Term 4 Week 2

This week has been productive and busy. It was finished off by a long weekend which is always nice.

 

This week on Monday morning I did the shopping with a customer support representative again. This time I was shopping for the green kitchen. I started shopping with a young girl who was excellent. Although she couldn’t find everything I needed, I was able to ask Barbara to help by pointing out those things to her. She made sure to pick nice looking meat and vegetables for me. Unfortunately though before I had finished getting all of my shopping she was called up to the checkouts and another lady took over. This lady wasn’t quite as easy to work with. She struggled to understand what I needed at times and couldn’t find those products very easily. Thankfully though the first girl and I shopped fairy quickly to begin with so by the time they changed over I only had another four items to find. This is why I prefer not to shop with a CSR if I can avoid it. I understand that they cannot be expected to know every single product that they stock but it can be quite frustrating and stressful to work with them at times. As I said last week though, this is all part of me being as independent as I can this term. When we returned to Kickstart I unpacked the shopping and then also helped to unpack the other kitchen’s shopping as their shopper had gone out. I had been given the rest of the morning to make a juice but by the time we had returned from shopping and it had all been put away I only had half of the time left. I still decided to make the juice however as it was only a basic juice and wouldn’t take long to prepare. An advantage to the juicer that Kickstart purchased is that you can put the fruit and vegetables in whole, such as the entire apple, so it does not take a long time to make the juice. A disadvantage to it though is that there are so many parts to clean and this did take some time. I put four carrots, four stalks of celery, one apple and a squirt of lemon juice in. It made two glasses and was very delicious. I haven’t made a juice since term 2. As the juicer had been purchased for my goal last semester I wanted to get back into it this term to make it worthwhile. Of course, I also wanted to increase my fruit and vegetable intake again this term too. After lunch I wrote the minutes for that morning’s meeting before trying something new. This term I have filled my weekly goals up with a lot of things that I wanted to try before leaving Kickstart despite them not being a part of my ITP goals. One of these things was learning to mow the lawns. In the future I will most likely ask someone else to mow my lawns for me but I wanted to, at least, have tried it for myself. To be completely honest, I had never even felt a lawn mower before and certainly didn’t know how to go about mowing. I worked with Jude and another one of the students on this. We spent most of the hour talking about how the mower works including how to raise it and lower it, how to fold out and put away the handle, how to attach the catcher and more. I was able to feel the mower while it was cold including carefully feeling the blades and the engine. We also discussed a few things including safety precautions that I should take before mowing, why you should use a catcher and what will happen to the grass if you don’t and ways of mowing in a straight line. I practiced pushing the mower before it was on to get the feel of it and to work out how to turn the mower around. Then I started it myself. I mowed a small section of the lawn because we only had a short time left. For the most part I mowed straight although I did go slightly crooked at some points. Next time I mow Jude is going to trial a couple of ideas to help keep me straight. We are going to put some stakes into the ground and then put a rope between the two. That way I can follow the rope with one hand while pushing the mower with the other. We are also going to try putting a plank of wood on the grass for me to follow. I look forward to trialing both of these methods later in the term. I know that there are totally blind people out there who mow their lawns and it has been cool to try it for myself. To finish off the day I went to the gym.

 

On Tuesday morning I spent some time with Kathi. We finished off my Vision Australia Bursary application first of all, which I was relieved about. Then we began filling out a form that I need to send to Monash University later in the year, one for each course that I am applying for with them. We were able to totally fill in the first section of the form which was all of my personal details. I now need to write some answers to send in with the form, update my CV to include and contact a referee to write me a letter. I will begin working on this. I had half an hour to begin preparing my meal before morning tea. I don’t usually have extra time to prepare my meals but this week it worked out perfectly. I chopped up the chicken and made the marinade for it, leaving it in the fridge until later. After morning tea I used the rest of my time for preparing the meal to make the potato bake that I was putting with the ginger chicken kebabs. I had never made potato bake before. There are two recipes for it in the Kickstart recipe collection. One simply involves slicing the potatoes, mixing it with a can of sauce and then sprinkling cheese on the top. Personally, I wanted to challenge myself so I chose the other recipe which was much more involved. I finely chopped the onion and a capsicum before grating the potatoes. I mixed those ingredients together. In a separate bowl I mixed together the eggs, milk, cheese, butter, salt and pepper. Then I mixed everything together and put it into a dish to put in the oven. I made this entirely independently. It seemed to take a fairly long time to put together so I was then even more grateful that I had prepared the chicken earlier. Annoyingly, however, I got distracted over lunchtime and accidentally left the potato bake in the oven for half an hour too long. By the time I took it out it was very very well done, although it wasn’t burnt. I didn’t want the bake to stick in the dish so I served it onto plates and put it in the fridge. There had been a mistake made in the timetable for Tuesday afternoon so I was left with time spare. I used that time to help one of the other girls with some research that she needed to do and then worked on my Blundell letter. Like last year, each student needs to write a letter to Sally and Richard Blundell (the two children of Sir Denis Blundell, a former Governor-General of New Zealand.) They will then choose a student who they think is deserving of the award which will be presented mid November. To finish off the day again I went to the gym. That night I cooked the chicken and vegetables for my meal and put it with the potato bake. The chicken and vegetables were nice but I wasn’t too impressed with the potato bake. I don’t think that this was because it was slightly overcooked. It seemed kind of tasteless. Next time I think I will try the easier method of making potato bake and use the can to see if it tastes better.

 

Wednesday was a fairly busy day for me. I had time to choose my recipes for next week first thing in the morning. I had decided to choose my recipes the night before though so that I could use the hour to work on my Blundell letter instead. Then I had a session with Barbara. We spent the time talking about hostessing, which loosely tied in with my table etiquette goal. We discussed how to be a good hostess as well as a good guest. After morning tea I cooked a BBQ with Suzannah. This was another one of the things that I had included in my weekly goals for this term. I cooked on a BBQ a couple of times last year but never really felt comfortable with it. I had bought some sausages that I was going to cook up for the group to eat for lunch. I decided to use the BBQ plate rather than the grill for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Suzannah explained to me that the grill tends to put lines into the sausages. I could also see the sausages on the plate easier. Although I had twenty sausages we decided to cook them in small batches so that the plate wouldn’t be crowded and so that I wouldn’t have to reach across the hot plate, which was something I have disliked about cooking on a BBQ in the past. At first I only put four on the plate but then I thought that I could manage eight altogether. To begin with, I had the sausages lying vertically in two rows on the plate but one row seemed to be cooking faster so I brought them all down into the one row. At first I was also trying to use the tongs to turn the sausages but then Suzannah suggested simply pushing them gently so that they rolled over. Once the first eight were cooked I moved them across to the grill, which was not on, so they would keep warm while the others cooked. At times we shut the lid of the BBQ so that they would cook faster. Suzannah had to tell me when they were cooked as I couldn’t tell myself. Eventually all of the sausages were ready and we all enjoyed a nice lunch. I was happy with my efforts, especially as I hadn’t felt nervous or overwhelmed about using the BBQ at all. After lunch Suzannah helped me to clean the BBQ. In the past someone else always cleaned it for me so this time I was keen to try it myself. Suzannah taught me to use a scrubbing brush and a bowl of warm water to clean it, followed by drying it with paper towels. She also told me though that there are many ways of cleaning a BBQ including removing the plates and washing them in the sink. Then we put it away and I got on with my next challenge. I was making my pavlova independently. I had some bad luck with separating the eggs this time for some reason. Quite a few of the yolks broke but thankfully I was adding the whites to the mixing bowl after I separated each one as I had learnt to do from my previous attempts. Other than that, everything went well. The mixture turned out nicely and I was able to spoon it onto the tray myself. This time I used the spoon to try and smooth the top of the pavlova as much as I could without flattening it. As I mentioned last week I did some research into pavlovas and learnt to pinch a little bit of the mixture between your fingers to see if the sugar is dissolved. I also mentioned that I think this particular recipe uses too much sugar. This was obvious when there was still quite a bit of sugar that hadn’t dissolved yet when the mixture was very thick and ready to be put on the tray. After the pavlova was in the oven I cleaned up the kitchen. Then I had an hour to organise Swish training for the hostel students who were coming over later that afternoon. Thankfully, I didn’t have anything that I needed to organise in the time so instead I worked a little on my Blundell letter. Beginning this week, the hostel students are going to come to Kickstart for an hour each Wednesday to learn how to play Swish in preparation for the tournament in December. I began the hour by explaining what Swish was, showing them the bat, ball and my gloves and then inviting them to explore the table, feeling the serving squares, edges and net. Then I set up a game. I explained a few key rules before the game began but explained more as it progressed. I worried that I didn’t do a very good job at explaining it at times but they reassured me that I did. They all seemed to enjoy it and were keen to continue next week. After hours I finished my Blundell letter. Unfortunately, something sad happened to my pavlova. It had been left in the oven to cool completely, as it should. Without knowing it was in there, one of the other students turned on the oven to cook his dinner. Then he went to put his tray into the oven, squashing the pavlova! At the time I was pretty annoyed about that but ten minutes later I found it hilarious! I knew it was a mistake. It taught us all the valuable lesson to always check the oven before turning it on in case something has been left in there. Even though it was now partly squashed I knew it would still taste okay. I whipped up some cream, cut up strawberries and peeled and sliced kiwifruit. We all had to spoon and scrape pavlova off the baking paper to eat it, but it was yum and I was still proud of it, squashed or not.

 

In the morning on Thursday I emptied and cleaned the compost buckets and then started writing this entry. We didn’t have filming this week. Our filming group is a part of the Interact organisation. Groups of students with a range of disabilities all over Auckland work together doing various things including drama groups, art groups, music groups and more. Hank was a part of the Interact Disability Arts Festival that was being held from Wednesday to friday of this week. After morning tea I needed to clean the oven. When I had turned it on on Tuesday to grill my chicken it had started smoking terribly. Jude checked it and realised that the top of the oven had been covered in grease and fat from the two roast porks I had made. Until then, I never knew that you could drop the element down so that you could easily clean the top of the oven. I cleaned it with gif, a sponge and steel wool. Eventually I got it looking better. Then I had a session with Jude. In the time we ordered a meat thermometer, checked over my Blundell letter and checked the oven to make sure it wasn’t going to smoke again. It wasn’t. I had been researching these Bluetooth meat thermometers last term and had suggested one for the group. After lunch we had a session at Fale Kotuku with a few Blind Foundation staff members. They talked to us about the services they offer that the students here can access after they leave Kickstart. Although it wasn’t very relevant for me I managed to talk to one of the technology team members about having a session on the basics of Windows 8, which I might organise for later in the term. To finish off the day we had a group session.

 

Friday began with swimming again. Some of us had requested another session like the one last week. Suzannah was okay with that and set us lengths to do and a number of exercises too. We also did a couple of team games in the pool. It was another fun session. Our outing this week was to the Interact Festival. When we first got there we watched some of the acts. I enjoyed supporting the performers. After we ate lunch we also saw some art work that students had made including masks and tiles that had been decorated with colourful and tactile designs. Some sculptures were on display in the church. A rope lead around them which was especially put there for blind people to follow. There were also descriptions that were Brailled for each sculpture that included the artists’ name, the material that the sculpture was made from and how much it was being sold for. I liked being able to read the information for myself and appreciated their work in setting it up. Then we headed back to Kickstart. When we got back to Homai there was a package for me at reception. The thermometer had arrived already! I opened it and had a play, as well as showing it to the group. I downloaded the app onto the Kickstart iPad and connected the thermometer to it, ready to trial it next week. I can’t wait to see it in action and will most likely buy one for myself too. By Friday afternoon I was definitely looking forward to the long weekend.

 

This week once again I have had an issue with my knee hurting while trying to run. I tried twice and ended up walking both times instead. I rested it for the rest of the week. If it is not better by next week I will most likely try and see someone about it. I am really missing the running and want to get back into it as it truly does help with my self-esteem and mood generally.

