New Zealand Chelsea Buns

I've made one batch of these from my mother's recipe, I made a few mistakes but they were still delicious.

New Zealand Chelsea Buns.

Ingredients for the bun

  • 8oz flour (I used whole wheat flour)
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 3oz unsalted butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup of milk

Ingredients for the filling

  • 4oz brown sugar
  • 2oz butter
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon

Heat oven to 425f.

Rub the butter into the flour and baking powder. Mix with the beaten egg and add milk a little at a time until you have a lump of dough. Roll it out into a long strip, at least 11in long and 8in wide.

Cream the butter, sugar, and cinnamon together. Spread across the dough in a thin layer. Roll up the dough on the long side and seal the edge with a little milk. Cut into slices and put in a foil-lined 8x8 dish.

Bake for 20 mins, you should see the filling melt and bubble.

My big mistakes were that I didn't roll the dough out thinly enough, and I didn't spread the filling over the whole width of the dough, so some parts of my buns are missing cinnamon filling. But they still taste delicious.

Batch #2 will be cooked at 450f to see if that gets the sugar all melty, and double the cinnamon in the filling.

Now, year end edition

Thinking about

I've been doing the Elements of Focus course from Shawn Blanc, and it's been really good. Lots of titbits on how to set tomorrow-me up for a productive day, and making today more useful. Day 15 made me think of the Cynefin Complexity model (it's really hard to Google something when you don't know how to spell it). Cynefin is about work that falls into one of four states: obvious, complicated, complex, and chaotic

Also pondering, how do you keep a team integrated together when they're in three offices spread over two states? I'd like to go out to our furthest office to do interviews, would cycling people through the remote offices help or hinder progress and integration?

Craft

I knit cotton/hemp yarn too tightly and gave myself tendinitis, I can't knit that particular yarn again, it's going in the trade tab of my Ravelry stash. The elbow is improving, but it's been over a month since I knit anything.

Continuing with my daily sketch habit and approaching the halfway mark on my sketchbook. There's a definite progression from the start to now, I'm playing more with shading and smudged lines, and there's a lot more stuff drawn from real life instead of memory.

Karate and fitness

On the downhill slope towards a black belt test. Working on getting the full set of 120 techniques and 13 kata into my head, then bringing them up to black belt standard. There are no "woman black belts" at Tracy's Karate, there are only black belts. I have to be good and I have to be ready. I'll be sparring anything up to 12 fights in a row after my techniques and kata, black belt tests are at least 2 hours long.

Lesson learned: don't work out on an empty stomach. Went to the gym before breakfast and burned out early in my workout. I've managed a plank of 1m 8s and a wall sit of 1m 18s, but both were done before the hard part of the workout, which is three rounds of squat thrusts, lunges with 15lb weights, single arm kettlebell swings (20 lb) and rows (15lb).

Reading

Still ploughing through "Watching the English" by Kate Fox at a slow pace, I'm over the halfway mark now. Working through "Louder than Words" by Todd Henry, I'm blocked on the mentor exercise as I'm still on vacation. "One Moment Meditation" is another slow read. Maybe I need some fiction so I can read something and be done without pauses or homework assignments.

Picked up and read Oliver Burkeman's book "The Antidote - Happiness for people who can't stand positive thinking." It's definitely a British book, ("behaviour" is spelled correctly) and one that makes a lot of sense to me. The link between Stoicism and cognitive behavioural therapy was a surprise that explains why reading "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelis felt like coming home.

Agile Transformation

My employer lets take one day a year as a "Day of Caring" to be used at a non-profit organization of our choosing. I did mine with an associate pastor of Life Community Church in Columbia IL. I've spent two and a half years immersed in Agile software projects, and the way we manage teams is different to anywhere else I've worked. We spent the day doing an Agile Transformation bootcamp on these subjects:

  • Incremental improvement
  • Experiments and the scientific method
  • Big visible metrics
  • Kanban and acceptance criteria
  • Brainstorming and dot voting
  • Time-boxing
  • Meeting agendas
  • Stand-up status meetings
  • Retrospectives and feedback
  • Office layout

The goal was to improve visibility into who is doing what, put in some lightweight structure around projects, and make sure important stuff got done. We did a brainstorming exercise, a demo of Kanban using Trello, some ways to make meetings short and useful, and a lot of time management and project management lessons.

