Binding Machine!

I guess I should also post the reason I was away for so long. I finally finished editing my thesis, and now am a master of science!  (Where’s my cape?)

From a crafty perspective, it gave me an excuse to buy more coils for my binding machine; I felt like a kid in a candy store, picking out the colors 😀

So now that I had bindings (and quality paper for the covers plus clear oversheets), I could make a multitude of budget copies (since the hard bound ones were pricey!).


And now I have lots of colors, to color code the music booklets that eventually I will get motivated to assemble.

Computer tip – minus signs in text

I know this is barely a craft, but I had to record it somewhere before I forget (since editing the ‘tips’ section of my website is too difficult… must remedy this in the future).

I was getting incredibly sick of Word putting the line break in the middle of my exponents. For example:

… rates of 3.0 kmol N d
1 and other…

So I learned about the “non-breaking” dash/minus sign, unicode character 2212.  To insert it, type 2212, then press alt+x to replace the 2212 with the symbol.  I then ctrl-h’ed to replace all of them.

Injera – Day 2.5 – cooking

This morning, our injera had a distinct grey watery layer on top and a very distinct smell. We tried to follow the instructions and pour the water off the top, but the dough was a bit too watery for that, so we left it alone.  We followed the instructions; took 1c and added it to 2c boiling water and stirred until it thickened, then added back to the main bowl and left covered in a patch of sun to rise.

In the meantime, we started on the entrees. First, about 11 cups of onions browned, then I pre-measured out all the spices for the five dishes into individual bowls to facilitate massive cooking efforts later.

By this time, the injera was ready to cook. It took a few tries to get the heat just right (water droplets skittering across the pan surface). After a few failed attempts, we had it down well enough; the key was pouring on the batter and getting it even very quickly, leaving it for a few seconds, then clamping the lid down to steam the top. When they cooked properly, they slid around on the pan without sticking and were very easy to remove.

They usually looked great in the pan, even when the end result was a dud

Very first attempt resulted in a crumbly mess that stuck to everything

By the end, we were getting very nice results

It’s a good thing we have the 5-burner stove… this is the first time we’ve needed to have that many things going at once.

Eli was great at stirring things left-handed while I ran about doing the tasks that required two hands

Overall, everything came our really well. The collard greens were the biggest hit, none left over from that. I’ve learned that the recipes call for more berbere than I’d like; most of the dishes were too spicy for me (but perfect for Eli).  Also, despite cooking the lentils a lot longer than the recipe called for, they were still quite crunchy. I guess we’ll boil them longer next time. I wish I hadn’t been too busy at the end of the meal to send folks home with leftovers! There’s no way Eli and I will finish all of this in the next few days.

The final spread

Injera: Day 1 1/2

Just took a peak before leaving for work. The liquid on top isn’t as disgusting as others say it should be; it’s more a grey-brown than black. But I’ll take it!


I guess tonight we boil a subset and add it back in, let it ferment/rise for another few hours, then cook. Should be fun! I’ve read that we can keep a small subset in the fridge and feed it T’ef to grow it again. We’ll have to see how painful the process is before making our decision 🙂

Injera: Day 1

Decided to tackle Ethiopian for Wednesday’s dinner, so step 1 was to get the Injera started today. It’s a spongy sour flatbread that should look like this when done:

Unfortunately, the recipe in Exotic Ethiopian Cooking said to use 6 cups of water, but you add the water in four different steps, and it doesn’t tell you how much to add in each one. So I guessed 5c mixed with the flour (1.5lb, weighed out on a scale), and 1c. warm with the yeast (2 packets). It looks soupy to me, but we’ll see! What I have now is a thin batter, covered with a towel waiting to rise. I hope the bowl is big enough…

Some folks have said it smells horrible on day 2, but it also says elsewhere to keep at 70° while rising. I don’t have anywhere that’s that warm, nevermind that warm and well-ventilated.  Just going to keep my fingers crossed that it works on the kitchen table.

7pm (1:15 after adding yeast). I think I need a bigger bowl!

8:30pm (3 hrs into rising). And now it looks less appealing. I believe I’ll stop checking until tomorrow 😀

Powerpoint slide solution

One of my peeves with Powerpoint has always been that when you insert a new slide into your presentation, you can’t change the default format… it always shows up with the dumb boxes for the title and content that then need to be deleted so I can add real content.