 

Last term I came up with the idea of using the calendar app on the Kickstart iPad for our menu planners. Until then, we had been using a display folder per kitchen. These were getting quite messy and disorganised though and they weren’t accessible for those of us who can’t read print. My idea of using the iPad means that it is accessible to everyone in the group. We trialed it for a week last term and have continued with it since then. In my opinion it is going very well. I help some of the students to enter in their recipes and then access the planner when writing their shopping lists but they are learning to do it themselves now. I used the iPad when writing my shopping list this week. I was able to write the list much faster than I used to be able to. The ingredients that are needed to be purchased are all written in the notes section of the calendar events. That means that I don’t have to search through my collection of electronic recipes to find each one. It also means that people don’t have to read me there ingredients if I don’t have their recipe on my computer. I have been thanked for this idea as it is helping Kickstart to embrace modern technology.

 

Until next time.

 

Cass


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Term 4 Week 1

We have all returned to Kickstart to resume our time here. I had a great time in Melbourne over the break and am rejuvenated and ready to take on my last few weeks in the programme.

 

As per usual the first day of term is travel day. I had a great flight back to Auckland. Once at Kickstart I unpacked, caught up with everyone and enjoyed an early night.

 

To start the term off I went shopping for others on Tuesday morning after our group meeting. I had written the shopping list on Monday night. I didn’t need to buy too much which I was relieved about. I shopped with a customer support representative. It went fairly well. Usually I don’t like shopping with CSR’s if I can avoid it. I know that it is an essential skill though. Even though I want to do most of my grocery shopping online when I am flatting I still need to be able to work with a CSR for the times that I do need to go into the supermarket. As this is my last term in the programme I am aiming to be as independent as I can be. The staff are stepping back from all of us this term. Even though the lady I was shopping with struggled to find some of the things I needed we did eventually find everything and I even managed to finish first. I stayed under budget too so all in all it was a successful shop. After I unpacked the shopping at Kickstart I spent some time with Jude. To begin with Jude showed me how to set up and use the electric knife that she brought in from home for me to try that afternoon with my roast pork. Last time I had made the pork I struggled to carve it so Jude suggested trying the electric knife, which I was keen to do. After that we discussed a Swish tournament between the Kickstart and hostel students that I am hoping to organise for later this term. We decided on a day that we could hold it and Jude told me how to go about contacting the hostel to organise training sessions. After the time with Jude I sent an email about the tournament and had one back that told me that the students from the hostel were able to come over each week to train and that they were keen to play in a tournament. During lunchtime I started preparing my roast meal as it was going to take a while to cook. I was confident to do all of the preparation for the roast, the only part I wanted some help with was the carving, especially because I was using the electric knife for the first time. During lunch I preheated the oven and prepared the pork. Once again I was using rolled pork so that I didn’t need to worry about a bone. I used my iPhone app which calculates how long to cook the pork for. Once the pork was in the oven I began preparing the potatoes. While they were in the oven I had some time to spare. I used that time to work on the minutes from that morning’s meeting. Then I got everything out that I needed for the gravy and also to serve the meal. Then I prepared the other vegetables. Finally it was time to start serving the meal. I let the pork sit while I served the vegetables and made the gravy. Then Barbara helped me to use the electric knife. I held the pork still with a carving fork while Barbara helped me to cut straight. The only part that I had trouble with was making sure that the knife was straight and that I didn’t slice pieces that were too thick. After Barbara helped me with the first few slices I began to get a feel for it and was able to finish carving it myself. Some pieces were a little bit thicker than others but most of them were lovely and straight. I was very happy with that. I am confident in preparing the entire roast pork now. The next time I prepare the meal it will be completely independently. I want to be able to time my cooking a little differently in the future when cooking roasts. At the moment, I time it so that I take everything out all at the same time. I don’t take into account that the meat needs time to rest for a while. I would like to time it so that I take the meat out, let it sit for twenty minutes or so while the vegetables finish cooking. Then I would serve the vegetables while they are still hot, quickly make the gravy and then carve the meat. That way the meal would all be fresh and hot when I am finished. At this time this doesn’t matter too much because I have been preparing the meal during the day and heating it up later. But in the future when I want to eat a hot meal straight after I have finished cooking it this would be a better thing to do. The meal that night was delicious and I was very pleased with it. I had some great feedback from my kitchen too!

 

After I chose my recipes for next week on Wednesday morning I spent some time with Kathi. I had requested this time to work with her on my Vision Australia Bursary application. I wanted to make sure that my answers to the questions sounded good and that the formatting looked okay. Kathi helped me to fix up a couple of minor things. Then we found one question that I had completely missed. After the session I wrote my answer to that question which I will then check with Kathi next week. After morning tea I had some time to prepare a dessert with supervision. I chose to try my pavlova again having learnt a couple of valuable lessons about the pavlova last term. Once again I was confident in making the mixture myself and only needed some guidance when putting it onto the tray. Last time I had made the pavlova I had come up with the idea of using the outside of a cake tin as my guide to make a circle. In the end however the cake tin was too big. Jude suggested an alternative though which worked very well. I traced around the outside of a bread and butter plate with my spiky wheel tool that I used when learning how to cut a circle of baking paper out for a round cake tin. This meant that I could feel the circle and it was also a good size for a small pavlova. As I had learnt to do last time I made the pavlova, I separated one egg at a time, putting the white into the mixing bowl after each one to make sure that all of the whites would not be spoiled if a yolk broke. Thankfully no yolks broke but even so it was a good technique to use. After I beat the mixture for about ten minutes it was lovely and glossy and thick. Then I mixed the cornflour, vanilla essence and vinegar together and added it to the mixture, beating it for a further three or four minutes. Then I called on Barbara for some advice in getting the mixture from the bowl to the tray. She suggested simply using a serving spoon to heap the mixture on top of itself. I used my fingers with the spoon so that firstly I could feel my tactile circle on the baking paper but also to take the mixture off the spoon as it was very sticky. It also helped me to be able to check where to put each spoonful of mixture. The mixture was thick enough that it sat up nice and high as it needs to to make sure there was plenty of marshmallow inside. After the pavlova was in the oven I cleaned up my dishes and the kitchen and finished in perfect time for lunch. I did some research into pavlovas during the week and I was surprised to learn so much about them. I learnt that it is essential to use a perfectly clean bowl and beaters when making the pavlova. This is to make sure that nothing that is stuck to the bowl or beaters spoils the egg whites and stops them from reacting. Similarly, I also learnt that you should only use a metal or glass bowl for making the mixture as plastic bowls can hold grease and again spoil the mixture. I also learnt that you should never attempt to make pavlova when the weather is humid as the moisture in the air can stop it from working. I also learnt that you should use about 55g of caster sugar per each egg white that you use. The recipe that I follow uses more than that. It suggested rubbing a little bit of the mixture between your fingers to make sure it is all dissolved before putting it in the oven. It also explained that using less sugar means that the shell on the outside of the pavlova will be thinner. I did notice that the shell on mine was quite thick but at the time I put that down to the fact that I had forgotten to buy cream and fruit for the pavlova. After lunch we had waiata. We learnt a couple of new Maori words in the session. Then I went to the gym. I took the pavlova out of the oven nearly three hours after I had turned it off. I was surprised to find that the oven was still slightly warm at this point. I worried that I had taken it out too soon. It was fine though, and didn’t collapse, although the very middle of the bottom of the pavlova was still very slightly soft and stuck to the plate. Thankfully though it didn’t spoil the pavlova. As we were going out that night I wasn’t able to try it at that time so I covered it and left it on the bench, eager to try it on Thursday. After hours we went out to another audio described show. This time we were seeing the Sound of Music. Like last time, we bought some dinner at the food court before walking to the Civic Theatre. The last show that we saw that was audio described was the Chamber Music concert. This was completely different because there were actions and visual aspects that were described throughout the entire show. The last show only had things to describe between pieces of music. I loved it. Again, the audio description added so much to the show for me. Usually I don’t like musicals because I find them hard to follow and quite long. But this time I was able to follow the entire show easily. One comment that I have heard blind audience members say after they watch an audio described show is that they are able to laugh at the same time as the rest of the audience. That is unusual for a blind person as most often we need to wait for it to be described by someone sitting next to us. This show allowed me to completely relate to that comment. After the show we also got to experience a touch tour. We all climbed up onto the stage where we met the director of the show. We were able to feel some of the set, the props and the costumes. We were also taught how the transitions between scenes are so seamless these days. The set has wheels and are on tracks so are easily rolled onto and off of the stage. We also learnt that many of the props are also swung up above the stage hidden from the audience’s view. It was a fun and interesting night that I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

I began Thursday morning with Barbara practicing ironing. We used the same shirt that I used last time because I don’t have anything else that would need ironing here in New Zealand. Barbara showed me how to use the iron with water, allowing you to spray the garment that you are ironing to help the creases to come out easier. We also dampened a tea towel to put over the shirt like I did last time to protect the material from being damaged. Barbara was happy with the way that I ironed and felt confident that I was safe. She showed me how to iron the collar of the shirt too and explained how I would iron sleeves. I decided that I am going to bring a business shirt back with me when I go to Melbourne in six week’s time so that I can practice ironing the sleeves as well as a different material. Barbara told me that when she irons a shirt she usually starts by ironing the collar, followed by the back, sleeves and finally the front. That way, in theory, the shirt won’t get crumpled up as you move it around. We also went over how to empty the water out of the iron and how to pack it away safely. After ironing I went to filming. As it was the first session for the term we were brainstorming as a group ideas for this term’s film. I was keen to be a part of the process as last term I started in about week 4. That meant that I missed the initial steps of making the film. I tried my pavlova during lunchtime and was very impressed with it. It was lovely and fluffy inside and tasted good. I am looking forward to making it independently next time and think that I am capable of doing that well now. After filming I had an O&M session with Shiree. Last term Shiree and I talked about a couple of iPhone apps, in particular Tap Tap See and some of the GPS apps that I have. She wanted to learn more about them so this is how we spent the session. I showed her how Tap Tap See works first and then we talked about the GPS apps. So Shiree could see them in action we went for a short walk. Unfortunately I haven’t used the apps to a great extent and therefore wasn’t able to teach Shiree a lot about them. She assured me though that she learnt a lot in the session though. I promised to explore them further myself so that I can teach her more. Some time soon I plan to have a session with Shiree where she drops me off in an unknown location. My challenge is to use all of my skills and any means I have to find my way back to Kickstart. Being more familiar with the GPS apps will undoubtedly help me with this challenge too. To finish off the day we had a group session.

 

Friday began with swimming. I really enjoyed the time in the pool this week. We were given a choice of either doing thirty nonstop lengths or fifteen lengths with some sort of exercise in between. I chose to complete the fifteen lengths with exercises. I was given exercises both in and out of the pool including star jumps, squats, push ups, leg lifts and more. After everyone had completed their lengths we started on something slightly different. We started on one side of the pool, went over and under the four lain ropes alternately and then did an exercise on each side of the pool. We did ten widths altogether. After that we played a team game before we got out of the pool and got ready for our outing. It meant that people who wanted to work on their lengths could do that while others who would rather do other exercises, me included, were able to do that. We also finished the time off with a fun team activity. I personally think that each session in the pool should be run in the same way so that everyone will be happy. Even though swimming is not my strong suit I was still able to do other exercises which definitely got my heart racing. We had morning tea at Kickstart before we headed off to Cornwall Park. We ate lunch in the park and then went into the Stardome. We watched a short movie about space which was projected onto a large dome-shaped screen on the roof. After that we explored a few of the displays in the Stardome. We also were invited to explore a large telescope. A motor and a clock work together to move the telescope in time with the Earth. The room where the telescope was was particularly interesting because the roof opened up and was also able to rotate around so that it didn’t block the view of the telescope. It was an easy and laid-back outing but it was also enjoyable.

 

I tried to resume my running on the treadmill this week but both times that I tried I felt a pain in my knee. I decided to rest it until next week and try again. I missed running over the holidays and was looking forward to getting back into it this term. I think this was another reason that I enjoyed swimming so much on Friday. I was able to do some good exercise that wasn’t hurting my knee. On Tuesday after I ran for a minute my knee started hurting. I tried to walk after that but I wasn’t able to. When I went to the gym on Wednesday and Thursday I walked on the treadmill though so at least I was still getting some form of exercise.