My plan is to return around February and continue the Agile transformation. It's cool to see the tools and methods I've been taking for granted applied in a completely different setting, but still be amazingly useful.

Notebooks

I work in a software company, but I couldn't do my work without paper notebooks. I'm running several at once:

Five Year Diary
A gift from Paul six years ago and again last Christmas, this book from Levenger gives me five lines a day, for five years. It's eerie to read back several years and remember what I was writing about, I'm about to finish year #1 of volume #2. I love the short snapshot format. I write this first thing in the morning for the preceding day, while I'm sitting in front of my light-box.

Gratitude Journal
I started this in August 2013, but made it a daily practice on September 1st, 2015. Only good things go in here, it is my second morning journal. I read some of Janice Kaplan's book The Gratitude Diaries, and I liked her ideas. This feels like a good exercise to remind myself of good things when I can't currently see good in my world. This is a Rhodia Webnotebook in a (now discontinued) Saddleback Leather cover.

Sketchbook
After the five year diary and the gratitude journal, I do some sketching in a Strathmore wire-bound sketchbook until I fill up a page. 28 days straight as of December 20th. There's some progression in my doodles and I'm finding I want to draw things from sight, not by memory, so I'm staging a few objects there, including a small model of a person, a wooden bead, and a piece of driftwood from my parents.

Diary
This is the all-purpose book I carry around with me, I leave 3 pages blank in the front for an index and hand-number the odd pages. When it's full, I put a full index into Indxd and make a written index of highlights in those first three pages. It holds song lyrics, quotes, diary entries, musings, answers to questions, notes from talks I attend, notes on books I'm reading, sermon notes, this is my catch-all. It's another Rhodia Webnotebook in a Gfeller cover periodically treated with One Star Leather balm, which has saved it from a leaky water bottle.

Work notebook
My daily companion at work, this travels with me in a waxed canvas clutch. Meeting notes, status updates, doodles during meetings, lists, all the work-related note-taking lives here. I use a Clairfontaine 1951 notebook in a custom leather cover from Graham Keegan. I'm on the third one of these and I managed to put this one into the holder upside down. I'll need a new notebook soon because it's well over half full.

Task list and Mood Log
I use a Word notebook for task lists with personal tasks in the front and work tasks in the back. Twice a day, at lunchtime and around 5pm, I put a mood rating in a second Word notebook, from 1 (hideously awful) to 10 (best day ever). I average over the week and keep an eye on the week-to-week trend. Walking into your annual check-up with metrics gets a doctor's attention. These two travel with me in a Nock Hightower case.

End of day notebook
This is new, an experiment from Shawn Blanc's Elements of Focus course, which is a free video course with small assignments. One assignment is to leave myself a note with what thing I should do first tomorrow, another assignment is to list what I accomplished today, and two things I'm grateful for. It's going to be interesting to compare the gratefulnesses with the gratitude journal over time. This is a 3x5 Calepino notebook.

Handbag notebook
This is another Calepino notebook in a One Star Leather cover that lives in my handbag. It's for out and about notes, things I think of while driving, songs I want to buy when I get home. I don't write in it while I'm driving, but I have pulled off the road into a store car park to jot something down.

Nine notebooks, and all of them have their own purpose, I didn't realise it was that many. I have a preference for the Rhodia and Clairfontaine papers because they can handle a fountain pen. I've already filled a Mood Log, a Task List, a Handbag Notebook, two volumes of Diary, and two Work notebooks this year.

Learning a sketching habit, day 14

I want to be someone that sketches on a regular basis. I have drawn something in my sketchbook every day for the last two weeks. Nothing is a masterpiece, but I've been experimenting with letter forms, faces that show emotions, lots of spirals, some cartoon roses and tulips, suns, squirrels, and it's been good.

For my experiment in forming a habit, I'm doing this:

  • I scheduled a time each day to sketch. First thing in the morning, after I write my 5 year diary and my gratitude diary (make it a routine).
  • No fancy Art required, spirals and circles are OK (make it so easy you can't NOT do it).
  • Mark an X on a visible calendar on the days I sketched (visible feedback on new habit).
  • Planning to keep this up through January (habits take 66 days to form).
  • Planning an art supplies shopping trip between Christmas and New Year, maybe getting some colours to play with (anticipation of future reward)

The stuff in brackets is advice I've read on James Clear's website and eBook on Habits.