I found a solution online today (thank goodness for nerds and the internet)

This page has an add-in for powerpoint that adds a drop-down to let you set this option.

Safely back home

We arrived back home safe and sound last night (this morning) at 12:30AM or so.  We had a good day in CT with the family, but were glad to get home and sleep in our own bed.  The Kunichi looks startlingly black for some reason, and is very happy to have us home 🙂  The house is in great condition, thanks to the help from our friends while we were gone.  We were thinking how wonderful everything was; the fridge is cold and running fine, Kunichi only left us her lunch in one or two places, nothing is torn up or ruined, the yard looks fine… basically as if we’d never left.  Except then Eli opened the freezer to get some ice, to find this:

So our freezer is nearly solidly packed with frost/snow, with ice coating a lot of the surfaces.  So we unplugged it so it can defrost, and used the conveniently cold outside to keep our ice cream frozen while we diagnose the problem.  Either the door was slightly cracked while we were gone, or else there’s a broken sensor that needs to be fixed.  We will see!

So now we’re trying to unpack, clean, and get things back in shape before we have to go back to work, and Eli goes off on another job right away.  Tomorrow, the exciting task of grocery shopping!

WV, finally.

Well, we caught an 8AM flight on United out of San Fran (SFO), and got into Dulles (IAD) at 4PM this afternoon. There’s 24″ of snow here in WV, and the roads are still only partially cleared. No problems for mom’s Isuzu Axiom, but it’ll slow us down as far as local travel is concerned. Another storm is looming for Christmas Day, so we’ll be leaving for CT on the 26th around noon or so.

Days 30-31: Oakland

We had a really great time in Oakland, visiting with Hilary and Aaron, and having dinner with Jerry and Carrie. Tea, Ethiopian, Italian, Ice Cream, cards, and other such relaxing pursuits.  Typing from the airport as we attempt to fly to West Virginia.

Lessons learned: always always always call more than one cab company when you have a plane to catch. That way when one of them doesn’t show up, you don’t miss your flight waiting for the next cab to come. It’s tough to find a new flight around the holidays! It figures that we’d make every other flight on this trip (including the Paris one, with a night bus transfer to a train to the airport, and miss the domestic flight from an easy airport in our own country.  Sigh.  Hopefully we’ll make Dulles/Baltimore before tomorrow night.

Days 27-29: More Oputere and Flying Home

With our last full day in NZ, we stuck around Oputere. We borrowed kayaks from the hostel and did a morning kayak up to the bird sanctuary through a lovely section of marsh, then kayaked around the bay a bit.  Then we took a much needed nap in the van, and set out to drive to Whangamata for dinner at the place we’d been to a few nights ago (the one where I couldn’t taste the delicious pasta).  The restaurant didn’t open for dinner until 6 (it was only 4), so we walked the main street (I looked for local NZ yarn with no success), and we decided to head to Auckland and spend the night there.

I (Mel) drove to Auckland, since it was time to give Eli a driving break, and I felt much healthier and up to it.  Meanwhile, Eli read the guide and found an area that sounded good for dinner.  We had a lovely meal at an Italian place, he had duck and I had organic chicken that was stuffed with meat and cheese. Yum!

After dinner, we found a close-by holiday park and called it a night.  We were awakened quite early the next morning by the park proprietor (since we’d gotten in too late to pay the night before, he wanted to make sure we paid), and we were stuck unable to fall back asleep at 7am. Yuck! So we got a start on our day.  This involved packing everything up, which took a while, since we’ve acquired quite a number of fragile things here 🙂

Then I did some quick online research and found a local yarn shop in Auckland, called Wild and Wolly Yarns.  It sounded promising, so we drove over. The owner was a lovely woman, who listened to my desire to buy some locally-made yarn, and basically told me that it was a very hard thing to find on the North Island, since most of it is exported. And she said “HA, good luck!” to my inquiry about a place to find a blanket or shawl made with local yarn, and said if I do find any to let her know.  But I got some great opossum and merino wool produced in NZ to take home and make myself a scarf.

Then we headed to Kelly Tartan’s Aquatic Encounters, a local aquarium that was the first to install a plexi tunnel to walk right through the tanks.  It was getting close to time to leave, but we had almost 3 hours which I hoped would be long enough.