 

Something exciting that happened this week was that our O&M film was published on Youtube. On Wednesday, which was International White Cane Day, the link to the video was circulated around all of the BLENNZ staff in New Zealand. As well as that, some of us students shared the link among our family and friends. Since Wednesday we have been watching excitedly as the views on Youtube climb. We have received quite a bit of great feedback from the video already. The Blind Foundation has even asked our permission to use the film for their promotion of Blind Week which is coming up later in October. I am so proud of the video and am glad that people are enjoying watching it and learning things from it too. If you would like to watch the film go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REMrpIw_PTo

 

On Saturday I was making lasagne with garlic bread and vegetables for my kitchen’s dinner. I usually make a lasagne without the cheese sauce so that the girl in my kitchen who is lactose intolerant is able to eat it, but this time I decided that I wanted to eat the cheese sauce. I also wanted to practice making the sauce as I have never quite perfected it. The meat sauce went according to plan but when it came to the cheese sauce I made a small mistake. I took it off the stove too soon so that the milk wasn’t hot enough. When I stirred the cheese into the sauce it didn’t melt properly. That meant that the sauce was quite runny although it had very small pieces of cheese in it. I had never made a small lasagne for this girl before so I was hoping it would work out. I used a small pot, layering the meat and lasagne sheets as per usual, only leaving the cheese off the top. I put both lasagnes in the oven at the same time and cooked them for the same time. In the past she has told me that the lasagnes that people make her are often undercooked and the lasagne sheets are still crunchy. In an attempt to avoid that for her I cooked it for the same time, but in the end this wasn’t such a good idea. She said that the lasagne sheets were still slightly crunchy but the meat was dry. I don’t know how to make a decent lasagne for her. I had put both lasagnes side-by-side on the same shelf. I wondered if the lasagne being to one side rather than in the middle is what caused the lasagne sheets in our full-sized one to be slightly crunchy even though I cooked it for the right time. In the end though that cheese sauce on the top worked out okay.

 

This term we are continuing with our individual meals on Sundays. I am glad about this as I really do enjoy being able to cook a meal for myself each Sunday. This week one of the other girls and I went to Countdown and bought enough things to make our meals for the rest of the term. We worked well as a team. We bought a packet of bacon which I paid for for us to share. Then we also bought a couple of potatoes for our meal this week and a packet of spaghetti that we will also share. She paid for those. I cooked the baked potatoes for us this week and she cooked the vegetables. It worked very well and I enjoyed working with her on this.

 

Over the holidays, as I had planned to, I bought myself a new laptop. It is small, thin and light, making it ideal for university. I used the money that I won from the Lady Blundell award last year to purchase the laptop. I am glad to have one already so I can use the time between now and starting university to learn how to use it, especially because I haven’t used Windows in such a long time.

 

Last term I had decided that I would try to live on the flatting budget again this term. I have changed my mind however. If I started it in week 2 I would only be able to live on the budget for two weeks before our trip away in week 4. I don’t want to live on the budget during our trip. In the past I have lived on very tight budgets after paying bills and things that I needed to, for more than two weeks in a row. This is why I think that living on $15 per week for only two weeks would not be a challenge for me and therefore seems kind of pointless. I may try it again after our trip away though so that I can try it for another four weeks.

 

Seeing as this is my last term in the programme there is something that I need to remember. Kickstart will never be able to teach me every single skill that I am going to need in the future when flatting. Kickstart has, however, taught me many basic skills that I can then use as a basis for learning new ones. I will also be able to use what I have learnt at Kickstart to problem solve in the future. Of course, I will also have my family, friends and neighbours around me who I am sure will be more than happy to help me should I need it. When I first came to Kickstart not only did I not have the skills to live independently but I also didn’t have the knowledge or confidence to come up with my own ways of doing things. This is just another reason why I now feel confident to go out flatting independently next year.

 

Until next time.

 

Cass


Term 3 Week 10

As is always the case for the last week of term the main focus has been spring cleaning.

 

After group meeting on Monday I continued the work that I had started over the weekend cleaning the kitchen. I pulled out the oven and the fridge and cleaned in behind both of them. After I had finished that I spent some time with Jude. Jude brought in another one of the things she uses at home for me to try. It was her karcher for cleaning windows. It is almost like a vacuum cleaner. It sucks up any moisture which helps you to get them lovely and clean with no streaks. She told me how to use it and then let me loose. I needed to charge it first but after hours I gave it a go. Before lunch I wrote the morning’s minutes. After lunch I had been given the whole afternoon to work with Kathi to complete my university application however she wasn’t at work on the day. Instead, I used the time to spring clean my room. I managed to achieve the bulk of the cleaning in my room in the time. The last thing that I did for the day was go to the gym. It was my second thirty minute run for the week as I had gone on Saturday too. It went well. That night after hours I continued my work in the kitchen by cleaning the inside of the fridge. I also cleaned my bedroom window using the karcher. At home, Jude tends to use it to dry the condensation off her windows. Consequently, she didn’t really know what would be the best way to use it for cleaning. I decided to clean half of my window with glass cleaner only and then dry it with the karcher. Then I used glass cleaner on the other half before wiping it down with a wet cloth and then finishing it off with the karcher. I asked Jude to check how they looked for me. The window that I had used only glass cleaner on was still streaky whereas the window that I had wiped with a wet cloth afterwards was beautiful. We came to the conclusion that the window needed to be quite wet before the karcher would be effective.

 

I had the entire morning on Tuesday to continue spring cleaning. I am always  grateful at the end of each term to be given so much time put aside for cleaning within timetable time because it seems to take me ages to get everything done. Others in the group never seem to take as long as me so I get frustrated by that at times. Tuesday morning I used the karcher to clean the windows in the kitchen. Jude told me that she often uses detergent to clean her windows, especially when they are quite greasy. I thought that the windows in the kitchen would probably be quite greasy so I followed Jude’s suggestion. First I cleaned the windows with the detergent and then wiped over them with a wet cloth. To finish them off I went over them with the karcher which again removed all the moisture, leaving them lovely and clean. I cleaned the stove and wiped down the top of the extractor fan. I also pulled everything out of the drawers and cupboards in the kitchen before wiping them all out and returning everything to their correct places as much as I could. After lunch I cooked my kitchen’s meal. I had decided to try something new for my last meal for the term. I was making chicken raj (a curry) with couscous. At Kickstart we eat a lot of rice so I wanted to try couscous instead. On top of that, I had eaten the raj before when someone else had cooked it. I had avoided it until now because it was slightly more complicated than the usual meals I make but I wanted a challenge to finish off the term. On top of this, I didn’t have a staff member timetabled to cook with me which was going to make it even more of a challenge for me. I made sure to read through the recipe before I chose it and I was confident that I could do it well. First of all I cut up the onion and capsicum and then the chicken. I fried the chicken with two cinnamon sticks. Then I added the onion, some garlic and ginger and a bay leaf. Before long I also added some chicken stock and herbs before letting it simmer for half an hour. While it was simmering I got to work preparing the couscous. Suzannah read me the instructions from the box. I simply needed to put half a cup of couscous per person into a bowl. Then I covered it with the same amount of boiling water. Then I got to work peeling tomatoes. I had never done this before. I had researched the night before how to do it. I found three suggestions. The first suggestion involved stabbing the tomato with a fork and holding it over a gas flame, the second involved using a knife to go just under the skin. The third method was the one I thought was the easiest, safest and certainly my best bet. I filled a pot with water and brought it to the boil. I used a sharp knife to cut a small X shape in the bottom of each tomato. Once the water was boiling I carefully lowered one tomato at a time into the pot using a slotted spoon. After about twenty seconds in the boiling water I used the slotted spoon to transfer the tomato to a bowl of cold water. The website explained that putting it in the water not only cools the tomato which would make it easier to touch but it also stops the tomato from cooking if it began to in the boiling water. One of the tomatoes was perfect. I was easily able to peel the skin off. The other tomato though wasn’t as easy. I was able to peel half of the skin off but the rest hadn’t come away from the flesh. I had already emptied my pot of boiling water so I boiled the kettle and poured it into a bowl. After the tomato sat in the water for another twenty seconds or so I was able to finish peeling it. Then I chopped the tomato and added it, along with the capsicum and some lemon juice, to the rest of the sauce. After I had peeled the tomatoes Jude told me that she usually only boils the kettle and pours the water over the tomato, rather than boiling it in a pot as I had. I was glad that I had been able to find a way of peeling the tomato independently without needing to ask a staff member or even have them show me how to do it. I was able to follow the instructions from the website myself. Before I served the meal i needed to remove the two cinnamon sticks. I was able to slowly stir the curry with my spoon. When the spoon touched a cinnamon stick I could feel and hear it. Then I scooped them up and removed it. I had also wanted to remove the bay leaf. I didn’t think I would be able to find it in the curry so I had decided to warn my kitchen that they might have one in their meal. Funnily enough though, I found the bay leaf by coincidence when I scooped up one of the cinnamon sticks. Finally, I served up the couscous and put the curry on top. I put the dishes in the dishwasher. Even though I was making a meal I had never cooked before I had managed to get it all finished within the one and a half hours that I had been given. After that I had been timetabled to go to the gym but instead I saw Kathi to finish off my university application. All I needed to do was print some documents out that I had gotten together over the weekend. It didn’t take long but it was a relief to have it done. After hours I went to the gym instead. Originally I had planned to go to the gym on Wednesday but I wanted to make sure I had as much time as I could on Wednesday night to get everything ready as I was flying home on Thursday. I found the gym a little bit of a struggle which I put down to the fact that it had been a busy day. With four hours of cleaning in the morning followed by standing in the kitchen cooking a meal I was pretty tired by 4:00. I still managed to finish the full thirty minutes though and that was my last one for the term! I hope that I will be able to get back into running easily after my two weeks off.

 

Wednesday was finally the day when we were going to premiere our O&M film. We had invited all of the staff and students from the BLENNZ campus. For fun, we had decided to hand out popcorn to our guests. Three of us students along with Jude and Suzannah set to work cooking it. I used a popcorn maker and the others used electric frying pans. After we had filled all of the boxes one other student and I met with Shiree for an hour to get everything prepared for the premiere. We tested the technology in the room to make sure it was going to work. We also moved the tables and chairs around so we could seat as many as we could. By this time we had been told to expect seventy guests to our premiere which was amazing. We returned to Kickstart to have lunch before it was time. Once all of our guests were seated the director of the film and I were asked to say a few words. Originally, I had not been nominated for the role of director. Even though I argued against it, the other director insisted on including my name beside his in the credits of the film because I had taken on so much of the responsibility throughout the term. WE briefly explained what the film was about as well as thanking everyone for coming. Then it played. We got some great feedback after the film. They found it funny and thought it covered some good points. AS the script writer for the film I was very happy about this. I am glad that the project is over now. We have to make one or two very small changes to the film before we can upload it to Youtube, which will hopefully happen early next term. After the premiere we helped to tidy the room up and then returned to Kickstart. I spent the rest of the night packing for the holidays and doing some more bits and pieces in my room and chore.

 

I had some more time on Thursday to finish the final touches before I flew out later that night. In the morning I tidied the pantry, emptied and washed out the recycling bins, cleaned the bench and sink and so on. Then we went to our last session of filming for the term. We filmed the last few scenes that we needed to finalise the film, which will be edited and put together early next term. I wasn’t needed in any of the scenes that we filmed. Afterwards I had the rest of the afternoon to organise myself and get ready to go to the airport. I packed the last-minute things into my suitcase, vacuumed and mopped the kitchen, vacuumed my room, emptied the rubbish bin and made sure everything was turned off in my room. After such a busy term I was definitely looking forward to a fortnight in Melbourne. Leaving for the airport on Thursday was a definite relief after such a busy week cleaning.