I'm reading through Mike Rohdes The Sketchnote Handbook when I need inspiration. Next sources will be Danny Gregory's Art Before Breakfast, and Betty Edward's Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Now – Friday 13th October 2015

Reading: (updates and archives)
John Scalzi "Lock In" (murder mystery set in near future, with part of the population unable to communicate except online or via android stand-ins)

Knitting/Craft:
A small drawstring bag to carry my worry stones (things to carry and fiddle with), made from lime green Hempathy yarn. Need to be careful not to aggravate my elbow working with this yarn.
Orange Feather and Fan scarf is longer, but not done. Hitting the stage of being done with the scarf but still needing to knit another half metre of it. Perhaps I shouldn't have started a second Feather and Fan only four months after the first one.
I have a request to make a new ThinkMat for a friend, he's been using it and it's wearing out. That's a nice request to get. ThinkMats are rubber and aluminium chainmail in a Japanese Lace pattern, designed to be fiddled with.

Thinking about:
Revamping the interviewing process, getting more interviewers trained up and discussing feedback from an "Improve our QA hiring process" lunch and learn.
I'm a 2015 NaNoWriMo drop out. I need a plan to write, and didn't get the time to put one together in October. Lesson learned, I can write this story at a slower pace.
The Skirtcraft unisex skirt should arrive in the next few weeks, it was a Kickstarter project to make a skirt with pockets. Wish usable pockets were more of a standard.
QA personal skills radar, my team did an exercise to determine things they are good at, and then things other people say they're good at. As a team, we value baking and coffee as essential skills.
A carry-around self-soothing kit. So far I have wooden worry stones or tagua nuts, some coffee beans, and a piece of coyote fur. I find these things calming in stressful situations, or just to stop me fiddling with other things like my phone.
A daily sketching habit. I have a sketchbook next to my lightbox, and a copy of Danny Gregory's "Art before Breakfast." An article by James Clear says it takes about 66 days to bed down a new habit, so if I can keep this up through mid January I should be in a good place. I have an experiment to perform to test his 66 days assertion, which feels appropriate.

Physical/Workouts:
I have only 3 black belt techniques left to learn, then I'm onto reviews to get the 3rd degree brown, 2nd degree brown, 1st degree brown, and and 1st degree black belt techniques back up to standard (120 techniques), plus the 12 kata. Instructor is saying I will get my black belt if I want it, and I really do. So that'll be happening. They've only promoted about 50 women to black belt in 40 years of Tracy's Karate operating in Kirkwood.
Broke my plank and wall-sit records this week, 50 seconds for both, which is over 30 seconds more than when I started with the trainer in the gym.

Now – October 26th 2015

I used to do snapshot posts a while ago of what was on my mind and what I was working on. I read Shawn Blanc's Now page, which refers to Derek Sivers Now page, so I'll put mine up periodically. Link in the sidebar or these posts. I've added a category of Now so I can find them again.

Reading: (updates and archives here)
Travis Bradberry, Jean Greaves "Emotional Intelligence 2.0" (working through this in work with two people I'm mentoring)
Kate Fox "Watching the English, second edition" (a slow read)
Marcus Aurelis "Meditations" (feels like this is the source book for a lot of others I've read)

The To Read queue is getting unweildy, I might use Blinkist to knock some of these out if they're available.

Knitting:
Second of two hats as a wedding present for a friend
Orange Feather and Fan scarf
Really need to finish the Jackeroo cardigan, it has POCKETS. So many pieces of women's clothing are lacking a functional pocket.

Thinking about:
My 2015 NaNoWriMo novel plot, with AI and genetic algorithms, my 11th NaNoWriMo novel
A Core Curriculum I'm building (inspired from this Shawn Blanc post) using a Levenger Circa notebook
How to start and maintain a daily sketching habit
How to learn enough JavaScript to create a simple, deliberately broken website
How to run a team of 30 software QA people in 3 offices across 2 states without micro-managing them
Stoicism
Creativity

Workouts:
Strength and endurance training at the gym, definite improvements since June in lunges, wall-sits, planks and kettlebell swings (20lb weight)
Training for black belt in Chinese Kenpo at Tracy's Karate, several black belt techniques still left to learn.