It turned out to be plenty of time; we saw the aquarium, which had a lot of nice exhibits, and some HUGE stingrays, and were done seeing everything in an hour; it was a small place.  So we traveled down the street and had an excellent lunch (mmm, lamb kabobs), and drove to the Jucy rental place.

After returning the van, we went to the airport and had the most hassle we’ve had on any of our flights. It was ridiculous. The worst was right before security when they weighed my “purse” and our carryons.  They told us there was a 7kg limit on carryons (ours was 10), and a 3kg limit on purses (mine was 8), so they made us go back downstairs and check something.  Meanwhile, all sorts of people managed to sneak by while they were harassing us, without having anything weighed!  But it was “for our safety” and there was no argument.  To make matters more ridiculous, you can buy large bottles of liquor and wine after security duty-free, and those don’t count toward your weight.  ARGH. So frustrating.

But, after the 11+ hour flight to LA, clearing customs, flying to Phoenix, and flying back to Oakland, we’re safely in the States.  We’ll miss New Zealand and our foreign travels badly (especially the food!!), but I can’t wait to be home.  Just another week.

Meanwhile, we’re in a hotel right near the airport in Oakland, and I can’t wait to re-pack (since I apparently packed a dead crab, so all my stuff smells terrible), and go see Hil and Aaron!

Happy Holidays!

Day 26: Vegging in Oputerie

Yesterday we hung out in the Oputerie area all day. In the AM we totally relaxed by hanging out in the van until after noon, watching movies and reading. Then we drove up to a marine reserve about an hour north. It had the most gorgeous ocean/cove views I’ve ever seen. We drove by lots of stunning beach scenery to the top of the bluff, which overlooked about 180° of beautiful scenery. I’m going to try to stitch a bunch of the pictures together to get one good panorama later. There was a little cove called Gemstone Cove that has a great snorkling course laid out in it and some fantastic wildlife. After hiking town there (127 steps and a big hill), we decided it’s not the best idea while we’re both still recovering to actually snorkle there, but we hung out for a few minutes and checked it out from the surface.

Then we hiked back up the hill (deciding all the way that snorkling down there tomorrow was not a good idea), and sat on the hill and admired the view awhile.

Then we drove back to Oputerie and the lovely hostel workers there let us stay on their premises for the night and use their facilities (including their internet). We hung out in the common room awhile, worked on a puzzle (which they cleaned up on us before we could finish!), and chatted with a lovely group of four ladies here with their families. They were having a craft night, and one of them (Debbie) gave me a lovely ball of NZ yarn 🙂  Everyone here thinks we have lovely American accents! We think the same of them.  We stayed up way too late, and went to bed around 12; which was probably not the best idea, since the ideal kayaking time is 7-11 in the morning tomorrow!

Day 25: Mel’s Sleepy Day II

So I had another sleepy day on the 15th here, and spent a good part of the day snoozing in the passenger seat while Eli drove north. We got up in the AM and made a quick drive to Taupo, so Eli could catch the noon jetboat trip. He had a blast; “stupid fun on the water”.  (more pics of Eli and jetboat on website)

Before, we stopped off at Lava Glass, a glass blowing place that had amazing pieces, with color and texture nicer than I’ve seen before. We didn’t have time for a tour, but we did stop at the cafe. I had a delicious egg/bacon/feta on a Turkish bread, and Eli had a yummy spinach and chicken fritata and another piece of tasty carrot cake.

Then we hopped in the car, and drove up to Oputerie, a small town that reminded me a lot of the Cape. Folks come here from Auckland (about 1.5-2hr drive) to come to a slightly nicer climate, hang out on the beach, and veg away from the touristy areas. It’s quite lovely here, with beautiful views and a relaxing atmosphere.  On the way, however, we did a lot of looking at this…

There is a LOT of logging on the way to this area. The GPS also got us lost by trying to take us down a gravel, steep, logging road (which was closed), so we did some backtracking through beautiful country.  We found a cute little campground right in Oputerie, and parked our van to take a walk through the forest to the beach.

where we wandered for a while, sat for a while, and collected shells. It was lovely and peaceful, and we got to watch some oystercatchers standing one-legged on the beach, hanging out, and an Australasian Gannet fishing in the shallows.  It was a lovely evening, followed by dinner at a tasty small place in the next town over (I just had the leftovers now, which were TASTY. Since I couldn’t taste when we were first there, I think we’re going again tonight!)