 

This week was my last week on the flatting budget. I donated $2 to Loud Shirt Day which was raising money for the deaf. I saved the rest of my week’s budget so I could buy something to eat and a coffee at the airport. Overall I did find the budget quite easy to live on. I felt though that I didn’t truly stick to it. One week I spent $5 more than I had. I gave myself $5 less the next week. I decided that that was quite unrealistic because when I am truly living on a tight budget I won’t be able to borrow from myself like that. Some of the other students from the group are planning to try the budget again next term, so I am thinking of joining them.

 

it has been a great term for me and I honestly can’t believe how fast it has gone. I am simultaneously looking forward to while also dreading my last term in the programme. It will be my last chance to do anything that I want to while at Kickstart. I have been planning lots of things to try which are now in my weekly goals. It is going to be a fun term too, with good outings and experiences in the pipeline. As always, I will continue posting after the holidays.

 

Until next time.

 

Cass

Term 3 Week 9

Week 9 has been another positive and productive week. It is our last full week in the programme for the term.

 

After group session on Monday I had some time to submit and pay for the online shopping order that I had worked on over the weekend and then I wrote the morning’s minutes. Once again, shopping over the weekend went well. I used a combination of Tap Tap See and the audio labels that were put in the pantry earlier in the year to check for existing ingredients. It was particularly useful to see what herbs and spices we already had. Each time I have shopped I have obviously had to buy different things. That means that over the four weeks that I have shopped online now I have bought a huge range of groceries which has allowed me to practice finding new things all the time. At times, as I have mentioned in past entries, it has been tricky to work out exactly which item I need as the written descriptions aren’t always very specific. A basic but excellent thing that happens with online shopping is that it puts the trolly in order. Regardless of the order you select the items it would group everything together as needed. When shopping in store I have always tried to write my shopping list in order to make it easier and quicker to find what we need. If I continue online shopping next term I would like to experiment with faster ways of adding things to my trolly. I have read that you can type a whole list of items into the search box and it will add them all to your trolly instantly. Then, of course, you would have to check them but I am sure that that would be much faster. At this stage I think that in the future I will buy most of my groceries online and then visit the butcher to buy any meat that I struggle to buy online. I will be able to buy things such as mince, sausages and bacon from the supermarket but something like chicken drumsticks or breasts would be easier to get from the butcher. This way I wouldn’t need to estimate the weight of meat that I need. After I submitted the order I checked the confirmation email to make sure everything I had put in my trolly had been confirmed, which it had. This might be a good way for me to ensure that everything I order is delivered, unlike what has happened a couple of times in the past. Most of the rest of Monday I worked on paperwork. I achieved a lot over the day which I was relieved and grateful about. I spent most of the day finishing off my end of term evaluation. Once that was finished, I continued working on my list of equipment that I would like to purchase when I go flatting. I also chose my recipe for next week and started working on my weekly goals for term 4.

 

To begin with on Tuesday I wrote a paragraph for the BLENNZ newsletter about the trikes. While I was working I got a phone call from the lady who was doing our shopping for us. She told me that the milk I had ordered was expiring in four days and wanted to know if I still wanted two bottles as ordered. I thought the fact that she had actually checked the expiry date of the milk and took the time to ring us to make sure we weren’t wasting our money was lovely and I really appreciated it. Then Barbara and I spent an hour together. I had wanted to learn how to clean the ceiling and walls. As far as I can think of these are the only two parts of a house I don’t know how to clean yet. Barbara started off by showing me how to remove cobwebs from the corners of the roof using a broom. I pushed the broom up into the corners and then dragged it along the beams that went around the edge of the kitchen. Barbara also suggested using a vacuum cleaner for this as another option. Using a vacuum cleaner would mean that you wouldn’t need to pull any cobwebs off the broom. Afterwards we talked about how to clean the roof to remove any fly spots or other marks that might be there. The best way that Barbara suggested was to use a mop with some warm water and disinfectant. She explained to me to mop the roof just as you would the floor, which I understood. Of course it is important to make sure the mop is squeezed out properly before starting otherwise it will start dripping on you. Barbara also advised me not to use anything like bleach on the roof as it will damage your clothes if it drips. The other alternative to a mop is standing on a step ladder and wiping the roof with a cloth, but I like the idea of a mop better. It seems easier, safer and faster. Finally, we talked about cleaning the walls. Again, Barbara suggested to use warm water and disinfectant to wipe the walls down with a cloth. Wiping the walls down fairly regularly is a good idea especially in the kitchen as food and grease can splatter. I find these things useful to know, especially for when I am renting and I have an inspection. In my opinion, being aware of these things is important, even for a blind person. After that the groceries were delivered! Before I unpacked them though Jude and I went to the butcher. I wanted rolled pork to roast that afternoon and I hadn’t been able to buy it from Countdown. At the butcher they had a lovely big roll of pork on sale. We asked the butcher to cut it in half for me and to score the skin also. They did both happily. When I returned to Kickstart I unpacked the shopping. Everything I had ordered was delivered this week. I unpacked it mostly all myself although another student helped me to identify the cans and also to label the meat. I liked having time on my timetable to unpack the groceries when they arrive because it can take some time to organise everything. It means that I am not rushing because I am meant to be doing something else. I am always sure to use the time while I wait for the delivery productively. After lunch I started work on my second roast for my goal, the pork. I had decided to buy rolled pork as it meant that it should be easier to carve and I wouldn’t need to worry about a bone. I hadn’t done a pork roast before but I was fairly confident to prepare it all myself after my mum told me how she does it. I preheated the oven to 220 degrees to begin with. Then I boiled the jug and put the pork on a plate in the sink. I poured the boiling water over the pork which apparently helps it to crackle. Then I patted the meat dry with a paper towel before spraying some oil onto it and rubbing salt into the skin. Finally, I put the pork in the oven. I cooked it at 220 degrees for twenty minutes before reducing the temperature to 200 for the rest of the time. I used my iPhone app called Time to Roast to calculate how long to cook the meat. I weighed the meat before I prepared it. The app told me to cook it for one and a half hours. I wasn’t too sure if this would be accurate because there was no bone in it but I decided to cook it for that time and then have someone help me to check it. One hour before it was ready I put the potatoes and carrots in to roast too and then prepared the broccoli. While I waited for the time to start cooking the other vegetables I cut up the broccoli stalk and fed it to the worms. Then I did my dishes that I had used so far. By the time I had finish doing all of that I had just enough time to get everything I needed out for the gravy and to serve the meal and then sit down for a few minutes. Then I put the mixed vegetables on to boil and the broccoli to steam. When everything was ready I took it out of the oven. Suzannah checked it and said it looked perfectly cooked! Then I used a pair of tongs to transfer the meat to a board. I then covered the meat with a clean tea towel to let it rest. I served up the potatoes and carrots and then the mixed veggies and broccoli before starting to work on the gravy. I hadn’t been sure how to make the gravy for the pork but after talking with Barbara we decided to make it the same as I did for the chicken but using vegetable stock instead. It was going to be a bit of an experiment. I made the gravy easily. Then it was time to serve the meat, which was the only part I needed help with. Jude showed me how to remove the crackle first, which had turned out nicely, by using a knife to go just under it. Once that was done Jude also helped me to slice the meat. As you can buy meat, such as beef and lamb, rolled too I will most likely do the same any other time I cook a roast. I used a sharp straight blade knife to slice the meat while holding it in place with a carving fork. Some of the slices were thicker than others but I think I did quite well for a first time. Jude also suggested using an electric knife which I would like to try next time. Eventually the meat and crackle were served onto the plate and everything was ready. I was so excited. After hours I went to the gym. This was my second thirty-minute run for the week. I completed it quite easily. I maintained the same pace throughout the whole run. I am determined to complete every thirty minute run over this week and next without finishing early to prove to myself that I can do it. After the run my roast dinner was very much appreciated. I thought it was delicious. The pork was tender, the vegetables all seemed to be cooked perfectly how I like them, the crackle was amazing and the gravy delicious. The only thing I forgot to bring out was the apple sauce. I was very proud of my efforts though, my kitchen also thoroughly enjoyed the meal and I look forward to my next attempt.

 

I spent most of Wednesday morning helping to get everything ready for our visitors that were coming later that morning. I helped to make real lemonade from lemons from Kathi’s garden, tidy the place up, get our trikes out of the shed and wipe them down. I offered to continue helping rather than baking if I was needed but everything seemed to be set so I decided I would attempt my pavlova again after all. I was confident to do everything with the pavlova except getting it onto the tray in a relatively round shape. Suzannah was around when I needed her but otherwise I set to work myself. I measured the caster sugar into the bowl and set to work separating the eggs. This is where I had an issue. I used the egg separator which I sat inside one cup. My plan was to collect the four egg whites in that cup while I put the yolks in the other cup. I cracked two eggs perfectly, with the whites and yolks separating nicely. When I cracked the third egg though the yolk somehow broke. I didn’t want to start again so I quickly rescued the yolk as best I could. I thought I got most of it in time and didn’t think the slight bit of yolk that was in with the whites would affect it. But turns out I was wrong. After successfully separating my forth and final egg I added the whites to the sugar and began beating. After quite a long time, certainly ten minutes or so, the mixture was not turning into a marshmallow consistency as it should. I continued beating it for a while longer before I gave up. I came to the conclusion that the little bit of yolk that had gotten into the mixture was stopping it from reacting how I needed it to. I was quite upset by this as I had been looking forward to trying the pavlova again. I decided that next time I will separate each egg and add the white to the bowl one at a time. I will separate the first egg and then pour the white into the bowl with the sugar before separating my second one, and so on. That way, if a yolk breaks I can get rid of that one only and won’t have spoiled the other ones that I had already separated. Even though I was disappointed at the time at least I learnt a valuable lesson. After cleaning up the kitchen I quickly got changed ready for our guests. The Halberg Disability Sports Foundation and Harcourts Real-Estate, the two groups who funded our second trike and the modifications to the table tennis table, were coming to Kickstart. When they arrived we had a quick chat with them before getting into it. While some of the group went for a ride on the trikes outside I stayed inside to demonstrate Swish. I had a few hits with most of our guests. The photographer who was there took plenty of photos of us all playing Swish for the Harcourts newsletter. I really enjoyed the time; teaching them the very basics of Swish and getting to thank them for donating money. After they left we ate lunch and then I worked with Suzannah. We wrote an email to each of the destinations we visited while in Rotorua a fortnight ago to thank them for having us. We finished the job slightly early so I joined another student (our director for the O&M film) and Shiree for half an hour. We caught up to show her the film that is now ready for its premiere. She really liked the film and suggested two very small changes that he is going to do ready for next week. Then I went to the gym again. Originally I had planned to visit the gym on Thursday but I had been invited out for dinner. I didn’t want to risk missing out on the gym and consequently messing up my plans to finish in time for the holidays so I decided to go two days in a row instead. I had been a little worried about running twice in two days but it turned out to be quite easy. I completed it again without changing my pace throughout the thirty minutes. After running on Wednesday I got a message on my phone saying that I had completed the app and congratulations for reaching my target of thirty minutes running. I took a screen shot. I had thought that it was a ten week programme but it told me I had completed it after finishing week 9. I still plan to run for thirty minutes for three days of week 10 anyway. I also intend to continue visiting the gym regularly next term, at least twice a week, to keep running. I might also start doing other things too to make sure that my hard work this term is not wasted.

