Uni chaos

I suppose going to a conference is nice but I just prepared two posters for a conference and have been too tired to do anything else! Including blogging. I will be back blogging when I get back!

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Pffft! Garmin

Look, I love most of my Garmin gear – I love the heart rate monitor, I love my little foot pod (for running) and I love the little contraption near my bike’s rear wheel that logs distance and cadence. When working properly. You see, the way that it logs cadence and distance are my two little magnets that are fixed to the pedal crank and to the spokes of the rear wheel. So you need the magnet. The rear wheel magnet is fine – it’s tightened onto the spoke with a nut-and-screw-style setup – the magnet is the “screw” and a little piece of plastic is the “nut”.

It’s the crank magnet I’ve had problems with. All you are provided with are stickers and cable ties. You stick the magnet onto the inside of the crank and then tighten it with the cable tie on the outside of the magnet. It’s a shit system. The cable tie easily slips off, and the sticker doesn’t hold. I ordered a replacement crank magnet online (which comes with the spoke magnet), and after thoroughly cleaning the crank, tried again. A few weeks later I lost the magnet again. Bah! I don’t really want to build a stock-pile of spoke magnets… so I just gave up.

Well, at least the Garmin-supplied cable ties are good

Now that my bike’s rideable again, I started looking into the matter again. Garmin themselves weren’t helpful, just telling me to keep purchasing the replacement set. Then I found a random review on Wiggle about how I wasn’t the only one with crank magnet problems and that they solved theirs with the help of a Cateye magnet.

Well guess who turned up in the post a few days later?!?!

A cable tie through a plastic cap that covers the magnet – genius! Simple, too.

And yes, he works perfectly well with the Garmin. If you’re making other purchases, then go for Wiggle or ProBikeKit (both have free postage if you spend over 80 pounds, and the magnet is about 3 pounds). If you just need the magnet, I used a seller on Ebay located in Australia. At about $10 (incl. postage), it cost less than the Garmin pair of replacement magnets, and thus was still a bargain in my opinion. Particularly as I don’t expect to have to purchase it again. (Of course, if you’re purchasing other stuff on PBK or Wiggle and meet free shipping, spend the $3-$4 there).

Pizza crust quest – store wars, part 3

Eagle Boys Maroubra Junction got a trial of the gluten-free pizza crust, although I have to admit the conditions are different to other trials as the pizzas were delivered. Every few weeks we have pizza (and chicken) nights at uni, with the pizzas delivered, so they spent some time in those pizza bags travelling to uni with almost 30 other pizzas. I’m not sure if the flexibility in the crust was a result of steam rather than a normal property of the crust itself.

I’m not sure if I prefer it to the Pizza Hut crust, but it’s better than the Dominos one (I doubt you would be able to find worse). At first I wasn’t sure if the Eagle Boys crust was GF as it was quite chewy – I ended up inspecting a few of the normal pizzas to convince myself that yes, the crust I was eating looked different to the majority of the pizzas. I will have to trial Eagle Boys again, but using my local Randwick store to avoid the possibility of “tainting” the crust with steam. That would just mean that my experiment has not been under controlled conditions, and thus invalid.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

… or office – my bike! I finally got it down to a shop (one near uni that I hadn’t used before) and they fixed it on the spot – despite Spring Cycle on a few days later (an excuse that one shop once gave to me when I was trying to book it in for a service).

I missed having my bike next to me all day!

This means that it’s been 12 months since the last service, but I’ve replaced the chain in that period, and the shop I used this time gave the gear cables a good adjustment. I had just checked and tweaked the brakes the night before, so I was happy that they were happy with them too (as they checked the brakes but made no adjustments). The next piece of major work on the bike will be the handlebars, as I seem to be enjoying having them lower. It’s also been a while since I last had a long ride, so we’ll see how I feel about them, and if I want to go lower again (and if I want to make it permanent!)

I’m still seeking a better small baggage combination for the bike. I finally have my saddle bag sitting up higher on the stem so that my taillight is well above the rear rack (the light falls off from the loop on the bag) – but I don’t like the tri-bag I have on the front. I like having it to store keys, my phone and lip balm during commutes (money too during rides), but my uni keys are substantial due to the presence of an ID card and my preference for using a lanyard – so getting them out of the bag is a careful affair as I don’t want everything else out of the bag! Also, if I have a fall, things tend to fall out. Sadly, I know this from experience!

So, it’s not that I intend to fall, but shit happens sometimes. And I don’t want to be scrambling for things in the middle of a busy road when it does. I’m thinking about the Timbuk2 Goody Box, but I think I need to see it in real life as the reviews online vary substantially. They do justify my attitude to my on-bike storage – I’m clearly not the only one in search of perfection!