What makes a good software QA person?

We have a few quirks, a hint of obsessive compulsive disorder, and we’re brutally honest. We never lie to our developers. We don’t sugar-coat, soft-shoe, back-peddle, exaggerate, or outright lie. We can’t. Our job requires us to be utterly truthful. We’ll tell it to you straight, we’re paid to be honest.

We think this stuff is funny. And it is! You have to appreciate the bug found in the wild, the "disastrous misconfiguration" error message on Chrome when it finds a "weak ephemeral Diffie-Hellman public key" (it has to do with TLS encryption), or the mall TV screen showing a Blue Screen Of Death. It’s free entertainment, but it also makes you think: what got missed that this bug escaped into the real world? How do I find a bug like that? How would I reproduce this bug? We know other people don’t always appreciate the humour in a good bug find, but a QA always will.

We’re in the details. There’s a slight correlation between being a good Dot Net developer and having blue eyes, based on two companies I've worked at. I notice colours, including eye colours, and I’m always looking for patterns. I spot when someone has matched their glasses, fingernails, shoes, toenails, and purse. If a line on a user interface is bumped down by a pixel partway along, I’ll see it. The fact that there are different numbers of steps between floors in my office building is a source of amusement, and some floors are a prime number of steps apart. When you use the back staircase, you get different numbers of stairs between floors. In the main stairwell, the door out isn’t on a consistent side as you go up the stairs, sometimes it’s on the south side, sometimes on the west. We live for details and patterns, sequences and clean lines.

We need more input, more tools, more tricks, more ways to play. More languages, more front-end and more back-end knowledge, and the stuff in between. Once we know about injection attacks, we'll test that everywhere we can. We're the reason you have client-side and server-side validation. "Why" and "how" are the most used words we know, followed by "what if". We're not trying to take your job, we want to know enough that we can see the weak spots in the armour, right where you think we could never shove a buffer overrun but we do it anyway. We have an insatiable need to learn and we're not afraid to be the least-informed person in the room while we pick up something new.

We ask a lot of questions. Some of them we already know the answer to, we're trying to show you something in a gentle and non-confrontational way. Some of them we have no idea what the answer is, and it may be an obvious or dumb question to a developer, but we need to know. Asking questions is one way to find out. Breaking stuff is another, and scenario questions ("what if the user does X or Y") are a third. We have an idea of how you're feeling from how you talk and type and move, we pay attention to that.

Muffin test kitchen

I've been testing out muffin recipes, especially Paleo and gluten-free ones. These are the successes, I've only had one really bad fail. The biggest lesson I've learned is that manually grating a carrot is a lot of work.

Paleo Morning Glory muffins
I used buckwheat honey, and added a half cup of five grain cereal because my mix looked very wet. It bumped up the cooking time by five minutes and gave me 16 muffins, not 12. Instead of 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, I used one each of cinnamon and nutmeg. They taste fabulous! Dense, moist, great flavour. I ran the nutrition info for these through SparkPeople since it's not on the recipe page.
Nutritional info: Calories: 255.6, Fat: 15.3g, Carbs: 27g, Fibre: 3.3g Protein: 3.6g, Cholesterol: 46.5mg

Carrot Walnut muffins
These are tasty and very light and fluffy, I've made two batches so far. In the Yoga Journal magazine for August 2015, it gives nutrition info, the website doesn't give you that. This was my first time using coconut flour.
Nutritional info: Calories: 134, Fat: 9g, Carbs: 11g, Protein: 4g, Cholesterol: 70mg, Sodium: 178mg.

Applesauce Oatmeal muffins
I take issue with the directions saying prep time is 5 minutes when the first line says to soak the oats in milk for an hour, but these are tasty and filling muffins. I used nutmeg instead of cinnamon for these, plus some leftover flax seed and millet. Might add flax meal next time to bump up the protein, and switch out the whole wheat flour for almond flour. I like that they use egg white and not whole eggs.
Nutritional info: Calories: 92.3, Fat: 0.5g, Carbs: 23.6g, Fiber: 1.7g, Protein: 3g, Cholesterol: 0.4mg, Sodium: 203.7mg

I love muffins and I'm also trying to eat less carbs and more protein, definitely less sugar.