 

I had been given Thursday morning to cook my kitchen’s meal for Saturday. I have chosen another slow cooker meal this week as I find them nice and easy to do on a weekend. As a result, I decided to leave the cooking until the weekend. I used the time to start writing this evaluation instead. After that we went to filming. We filmed a couple more of my scenes this week, which I was expecting and had dressed up for as needed. One thing that I struggled with slightly this week was trying to act natural while performing some visual things. For example, I needed to nod my head along to the beat of a song during a contestant’s performance. As a blind person, I didn’t really know how people would nod along to a song, as I have never seen them do this before. I felt quite awkward doing it in front of the camera although I was reassured that I did a good job. After returning to Kickstart and lunch I was timetabled to help the other girl from my kitchen with her meal. She was making my family bacon and egg pie recipe that I had typed up for her. While I was in the kitchen another student from the other kitchen was also cooking and he asked for my help too. I went between both of these students and was having a ball doing so. I helped one by finding the dish we wanted for the pie and cleaning it while she took the rind off the bacon. I also helped her by explaining how to best put the pastry into the dish, how to cut it down to the right size and assuring her that she was ready to put it in the oven. At the same time, I helped the other student to find some of his ingredients that he couldn’t find, checking the recipe for him while he cooked and chopped up some of the ingredients as there were a lot of them for his soup. I really enjoyed the challenge of helping two people at once. I think I managed to juggle them both well and I hope that I explained myself well. They both seemed appreciative of my help. I suspect that I will be able to finish the last of my goals off quite easily next term. Jude said to me that I might end up acting almost like a staff member, helping others in the group to complete their goals. I hope that happens; it will be a nice way to finish my time in the programme. After our group session I finished helping the first student to serve the pie, the second to finish off his meal and a third student to add her recipe for next week into the iPad. Then I wrote the minutes from the group meeting. By this time my plans to go out for dinner had been cancelled but all in all, after being so busy after hours, I was glad that I had decided to go to the gym the day before anyway.

 

Friday began with swimming again. Then we were a part of a book launch here on campus. This book has been written by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Blind Foundation and BLENNZ in collaboration. It was written to help parens of newly diagnosed blind or vision impaired children. It was nice to be a part of launching a book that I am sure will become a great resource. They have made particular effort to make sure that the book has been produced in accessible formats including electronic so I intend to get my hands on a copy to read some time soon. After that we returned to Kickstart for lunch. There had been a bit of a glitch with our original plans for self defence. We were going to go for our second session following up from last week but there had been a misunderstanding with the dates. We decided that we will make up our second session some time next term. Instead, we stayed at Kickstart and did some self defence with Suzannah, who has taken classes for a couple of years. We talked about some important concepts around self defence and did some practical exercises too. I enjoyed the session a lot. Suzannah did an excellent job at explaining the concepts. She demonstrated them well, was able to relate them to us and made the session fun and interesting. I did not feel uncomfortable in this session at all. We finished the day slightly early although I decided to work on finishing this entry and my weekly goals for next term. This way I could fully concentrate on spring cleaning over the weekend, our last one before the holidays.

 

Last Sunday I went to the gym and completed my first thirty minute run. I felt so elated after it, amazed that I had completed my goal. By that time it didn’t seem too much of a jump from the runs I had been doing in the previous weeks.

 

This was the third week for me on my flatting budget. I spent some money on a small pack of lollies at the dairy so I could get cash out and on lunch and a coffee at the cafe at filming. I am looking forward to my last week on the budget.

 

I often think how glad I am that we have a cat at Kickstart. For me, an animal lover, I don’t think this place could be the same without Smooch. I love looking after her. As I have said ever since my very first day of the programme I don’t mind paying for her vet visits or stays at the cattery during the holidays. In fact, I think it is good for us students to have her as our responsibility because it prepares us for having pets in the future. Because she is so affectionate she is comforting in those times when you feel down. I know I am not just speaking for myself here either. In addition to that, Smooch seems to love company most of the time. I know that I love having her around me while I work and therefore love her company in return. She is such a sweet cat. I think she is the perfect pet to have here – she will adopt anyone who looks after her, perfect considering new students are coming and going every year. I know that I am going to miss her heaps next year and I hope that someone takes good care of her next year for me.

 

Something Jude mentioned earlier in the year has stuck with me ever since. She talked about the idea of the flatting spirit. It is all about going out of your way to help contribute to the smooth running of the flat. It could be anything from doing a job that is not part of your chore because it simply needs doing, helping a flatmate with something, lending something to someone, washing dishes that aren’t necessarily your responsibility, covering food that you find on the bench, the list goes on. Although I don’t go out of my way to find something that I can do, I try to do at least one thing most days under the flatting spirit. Most weekends I clean the vegetables out of the fridges and feed the worms and most nights before I go to bed I check that all the lights we don’t need are off. But I try to do something else on top of these as well. I understand that we are not perfect and may not always do what we need to. If everyone followed the flatting spirit we could all help each other out and make this place run a little more smoothly at times.

 

Until next time.

 

Cass


Term 3 Week 8

This week has been busy and productive although tiring at the same time.

 

after group session on Monday I had some time to write the minutes. Then I baked my second dessert for my goal. I was making pavlova. Since being at Kickstart I have learnt how to make two out of three of my absolute favourite desserts, them being apple crumble and chocolate mousse. Pavlova is my other favourite so I had been looking forward to being able to make it. I separated the eggs and poured the four whites into a bowl before measuring the caster sugar in with it. Then I started beating it. The mixture didn’t go as expected. However I ignored that and persisted anyway. After I mixed the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla essence together into a paste I added it to the egg mixture and continued beating it. When I thought it was ready I poured it onto the tray and put it in the oven. It was only then that I realised my huge mistake. I had managed to accidentally measure corn flour in with the egg whites rather than the caster sugar. I couldn’t believe it. As I had been working so many things didn’t seem right to me but I continued anyway in the hope that it would turn out in the end. It was only when I tasted a bit of the mixture that I realised what had happened. All of a sudden everything else made perfect sense. I was horrified! I rescued the sad-looking pavlova from the oven and through it out. By this time I only had half an hour left to bake. I contemplated giving up for the day and trying another time. I decided against it though because I had specifically requested this time with supervision so I could work towards achieving my goal. After all, making the mixture doesn’t take long. The time consuming part of the pavlova is cooking it and letting it cool. Suzannah helped me by relining the tray with baking paper and washing and drying some of the things I had put in the sink because I thought I didn’t need them again. I measured the caster sugar, for real this time, with the egg whites again and set to beating them. This time, funnily enough, the mixture turned out as expected. After ten minutes or so of beating it was forming stiff peaks. Then I made the paste up again using the corn flour, vinegar and vanilla essence and added it before beating it for another four minutes or so. This time the mixture looked like marshmallow. The recipe said to trace a twenty centimetre circle onto the baking paper and then spoon the mixture inside it. Obviously that wasn’t going to work for me so I came up with an alternative. I used just the outside of a twenty centimetre spring form cake tin. I placed it on top of the baking paper and spooned the mixture inside it. Once I had finished with it I simply took away the outside of the cake tin. It worked fairly well but the mixture was so stiff and thick that in the end I didn’t really need the cake tin to help me make it into a circle because it didn’t move anywhere by itself. One of the other girls helped me from time to time with the pavlova as she is the expert at it. She told me that you need to pile the mixture high to make sure that it has marshmallow inside and doesn’t end up like a flat meringue. It was thick enough that it was easily sitting up high although it was not round. Suzannah helped me to make it as round as we could before I put it in the oven. I find it interesting how you preheat the oven to 180 degrees but then turn it down to 100 when you put the pavlova in. After the pavlova has been in the oven for an hour you turn the oven off but cannot open it until it has cooled. One weekend last year I helped the other student to make a pavlova although she did most of the work. I think though that that small bit of previous experience was useful. I couldn’t believe how I had made such a stupid mistake to begin with. Although I was extremely embarrassed about it at the time I find it funny now and am glad that I still made the pavlova. I left it in the oven for about three hours while I did other things over the afternoon. After lunch I worked with Suzannah on removing stains from fabric. This is another part of my clothes and linen goal. The brand Sard was highly recommended to me as a great choice for removing stains. So to begin with we looked at Sard spray. I tested it on a tea towel that we found that had a stain on it. I wet it in slightly warm water. After ringing it out I sprayed all over the tea towel. I rubbed the tea towel together to make sure I had covered it and to help it to soak in. After a minute I rinsed it off again and put it in the wash. We also talked about the alternatives to spray that Sard offers. One is a bar of soap. It is similar. After you wet the fabric you rub the soap on the stain and again rub the fabric together. Suzannah warned me against washing something you have covered in Sard spray or soap with other clothes unless you rinsed it off first. Otherwise it could take colour out of the other things in the wash. Kathi brought in a bar of soap for me to try so I am going to do that next week. With both the spray and the bar of soap I will most likely find it difficult to remove the stain as they are targeted to the stained area. I could use them if I know where the stain is or if someone points it out to me. I will probably keep either the spray or soap in my cupboard for those times. The other alternative that I like the sound of is the powder. With this you would dissolve it again in slightly warm water before soaking the item of clothing for several hours. That way I don’t need to know where the stain is. After this session I worked on my end of term evaluation before having  a session with Jude. Earlier in the year I learnt how to polish my leather boots. I had wanted to have another session with supervision just to make sure I remembered how to do it correctly. So in this session Jude watched me as I did it. I remembered it well from last time. I used a brush to put the nugget on, a clean brush to take it off and then a soft cloth to wipe them over, especially the bottom of the boot. I also made sure to work on a large piece of brown paper, although newspaper would work well too, which I folded up at the end to get rid of the mess. I was glad to have this time with Jude. I am confident now that I can polish my shoes independently. After that I went to the gym. This week I am running continually for twenty-eight minutes. On Monday after running I felt amazing. I felt energised, not too tired or sore and very happy and excited. I worried that I hadn’t been running fast enough because I had completed the run so easily. I wasn’t too worried though because at least I ran for the whole time. My heart rate still got up and I was still hot so I knew it had done something. After the gym I finally took my pavlova out of the oven. It looked excellent. It had some bits sticking out of the top though. The other student suggested using a spatula rather than a spoon next time to manipulate the mixture so that it might come out a bit more flat on the top. It was round though. I cut it into six wedges to share among the students which was quite challenging. The shell on the outside crumbled and broke when I started to cut it. I cut it just like a normal cake, pointing the knife into the centre and pulling it down to make the wedges. The pavlova had lovely soft marshmallow inside as hoped. I whipped up some cream and cut up some strawberries and kiwi fruit to have with it. I had never peeled or cut up kiwi fruit before so I was happy Jude was there to show me. I tried peeling the first one with a peeler because I thought that would be easier but it made the fruit squishy. Jude suggested using a knife to peel it instead which I had never done before. She showed me how to put the blade between the flesh and the skin and carefully wiggle it. At first I was taking a bit too much flesh off but I improved as I went. Hopefully with more practice I will improve this skill over time. Then Jude showed me which way to slice the kiwi fruit so that it looked nice. Finally, I invited everyone to come and take some pavlova, cream and fruit if they wished. Everyone said it was great and I agreed. I look forward to continue working on the pavlova and hopefully perfecting it independently in the not too distant future.

 

On Tuesday morning Suzannah took me to Manukau to practice uncontrolled crossings in an unfamiliar area. The roads there were wider, busier and the traffic was moving faster. I was ready for the challenge. I crossed quite a few streets in the time, each one slightly different. One street in particular that I crossed had an island in the middle. I hadn’t crossed a street like that independently before. I always had to be alert to make sure I was safe. We were out there for about one and half hours and by the end of it I was getting slightly tired. When we got back to Kickstart I worked on my end of term evaluation. Then I had a session with Jude. In the afternoon I cooked my roast chicken independently. I had been looking forward to this moment, really, since I first came to Kickstart. It all went very well. I rinsed and dried the chicken before rubbing lemon, salt and pepper into the skin and putting the lemon wedges inside the cavity. Once it was in the oven I prepared the vegetables. Once the vegetables were in the oven too I prepared the broccoli and ate lunch as I hadn’t had time to eat before I started cooking. Once I had finished I cut up some food for the worm farm and then did my dishes. I had just enough time to boil the broccoli (I didn’t have enough space in the tray to roast it) and then get everything out that I need to make the gravy and serve the meal. I managed to serve up the vegetables and then move the chicken to another board to cool down while I made the gravy. The gravy went well too, I was able to make it, pour it into the sieve, strain it and then pour it into the jug all easily without any trouble. Then I served up the chicken and finished off by doing the remainder of my dishes. That night the meal was delicious. I was happy with it all, including the gravy. I was so proud that I had finally managed to make an entire roast meal completely independently. This time, everything went according to plan. I had everything ready in time, I was never rushing and I didn’t have many dishes. It was for these reasons that people who I talked to before starting to learn how to roast enjoyed cooking them so much. Each time so far when I had cooked a roast it had gone smoothly but this time just seemed better for some reason. The appeal of cooking roasts has well and truly been proven to me.