Ricotta dumplings

I decided to venture to Eastlakes on the weekend – mainly because I’d lived nearby (less than 5km) for a couple of years now, but hadn’t visited. It’s an old little shopping plaza that probably needs a makeover, but has quite a few cheap greengrocers and butchers, a Woolies, an Aldi and a few other “specialty” stores. I knew of the little Eastern European store (Stolichniy Minimart) from this review of the shopping centre, so I had to pop in.

Much to my delight, I found some “Herbal pepper” from Poland – something that I came across earlier this year when I went home for a couple of weeks and visited a Polish restaurant in Dandenong. It was possibly the best thing from that lunch but discovered was a mix of herbs I didn’t like or don’t know if I like (coriander, caraway seeds, marjoram, chilli, horseradish powder and savory are amongst the spices listed on various websites with Pieprz Ziołowy recipes).

Polish herbal pepper, now on my spice shelf.

I thought of making pierogi, but couldn’t be bothered coming up with a gluten-free wrap or boiling potatoes for the filling. So I ended up making ricotta gnocchi, which I then pan-fried with bacon and onion (which is how mum and her mum serve pierogi – although they chop the bacon into small bits, and I was lazy and kept it in thin slices). The gnocchi recipe came from Simply Gluten Free, which I changed by replacing the nutmeg with the herbal pepper, and I drained the ricotta by wrapping it in a muslin cloth and squeezing the excess moisture out. I suspect the amount of potato starch (aka flour in Australia) would vary with how much moisture is left in the ricotta.

Ricotta gnocchi pan-fried with bacon and onion – light and fluffy dumplings!

The gnocchi were lovely on their own, but next time I’ll add more of the herbal pepper as its subtle flavour was lost with the addition of the bacon and onion. I’ll definitely make these again – especially since I only need to buy ricotta to make these as all the other ingredients are regulars of my pantry and fridge.

Pizza crust quest – store wars, part 2

Being 40km and at least an hour away from getting home at 6.30pm on a Wednesday evening makes takeaway pizza sound very enticing – especially since Pizza Hut’s Classics pizzas are $6 each (plus another $3 for gluten-free) every day at the moment. Sure, I would have saved $1 per pizza if I purchased them on Tuesday, but I spent Tuesday at home and hadn’t washed my hair. I hadn’t washed it for a few days actually, so it did not need to go out in public.

Back to pizza – I ordered the Italiano and the Ham and Cheese pizzas from Pizza Hut Menai (a fair distance from Domino’s Coogee) and ate slices as I drove home. Unlike Domino’s GF base, I could actually eat the Pizza Hut one with minimal added water. The toppings were ample too, and the base not at all greasy. It lacked that chew you get from real pizza bases with gluten, but this one was enjoyable nonetheless. I am also a fan of a thin-based pizza, and that is how the Pizza Hut GF base comes. It was definitely a superior experience when compared to Domino’s Coogee. I do have a Pizza Hut relatively close to home, but I still need to try Eagle Boys’ GF pizza bases. Then I need to find out if my local Pizza Hut is as generous with toppings as Menai.

Kitchen company

Kookaburra sits in not-a-gum-tree; Merry, merry, king of the bush is he…

Not baking related, but still to do with my kitchen. I love/hate my kitchen. I hate the oven, I hate the orientation and I would like it to be a little bigger. But I love that it faces north (hello sun!) and that I have some of the strata complex’s garden to look at as I wash my dishes, wait for coffee to brew or stand-up eat in the kitchen. Sometimes I get our native fauna dropping by, with a kookaburra hanging out on the tree one morning, resulting in a children’s song popping into my head.

Home-made marshmallow

A marshmallow slab!

I made marshmallows for the zumborons and while it was fun and the marshmallows were tasty, they were stabilised with gelatine. Making them interesting to work with given I was making toasted marshmallow macarons. It didn’t matter so much that they “melted” during toasting as I needed to beat the toasted marshmallow into creme patisserie, but these home-made marshmallows would be a traumatic experience by a campfire.

I might give agar-agar a go one day, in the meantime these marshmallows just can’t be toasted! I think it’s a sweet to keep in the back of my mind for morning teas as I can start to experiment with flavourings or swirling two colours within the slab… or even swirling two flavours within a slab!

Pizza crust quest – store wars, part 1

Now that I’m trying gluten-free, I have to get to know where to get my take away pizza from for nights when I can’t be bothered cooking. As a student, I also have to try and find the cheapest GF pizza. On Tuesdays, Eagle Boys and Dominos both have cheaper pizzas with Dominos producing the cheaper GF pizza, which is what I tried this week.

I wasn’t a fan of it – dry and chewy (in a bad way as I don’t think having Sjogren’s helps with the consumption of Dominos’ gluten-free crust). I also felt they were skimpy on the toppings of my custom pizza – which I have previously ordered from a different franchise and been happy with. I frown upon you Dominos Coogee.

Eagle Boys next week – I wonder what their GF crust is like.