member watching closely to make sure there were no faults that I missed. I wrote the scores down in my copy of the fixture as well as putting them into an Excel spreadsheet I had put together. I wrote the scores down twice just to be sure. My laptop was holding up perfectly and I was very impressed with it. After the first five games we had a break. We had some savouries to eat and some drinks. Then we finished off the last five games. When all the games were over I added up everyone’s points before joining them for supper. I had chosen to keep score in an Excel spreadsheet so I could quickly use a formulae to calculate each team’s scores. That worked perfectly too. After everyone had had something to eat and a drink I made some more speeches. I made sure to thank everyone for coming, for helping out and for playing. Then I announced the scores. I gave each player one of the keyrings as a token of my appreciation and then I gave the two winners a box of chocolates each. After the guests had left everyone helped with the clean up. It had been a really successful night. I was so glad that it had all worked out so well. My fixture worked perfectly and the timing was just about spot on, which surprised me. Having such a fun and successful night made all the organising and planning worthwhile. Last year we had some sort of social night each term with the students from the hostel. They were usually quiz nights. I had always wanted to help organise one. This year we haven’t had any social things with them. I think organising a Swish tournament was great for me and I preferred doing that rather than a quiz night. Of course, it also helped me to get Swish out there more and to raise awareness of it in the hopes that the Auckland Swish club will be started soon. It was a nice way to end the year and to say goodbye to these students.
Thursday began with some more time to do spring cleaning. Again, I spent most of the time cleaning things out of my room. I have decided to dedicate the majority of Sunday and Monday to cleaning my room and chore thoroughly as I have been too busy lately to make a decent start at it. Then we headed to Nathan Homestead for our last session of filming. I was needed a fair bit this session. As mentioned in a previous entry I am the narrator for this term’s film. I had organised with Hank to record my lines on my phone and email them to him so that he could add them to the final film. The recording came out too quiet though. So on Thursday he recorded all of my lines on his iPod so that it was clearer. I also had a small part to play on camera, so we also filmed that. I enjoyed the session. I have been told by students who have been going to filming longer than I have that often films don’t come together until the last minute. Last term’s film, the talent show, was a clear idea from the start of the term and, for the most part, we knew where we were headed. This film has been completely different though. It was a very vague idea for the first few weeks. Since then it has grown each week. This week it seemed to come together quite well. There are a few scenes that Hank will film next week but us students from Kickstart aren’t able to be there as it is our travel day. That is why we worked fairly solidly this week to film what we needed to before we left. Once again, I look forward to seeing the final product. After lunch I spent time with Jude. She had requested some time with me specifically to work on the Kickstart iPad. Jude wanted to learn how to enter recipes into the calendar as we have been doing this term for our menu planner so that she would be able to teach any students who needed to learn next year. I walked her through doing that and she took notes, although she was pretty confident with it in the end. Then we had a group session. After hours I spent a little bit more time with Jude showing her how to use the iGrill bluetooth thermometer and its app again so she could teach students in the future. We were both relieved to have had this time together before I finish in the programme. For dinner that night I had ginger chicken kebabs, rice, carrots and broccoli. I had cut up the chicken and left it in the fridge to marinade at lunchtime. That meant that all I had to do after hours was thread the chicken onto the skewers, put it in the oven and make the rice and vegetables. It was easy. Unfortunately I had a mishap with the rice. For some reason it didn’t cook properly so in the end another student ended up giving me one of the pita breads so I ate that with the chicken instead.
Friday was our last Friday outing, which was kind of sad. The day began with swimming. Suzannah gave us the choice of what we wanted to do so we voted for what we had been doing previously. We were given the choice of doing only lengths or doing less lengths but other exercises in between. Once again I chose to do the lengths with exercises in between. After I did about fifteen or so lengths we did a couple of fun team activities and then we had a few minutes of free time in the pool. Then we had some time to get ready. We were going out for lunch which is usually what we do on the last outing of the year. We were going to Wildfire which is on the waterfront. It is a buffet restaurant that works slightly differently. It is hugely based around meat. The servers come to your table with all sorts of meat and offer it to you. Each table has a sign on it. When the green side of the sign is showing the servers will continue to come around and offer you food. If the red side is showing they won’t bother you. The food was absolutely delicious. It was cooked on a rotisserie and was marinated in some delicious flavours. I piled my plate with potatoes, salad and of course meat before we turned our sign to red to give us time to eat. At that stage my plate was so full that I was glad to have some time to empty it before I was offered more. Altogether I tried the New Zealand lamb, chicken, beef, pork sausage, a calamari ring, spicy pork and sirloin. I managed to try everything that I wanted although I was so full at the end. Although this restaurant was still all you can eat I found it much easier than a buffet because they brought the food to you and you didn’t need to go up to serve yourself all the time. Most of the meat was brought to the table on a skewer. If you wanted some you would grab some meat with your pair of tongs and then the server would carve it for you. Some of the meat was already carved and was simply put on your plate though. All of the staff at Wildfire were lovely and very accommodating. They helped us to use our tongs to grab some meat when needed. I also managed to squeeze in a hot chocolate at the end as two of the other students were saying that it was the best hot chocolate they had ever had. It was a really lovely Christmas lunch and a really nice way to spend our last Friday together. After that we all returned to Kickstart with completely full stomachs.
Until next time.