 

I made a few slight changes to my timetable on Wednesday. Instead of cooking my Saturday’s meal in the morning I worked solidly on my end of term evaluation, choosing instead to cook my meal on Saturday as it is a slow cooker one. After morning tea instead of having a session with Barbara I worked on this entry because Barbara wasn’t at work. Before lunch I chose my recipes for next week. After lunch I went to waiata where we started learning a new song. Finally, to finish off the day I went to the gym instead of working on my end of term evaluation. I ran for twenty-eight minutes for a second time. Again I found it quite easy and am determined now to complete the thirty minutes this term. I only need to be able to run for an extra two minutes now and I have two weeks of the programme left. I have worked out that I need to go to the gym every second day without fail to ensure that I can finish the programme before I fly home at the end of the term. Even though the programme gives me two days off between weeks I won’t be able to stick to that otherwise I will run out of time.

 

I had forty-five minutes with Kathi on Thursday morning. We used the time to complete my scholarship application through VTAC. I had prepared the answers that I needed to put into the application two weeks ago. Kathi checked them, thought they sounded good and completed the application with me. I think that now I only need one more session, which I have requested for the last week of term, to check and finalise my application. After the session I worked on this entry and then I went to filming. This week we didn’t work on anymore of my scenes but we did film quite a few others. I can see that it is slowly coming together. We only have two more sessions until the end of the term now. I know that we will be filming some more of me next week. After filming Suzannah, Cameron and I went to the SPCA to hand in the money that we raised a fortnight ago from selling cupcakes. When we were there we were given the chance to go and see the animals. We saw dogs, cats, rabbits and a guinea pig. I liked being able to talk to them but at the same time it made me sad to see them there. Thankfully though they are all in good hands now. After that we came back to Kickstart for a group session to finish the day.

 

Friday was a fairly busy day. We started off with forty-five minutes in the pool. Then once we were all ready we set off for the first part of our outing. We went to a house which has a cave in the backyard. The owner of the property took us down into the cave and explained a little bit about it. He explained how the cave was formed from the lava and also about other caves that are in the same area of Auckland. We ventured into the cave a little further and then sang a couple of songs to test out the acoustics. The cave was really cool and the man who took us down into it was lovely. After that we went to St Luke’s Mall where we had lunch and a quick explore. Finally, it was time for the third and final part of the outing. We went for a session of self defence. We learnt about the best areas to target if you need to defend yourself and the best ways to do so. The session went for one and a half hours and we have a second session of it next week. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy the session. In the past when I have done self defence we were practicing on a dummy rather than a person or pads. I preferred the dummy. I also found the session was quite rushed, although I understand that our instructor was trying to give us as much information as he could in a short session. Finally, I always find in self defence classes that I am taught different things and each person seems to go against the methods I have been  taught previously, which I find frustrating. The instructor told us that next week’s session will be, to use his words, “less violent,” so I look forward to seeing what we cover next week. After we got back to Kickstart I went to the gym for my third run for the week. It was supposed to be for another twenty-eight minutes but again I flaked out after twenty. It had been a fairly busy and tiring week, with a couple of late nights. It had also been a long day and of course we had been swimming in the morning. With all that in mind I wasn’t too worried about stopping early, although I was still slightly disappointed. I am not worried though that it is detrimental to my goal as I have completed both runs earlier this week easily and am confident I can continue my running despite finishing this session early. By Friday night I was definitely glad that it was the weekend.

 

I had the idea of getting a card and gift for Jude’s husband after he modified the table tennis table for us. Every one of the students put in as much money as they wanted. Then I picked up a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates as well as a card and a gift bag for the wine. I wrapped the chocolates and wrote a message for the card. I asked Suzannah to write the message in the card for me before I got all the students to sign it. We gave the gift to Jude to take home on Friday. She was quite touched by it. Jude said that he had been fixing and building things for Kickstart for the whole time Jude has worked here. Each time the students say thank you, which Jude says is enough, but we were the first group who has ever given him a gift. I really wanted to do something for him though. Not only has he made our Swish table, which we all love, but he also put together our two trikes and done a number of other little jobs for us throughout the year. I hope that he enjoys the gift. I am very grateful to all the students who contributed money so that my idea could happen and to Suzannah who helped me get everything together.

 

This was my second week of my flatting budget. I spent a little bit of money  on an ice cream and the rest I put towards the gift for Jude’s husband. Last week I found the flatting budget quite easy but this week I found it more challenging, most likely because I had spent all my week’s money early on. It has been a good opportunity to experience what it will be like when I go flatting.

 

Since Jude brought in her steam mop for me to trial I have used it a couple more times. I definitely still like the fact that it doesn’t leave the floor very wet but I don’t like having to hold the trigger on while you mop. I have only used it in small areas so far, such as a bathroom and the kitchen, but I think that if I need to mop a larger area, such as the lounge and dining room, my hand will be quite sore afterwards. At this stage I am still undecided if I would bother to buy one in the future although I have definitely appreciated the chance to trial one.

 

Until next time.

 

Cass


Term 3 Week 7

This week was another excellent one, as is proven by the length of this entry. We are already turning our focuses to the end of the term with talk of end of term evaluations, weekly goals for term 4, spring cleaning and the end of year trip doing the rounds.

 

On Monday we were treated to a late start because we were going out that night. I was able to do the shopping online for the whole group again which meant that we didn’t need to head down to the supermarket on Monday. This time I did the whole shopping independently. Over the weekend after my lists were written and I had checked the kitchens for existing ingredients I added everything to my trolly. I used the app Tap Tap See that I recently discovered when checking what things we had in the kitchens already. It was so useful and it made me feel even more independent because I didn’t need to check what things were with someone’s help. This is, after all, what I would be doing in my own flat. I found shopping quite easy this time. It seemed as though I was shopping much faster and was easily able to find the products. I was able to work out without hassle when it was best for me to search for an item and the times when it was best for me to browse the aisles. Before long everything was in my trolly and I had checked my list a couple of times. I liked doing it all for myself as it was more realistic and a great way to practice further. When Jude arrived at work we paid for the groceries and requested for them to be delivered on Tuesday morning as always. The staff arrived at around 1:00. When the day started I started writing a list of the equipment that I would like to purchase for flatting. I focused mainly so far on kitchen utensils and appliances, for example an electric frying pan, microwave rice cooker and serving utensils including tongs, spatula, serving spoons etc. I hope to continue working on my list next week to make it as complete as I can. Writing a list like this while at Kickstart allowed me to check the kitchens here to remind myself of the useful bits and pieces that I use here and would like in my own flat. Then I moved on to start writing my end of term evaluation. I can’t believe it is already that time of the term. Then I got changed and ready to go out. We drove into town where we had dinner at a food court. I bought sushi and a fresh juice, both were delicious. Then we walked to the Town Hall. We were going to see a chamber music concert called Rhythm and Resonance. The concert was being audio described and we were also invited to a touch tour before the concert began. We met the two percussionists up on stage. They went around and played each of the instruments and described them for us. Then we all got to do a round of the stage to touch and play the instruments ourselves. I saw a couple of symbols, a triangle, a xylophone, several drums including a snare, timpani and bass and a tam tam (or gong.) Unfortunately there was one instrument that I missed out on seeing that I really wanted to. It was the vibraphone but I had a lot of fun regardless. Then we were all given our headsets for the audio description. We were also given a Braille programme. I had already read the programme before the show as it had been emailed to us in advance but I still thought having it Brailled was a lovely gesture. Then we listened to a introductory talk. The two pianists from the show had a chat about their backgrounds and the show that we were going to see. Finally it was time for the show to start. I loved it. Before the interval we heard some Mozart and some Ravel. The Mozart was written for two pianos and the Ravel for two marimbas. I loved both performances. After the interval both pianists and percussionists were on stage altogether to perform Bartok and Lutoslawski. I loved every piece that was played. The musicians were amazingly talented. The audio description and touch tour prior to the concert was also excellent and certainly enhanced the concert for me. I was able to picture what the instruments looked like, where they were on stage, what the musicians were wearing and the general set up of the stage including colours and lighting. I couldn’t believe how fast the concert seemed to be over. Before I knew it it was the interval and then it was the end within what felt like only minutes. I truly believe that having the added level to the concert through the audio description and touch tour made for this. I had never been to a live show with audio description before, in fact I have only ever downloaded audio described movies. I was interested to see how it worked. We were each given a receiver and a single earpiece. When the lady who was describing did not talk during the pieces the receivers turned themselves off. Luckily however a lady showed us how to turn them back on again before the concert started. At one point I accidentally turned the receiver to the wrong channel but I was able to find the right channel again easily. We knew to turn our receivers back on again when the applause started so that we could hear a description of the changes that were happening on stage between pieces. One example of something that I would have missed out on completely without the audio description was the fact that both percussionists had two mallets in each hand during Ravel’s piece. Knowing this I was able to further appreciate the complexity of the music I was listening to. I look forward to being able to attend more audio described shows in the future and also movies at the cinema as I truly believe it allows us to understand so much more about what is happening that we have been unaware of until now.

 

