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.