Tuesday was a strange cross between being very busy and having a lot of time. In the morning I had been given two hours to cook my meal for the day however the groceries hadn’t arrived yet. Instead I used my time productively. I organised my outfit for our final session of filming for our O&M film, chose my menus for next week, tidied my room, started this evaluation and worked on my Vision Australia Bursary application. As soon as it was morning tea the groceries arrived which I thought was perfect timing. I made a milo and set to work unpacking them. I did most of this independently too. I knew what just about everything was although I confused one product for another once or twice. For the sake of saving time I checked with Suzannah what the cans were and what some of the packets of baking ingredients were. If Suzannah wasn’t around or if I had slightly more time I would have used Tap Tap See again for this. Suzannah also helped me with the meat, identifying what it all was and labelling it. This week I had been confident that I had ordered enough chicken for the people who needed it however I turned out to be wrong. I needed ten breasts but I only got seven. Other than that though the meat was all fine. I also noticed that two of the products that I had ordered were not delivered. They were also not included in the confirmation email that I received as soon as we placed our order which meant that they didn’t even go through. I know for a fact though that they were both in the trolly when I placed the order. I checked the trolly to make sure there were no notes about products being unavailable and I didn’t see anything. Unless I missed them, I can’t understand why they weren’t delivered. It is something that I would like to look into further so that I know what to look out for in the future to make sure all of my groceries are delivered. Something interesting that happened this week though was that the “allow substitutions” option was used. Each week I check this option when placing the order. It allows the person who is shopping for us to choose a similar product to one we ordered if it is not in stock at the time. There are a number of policies around this that I have read about. If the original item you ordered is not available the shopper will try their best to choose a similar item that is of equal or better quality. If the price of this product is lower than the that of the original one you ordered you will be charged the lower value. If it is more expensive than what you ordered will you only be charged the value of what you ordered. This week I ordered one large bottle of detergent but we were delivered two smaller bottles. Even though it is only a small thing different I thought it was interesting. If I hadn’t have allowed substitutions we most likely wouldn’t have gotten any detergent at all as the size we ordered was not available. Something else that I do like about online shopping though is that you still get stamps for promotions that Countdown is running. For example, at the moment you get one stamp for every $20 that you spend. When you have enough stamps collected you can get 50% off Jamie Oliver cookware. Even when you order online you still get these stamps, which at first I was surprised about. This week we also got a sample packet of Milo and a sample pack of teabags which was lovely. I was glad that I did most of the shopping independently right the way from collecting everyone’s recipes, writing the lists, checking the kitchens, choosing the products, placing the order, carrying the products from the lift (where the delivery man put them) to the table and unpacking them, all apart from the little bit of help that Suzannah gave me at the end. It was another fun shopping experience and I have offered to continue doing it because I love it so much. After all the groceries were put away I cooked my meal for the day seeing as I hadn’t had a chance to do so earlier. I was making savoury sausage pinwheels which was something I had never made before. I mixed together the sausage meat, onion and sauces and spread the mixture out as evenly as I could over two sheets of puff pastry. Then I rolled them up. When I started to slice it up the knife was tearing the pastry and making it unroll. Then one of the students who has made this meal before got home. I called on him for his help. He suggested using a small serrated knife and gently slicing the pastry, which worked. He also helped me to roll up the second sheet of pastry and sausage meat better than the first. He suggested folding each side of the pastry in and then rolling it which definitely helped keep it together. Once they were all sliced up I placed them on a tray and baked them for twenty minutes. When they were finished I used a spatula to go under each one to make sure they didn’t stick before leaving them in the tray to cool. By then it was lunchtime so I decided to make the potatoes and vegetables for the rest of the meal after hours, which I was more than happy to do. After lunch I had some time to work on my end of term evaluation again. To finish off the day I was going to be working with Kathi however she was not at work. Instead, Jude offered to help me iron the shirt that I had been planning to wear for our last session of filming. When I last washed that particular shirt I had hung it on a clothes hanger to dry in the hope that I wouldn’t need to iron it but it still had creases in it. I didn’t mind needing to iron though as it was one step in my action plan for my clothes and linen care goal that I said I would do if appropriate. I set up the ironing board myself although Jude later showed me how to adjust the height. Jude showed me how to use the iron, especially how to spray, adjust the temperature and how to put it down when needed. When I wasn’t using the iron I would place it laying down on the tray on the end of the ironing board. Then Jude showed me how to put the shirt on the end of the ironing board so that the corner was sticking out of the neck. That way the shirt would be held in place and not move and it would also mean that I didn’t have to iron the buttons. Jude explained to me that if I had have simply lay the shirt out and ironed it the imprint of the buttons would have been ironed into the back of the shirt. That was definitely something worth noting. We talked about the pros and cons of placing a cloth over of the shirt to protect it and I liked that idea. I didn’t want to ruin the shirt if the iron was too hot. I placed a tea towel over it and started to iron it. We checked it to see if it was working and decided that the iron needed to be slightly hotter. Jude also suggested that I slightly wet the tea towel as the steam will help the creases come out easier. She also suggested that I start off with the iron quite cool and then gradually increase the heat if needed. That will prevent me for ruining my clothes in case I have it too hot to start with. Eventually the creases started to disappear. I would iron a section before twisting the shirt around and ironing the next part. I covered the shirt by stroking with the iron left to right and back again and then up and down and back again. I had to be careful of some parts of the shirt including the buttons and the sleeves which are frilly and couldn’t be ironed. I was very cautious of my left hand while I was ironing. Eventually the shirt was looking excellent except for the back. I focused on the creases a bit more before I was finally happy with it. I turned the iron off and let it cool completely before wrapping the chord around it and putting it back in the cupboard. Jude told me that the chord of the iron is coated in a special material that will stop it from melting, rather than the normal chord coating which would melt very easily. She did warn me though that the chord would melt eventually anyway but it is a good safety measure in case you accidentally place the iron down on the chord. Then I collapsed the ironing board and put my shirt hanging lovely in my wardrobe. After hours I went to the gym. This whole week contains unbroken twenty-five minute runs. On Tuesday I struggled. I had a couple of ideas why, mainly because I was feeling tired anyway, because I hadn’t eaten much during the day, because I had started running quite fast in the first five minutes which probably exhausted me way too early, because it was quite warm in the gym and because I had ran for twenty-five minutes only on Saturday. It was most likely a combination of all of these. I ran for twenty minutes before I had to walk. I was a little ashamed of that because until then I hadn’t had to stop running early. However then I was even more determined to run solidly the next time I visited the gym. After the gym I prepared the rest of my dinner as planned. It was quite delicious. I had boiled potatoes and stir-fried vegetables which consisted of broccoli, red capsicum and mushrooms with the pinwheels. Everything turned out very nicely and I was definitely happy with the pinwheels.

 

I started Wednesday morning by researching some activities that we could do on our end of year trip. I found about six, some in Wellington and some in Christchurch. I emailed them to Jude and then I continued working on my end of term evaluation. After morning tea I spent time with Jude. Although we didn’t achieve too much in the session we did tick off my weekly goals so far and put some things into my timetable for next week. After lunch was our final O&M group session in which we filmed our last four scenes for the film. We had planned to work with one of the staff members from BLENNZ but he was not on campus at the time. He had said he would be back later in the afternoon though. Originally we had planned to wait for him but then Shiree saw a student nurse who is hanging around BLENNZ for a fortnight or so. He was more than happy to help us out so we filmed all four scenes with him. He did very well, especially considering he didn’t know any of us, didn’t know how to guide properly and hadn’t even heard of our project before then let alone seen the script. Luckily though I had read through the scenes that we were filming that day a few times before the session so I was able to remember what we needed from him. They all went well and we definitely appreciated his time. To finish off the day I helped our editor for the film start working on some of the scenes.

 

Thursday morning I had been asked to help one of the first year students to cook a meal for her kitchen. I was excited by the challenge and happy that the staff felt comfortable enough in me to ask me to help her with no other staff around. Thankfully she had chosen a meal that she had cooked before. I read through the recipe myself in advance and thought about how I would follow the steps in the method safely as a blind person. Thankfully she had peeled and cut up the potatoes and onion the day before and had them ready in the fridge. As she chopped up the chicken breasts I found her one of her ingredients using Tap Tap See. She was fine to start cooking the meal herself although I told her to ask me if she needed any help. I didn’t want to be overbearing so I sat on the couch until she needed me. The recipe needed six cups of boiling water to be added. She started off by finding a cup measurement until I stopped her. I pointed out that pouring boiling water into a cup measurement would be very difficult and unsafe, not to mention trying to carry the cup over to the pan. I explained to her that six cups of water is 1.5 litres. So I told her that I would use a 2 litre jug instead. She agreed that that would be a much easier and safer method. She boiled the kettle and poured it into the jug. At the time neither of us could think of a way that she could judge when the jug was three quarters full. I used my finger to very carefully feel where the water was up to. After she had made the meal I thought about this some more. Next time, I probably would suggest that she use a cup to measure six cups of cold water into a microwaveable jug, before heating it in the microwave. Then she poured the water into the frying pan. As she was pouring she accidentally tipped some of the water onto her feet. Thankfully by then it wasn’t hot enough to burn her but it did give her a fright. I suggested that she rest the jug on the side of the frying pan and tip it up carefully. That worked for her. Then we had ran out of time. I hope that I taught her a tip or two that she will be able to use in the future when cooking. After that I quickly got changed ready for filming. This week we filmed the judges for the talent show, which was my scenes. We made up our lines as we went and I think they sounded cool. I hope I did a good job acting too. I think that I won’t need to be filmed any more now but I will be sure to wear the same outfit for the rest of the term just in case. I had been given time on Thursday afternoon to bake a dessert independently. At this stage of my goal I didn’t have any desserts that I was ready to cook independently. Instead, I decided to cook pancakes. I had cooked them three or so times so far this year, each time with Barbara’s supervision. After the last time I had felt confident enough to try them independently. Jude had bought a new frying pan as the one we had previously had buckled slightly and wasn’t allowing for evenly cooked pancakes. During lunchtime I made up the batter so that it could sit in the fridge for half an hour before I cooked it. Then I got out everything that I needed which was a spatula, a plate, a measuring cup, a bread and butter plate and a butter knife and the frying pan. After lunch was over I got out an apron, a rag which I wet so I could wipe my hands on it, the batter and the butter. I started heating the frying pan on the stove. Once I thought it was hot enough I put some butter in it and moved the frying pan around to spread the butter out. Then I filled the measuring cup to halfway and tipped the batter into the frying pan. I was confident in judging when it was ready to be flipped as the top of the pancake would feel kind of rubbery. I managed to flip them all well and only had one that didn’t quite flip properly. I was very happy with that. I was pretty confident about judging when the pancake was ready to come out of the pan too, although one looked a little burned. The edges were crispy which is how I like them. In between each pancake I put a little bit more butter in the pan and spread it around again. In hindsight though I didn’t need as much butter. The pancakes were quite buttery in the end. I had been a little paranoid about not having enough butter in the pan and making them stick and burn so I had gone a little too far the other way. Next time though I will know to put a little less in. I was very happy with the pancakes. I thought they tasted nice and most of them seemed to be cooked perfectly to me. I was so happy that I am now able to cook them independently and confidently. We finished off the afternoon with a group session and then I went to the gym. I ran continually for twenty-five minutes again and this time I was able to complete it. I was very happy and relieved about that.

 

Friday was a long day but a good one. We left Kickstart at 7:00. We went to St John to do a first aid course. I had done my first aid certificate in 2012 but I had forgotten so much of it. In fact ever since I got my certificate I had always wanted to revise the curriculum. I had really been looking forward to going over it again with St John. As expected, I remembered a lot of what we covered but a lot of it I had forgotten. I feel a lot more confident now that I would know what to do in a situation if it arose. Even since I did the course a few of the things had changed which surprised me. I liked that the course was mostly practical with a discussion about each of the topics. The lady who took the course was a lot of fun, interesting and a good laugh. She made it easy to stay focused in the course which was important as it was a long day full of information. After lunch time I started to feel a little tired but the day still went very quickly. One part in particular that I appreciated was the chance to feel and learn to use an EpiPen and the new equivalent, an Anapen. I had never seen either of those before and therefore would never know what to look for if I needed to find one in someone’s bag for them. We finished the day at 5:00 and drove back to Kickstart, arriving just before 6:00.

 

On Saturday I went to the gym again to complete week 7’s third run. It was for another twenty-five minutes and I completed it easily again which was another relief.

 

On Sunday Jude and her husband brought in the Swish table for Kickstart. It is a table tennis table that they have modified for us. I love it! I was so excited to finally be able to teach the sport properly to the other students. I have played a couple of games on it already. I hope that this is just the first step towards introducing the sport to New Zealand.

 

I started my flatting budget on the Saturday after Rotorua. The reason I started on a Saturday is so that I can live on the budget for exactly four weeks. If I waited until Monday to start then I would have only lived on the budget for four weeks and three weekends before the holidays would start. I wanted to make sure that I did it properly and realistically so I started on a weekend. I put any money that I had left over in my bank account into my other account that I can’t access from my card so that I only had $15 in my eftpos account. This week I donated $10 to charity and spent $5 on a snack at filming. Each Saturday I will give myself $15 which is all I will have to spend for the week to come.

 

This week I have also continued experimenting with the Braille display that I have been lent. I have learnt now that it does not have Bluetooth which means that I can’t connect it to my iPhone or iPad. The one that I will get next year does have Bluetooth. As well as using it for reading over my word documents on my Mac I have also used it a little for reading my emails and browsing the internet. I tried to connect it to the Kickstart Windows computer but I couldn’t’ get it to work. That is a shame because I will mostly be using my Braille display under Windows when I am at university. Even though it is an older version and doesn’t have all the features that mine will I am still loving using it for checking for typing mistakes.

 

Until next time.

 

Cass


Term 3 Week 6

Week 6 has been an amazing week. It started off with two great but busy days at Kickstart and then was finished off by three amazing, fun and jam-packed days in Rotorua.

 

Over the weekend Jude had made a lot of stunning cupcakes to sell to raise money for the SPCA and Red Nose Day. On Monday morning I helped set up a table between reception and the staff room for the cupcakes. I also stuck around to help sell them. We made quite a few sales. After morning tea I spent some time with Jude. First off in our session Jude showed me another manual tool for removing fluff from clothes. This one was only a hand-held one which you simply drag over the clothes and it collects the fluff. I had seen the exact same type of tool at home but had never used one. Before Jude showed me her battery-powered one it was the only type of tool for removing fluff that I had seen. Then Jude and I did something very fun. In one of our past sessions together when we had talked about table etiquette we discussed how nice restaurants often fold your serviettes in fancy ways. In the session on Monday Jude brought in a photocopied page from a book that she has which shows you how to fold them. Jude and I folded a serviette in the shape of a crown and also one in the shape of a fan which you would hold in place with a serviette ring. After a few practices I had mastered the crown which I thought was pretty cool. I always love sessions with Jude. Most of the time we do paperwork and things like that but other times we get to do very fun and interesting things such as this. We had been given the whole afternoon to do some more filming for our O&M film. We worked with another one of our extras to film his four scenes. They all went well and again we all hugely appreciated his time. After this session we only have four more scenes to film which is with our last extra before we can edit the film together.

 

Tuesday was a busy day for me. I spent the morning cooking my roast chicken. I cooked it mostly independently although I needed some input here and there. Once again, I used a chicken that hadn’t been marinated already. This time I focused more on my timing. The two times previously that I had cooked a roast I had started preparing the potatoes before the chicken even though the chicken takes longer to cook. This week I preheated the oven and rinsed the chicken first. Then I patted it dry with a paper towel, rubbed lemon juice, salt and pepper into the skin and made some stuffing. I hadn’t made my own stuffing before. I mixed breadcrumbs, some eggs, an onion and some mixed spices together in a bowl and then stuffed the chicken. I put it in the oven and set to work on preparing the vegetables. I peeled and cut up the potatoes and boiled them as I always do. While they were boiling I peeled and cut up the kumara and carrots. By the time everything was ready it was almost time for them to go in the oven with the chicken. Once I had put the vegetables in the oven I washed the dishes. I didn’t have much time between finishing the dishes and needing to prepare the broccoli. I put the broccoli in the oven for the last ten minutes. Then I started preparing everything that I needed to serve the meal including a board to put the chicken on, tongs, a knife and fork and plates. I also got out everything that I needed for the gravy. When the meal was ready I successfully transferred the chicken onto a board and served up the veggies. Then I set to work on serving up the chicken. I also put some stuffing on each plate. I managed to do it fairly well and it was all independent. When I was ready I found Suzannah to help me to make the gravy. I sprinkled some flour and two oxo cubes into the tray and put it on the stove. Then I poured some boiling water into the tray. I used a wooden spoon to stir it thoroughly and dislodge anything that was stuck on the bottom of the tray. Suzannah told me when it was ready. Unlike last time, this time the gravy had a few lumps in it so I needed to strain it. I came up with a method of doing this safely and independently. Last time I had made gravy I struggled with pouring it into a jug. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it independently and successfully. I rested a sieve inside a large metal bowl. I poured the gravy from the tray into the sieve quite easily. Not only does it get rid of the lumps but it is also a larger surface area to pour the gravy into. I can also see the sieve in the bowl rather than the jug which I could not see on the bench last time. I was happy that I came up with a method that I could use in the future. I used a teaspoon to push the gravy through the sieve before easily pouring it from the metal bowl into the jug. Finally, I finished off my dishes and put the meals away in the fridge. I had a quick lunch before heading out. I had volunteered to join two of the other Kickstart girls at goal ball this week so that we could form a team for a mini tournament. We also had two other girls from another school who joined our team. We played two games in the round-Robin. We won one and lost the other. I thought I played fairly well especially considering I hadn’t played goal ball for well over a year. I scored one goal per game and blocked most of the balls that came to me. As we finished second overall we then played in the final against Manurewa High School. We unfortunately lost the final but we played well. It was a lot of fun and I was glad that I had offered to join the girls on the BLENNZ team. When we got back to Kickstart I went to the gym. I ran for a total of twenty minutes which was two runs of ten minutes. That night I ate my roast dinner. I thought it was lovely. The vegetables had all turned out well, the chicken was tender and tasty and the gravy delicious. I wasn’t too happy with the stuffing though. It was quite tasteless and a little dry in my opinion. I am sure that I will be able to improve it in the future but next time I cook my roast it will be totally independently. I have decided that I will put lemon wedges inside the chicken for my independent meal as I personally preferred that and feel most comfortable doing it that way. In the future though, now I am confident with cooking a roast, I will further experiment with stuffing because it is something I enjoy eating.

 

Wednesday brought our long-awaited trip to Rotorua. We got up early and packed the vans as a team as always. We made sure everything was okay in the house before piling into the vans. We set off just under an hour early which was a great effort! The trip down to Rotorua went very smoothly. We stopped on the way for a coffee. When we were on the outskirts of Rotorua we stopped for our first activity. We were going four-wheel driving in an open truck. We all put on protective clothes as there was a very high chance that we would get dusty and maybe even muddy. In two groups of four we clambered aboard the truck. The truck went up, down and even sideways. We drove up and down incredibly steep hills, some that were almost vertical. We did doughnuts. We drove along a line of logs with the two wheels on one side only driving along the logs so that truck was probably on a forty-five degree angle. It was an amazing experience. I have never done anything like that before and I was glad that we had discovered the opportunity in Rotorua. After everyone’s legs had stopped feeling like jelly we drove straight to our second activity. We were going zorbing! I had always wanted to try zorbing since I first heard about the experience several years ago. Finally I was able to try it out for myself! Originally we did not realise that we were subjected to weight and height restrictions. As a result, the only option available to me was to go in a zorb with water. At first I wasn’t too happy about that but in the end I was very glad. We changed into our bathers and were driven up to the top of the hill. We had been given the option to go solo with water or with a friend and water. One other girl and I decided we would go together. When it was our turn we slid into the zorb and enjoyed the warmth of the water. That didn’t last for long though. The zorb was zipped up and we were pushed down the hill. Screaming the whole way down, we slipped and slid all over the place. It was such a hilarious feeling rolling down a hill in a huge ball full of water but it was one that I loved. Once at the bottom we couldn’t stop laughing for ages. We relaxed in the spa for a while while the others rolled down the hill to join us. Soon enough we changed back into our clothes again and left zorbing. Overall I think that zorbing was my favourite activity in Rotorua although there were a huge number of activities that I easily could have chosen. We arrived at our accommodation, found our rooms and relaxed for a little while before dinner. As we usually do on our overnight trips we all worked together to organise dinner. I helped by setting the table while others took on jobs such as making up juice, buttering rolls, serving things onto the plates and more. Dinner was delicious and very well received after such a busy but hugely enjoyable day. To finish off with we had a group meeting before everyone collapsed into bed.

 

On Thursday after we all had breakfast and cleaned up afterwards we got ready for another busy day. Our first activity was to visit the buried village. While there we learnt all about the volcanic eruption in June of 1886 that buried the village. We looked through the museum first where we saw a number of artefacts that had been uncovered. Then we went outside. We were able to walk down to and go inside a number of houses that were buried by the eruption that had since been uncovered. It was interesting to see how deep the mud had been. In many cases only the very top of the roofs of the houses were visible. We also read a number of letters that had been written by a lady who was staying in the village at the time of the eruption as we wandered around. We had lunch at the village before setting off for our next activity. We were going on a shweeb. A shweeb is a small capsule that you sit inside. You lie back and pedal. It hangs from a track that you go around as you pedal. There are two tracks so you can race another person. I went in one together with another student. Two shweebs were joined together to make one tandem one. We raced Suzannah who was in a shweeb on the other track. It was a very strange sensation but a lot of fun. I didn’t know what to expect until I was inside the shweeb going around the track. I pedalled as hard as I could to try and beat the record that had been set and win $1000, but we were no where near it. It was so much fun though and I loved watching the others in the group racing around too. Once everyone had raced against the clock we went back to our accommodation. I had a short rest before showering and getting ready for our next thing on the schedule. We went in a gondola to the top of the mountain. I had never been in a gondola before. It was cool to see everything pass below us but before long we were up the top of the mountain. The first thing that I was doing up there was the sky swing. Two other students and I were strapped in before being hoisted to approximately 50 metres above the ground. Then we all counted down from three and one of the others pulled the chord that released us. Screaming, we swung back and forward through the air. It was another amazing feeling. The adrenaline was crazy and I loved the feeling of falling while simultaneously hating it! After the sky swing we watched the other three students swing before enjoying a lovely dinner in a nice buffet restaurant. I sampled a lot of the food on offer including potato salad, lamb chops, roast pork and more. The food was amazing and I even tried a couple of things that I have never eaten before, namely salmon sushi and a couple of the desserts. The desserts were just as delicious. I tried some mousse, pavlova, an Afghan and brandy snaps. After dinner I, just for fun, folded my napkin which was a linen one into a crown. Others who were sitting around me saw it and wanted to do the same so I showed them the steps. Then others on the table wanted to join in so I went through it again. By the time we left the restaurant there was a crown in front of nearly every seat at our table. I thought it was so funny but a lot of fun how we all ended up leaving the napkins so neatly and how I influenced nearly everyone on the table. We rode in the gondolas back down the mountain. When we got back to our accommodation we had a group meeting in the hot pool. That was lovely and the perfect way to end another great day in Rotorua.

 

Friday morning began in a similar way to the day before. We all had breakfast, cleaned up afterwards and made our lunch for the day. We packed up our rooms, put everything in the vans and headed off to continue the fun. Our first stop was Paradise Valley. We started off by watching the lions for a short time before we wandered around the rest of the park. Each of us had been given a small bag of food to feed the animals. I got a bag to feed the animals including goats, wallabies, lambs and dear whereas some others in the group got a bag to feed the trout and ducks. I really enjoyed feeding the animals and patting them when I could. Everyone shared their food around in the end anyway so I was able to feed the trout and ducks as well. I also gave some of my food out so that others who had been given the trout and duck bag could also feed some of the other animals. We sat nearby to the lions again while we ate our lunch. When we were there we heard the lions roaring several times. One time in particular a male roared very loudly and very angrily several times quite close to us. It was kind of scary to hear but also exciting. Then we headed off for our final activity for the trip. It was a duck tour. The duck is similar to a bus and was designed by the US military approximately seventy years ago. It was designed to be able to travel on both land and water and have a seamless transition between the two. The tour went for ninety minutes. The driver gave us a lot of information about Rotorua as well as the duck itself. We were all given a duck whistle to blow whenever we passed a pedestrian as the duck was open on the sides. It was hilarious to see the reactions of the pedestrians as we all quacked while we drove past. My favourite part though was driving straight into the lake. It was a strange feeling driving a large vehicle straight into the water and out again. We drove on two of Rotorua’s lakes. After the duck we stopped into McDonalds for a hot drink before heading home. Before arriving back at Kickstart we stopped and had some dinner which was a nice way to end the trip. When we got back to Kickstart we all helped to unpack the vans before most of us collapsed into bed, exhausted from the last three days. Rotorua has been my favourite overnight trip with Kickstart so far.

 

As we were going to Rotorua for three days this week I had to rearrange my gym programme slightly. Instead of running on Monday, Wednesday and Friday like usual I went to the gym on Sunday and Tuesday before the trip and then again on Saturday afterwards. I found the runs on Sunday quite easy. I ran for five minutes twice and for eight minutes in between. On Saturday I ran for my longest time without stopping so far. It was for twenty-five minutes. I can’t believe that I am already able to run for this long. Only six weeks ago I would not have ever thought I could run for ten minutes continually let alone twenty-five. It felt good to get back into the exercise after a few days off. I didn’t want to upset my gym routine over the trip so I made sure to plan ahead so that I would be able to resume week 7’s runs on chedule.

 

Last weekend I caught up with a friend. He let me borrow his Braille display for a while. It is similar to the one that I am hoping to get next year although I think it is an older version. I have been using it with my Mac so far. I used it to check over the minutes that I typed up earlier in the week and then for this evaluation to make sure there are no typing mistakes that spell check misses. I have loved using it so far and look forward to continue to trial it in the future. I am particularly keen to pair it with my iPhone and iPad and see how that works. I really appreciate the chance to spend some time using a Braille display before I get one for myself sometime in the future.

 

Until next time.

 

Cass