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Now that my Qantas First dream has been fulfilled, what now? Well the end of May i am flying Cathay First Class so no need to get working on that as it was easy. Other than getting myself into the Lufthansa First Class Terminal (which seems like it is going to take some strategic thinking to do that) my one other real desire right now is Singapore Airlines.
I’ve already flown them a couple of times and their business class product both long haul and regional are fantastic. Their long haul seat is practically a First Class Suite. But their actual First Class Suite seems to be the epitome of luxury. Only onboard their A380 so it is fairly exclusive and at one point when first released, cost a fortune.
Now though times have changed and the cost is reasonable. A one way Suites fare between Tokyo and the West Coast of the USA will set you back about 70,000 points. So that’s my aim right now. Working towards that amount of Singapore Airlines Krisflyer points. I managed to get 50,000 points when I got myself an American Express Premier Rewards Gold card, that took a huge chunk away. But now I still have 20000 to go.. What to do?
Well I am taking my first attempt at manufacturered spend, kind of. All the rage in points earning circles right now is using gift card purchases to rack up heaps of points. You buy the gift cards on your credit card and use them like cash or use them to pay off your bills. Cheap easy points. I am doing this kind of thing but not all the way, yet.
The hardest thing about doing this for me is getting the right gift cards and they are hard to come by in Seattle. So i have decided to just do what I can so I am not losing out on anything. Good thing with my Amex is that it is double points on Gas & Grocery. I have a good strategy still with this. Here it is.
Walmart and American Express put out a prepaid card that unlike any others had a bill pay function where you could get them to send a check to pay your bills, then came the ability to writr checks from the card, now resembling more a bank account than a prepaid card the Bluebird is just pretty awesome. You can load up to $1000 a day at Walmart onto your Bluebird card, and I have two Walmarts within 10 minutes of my place.
With a little bit of guidance from Scott at HackMyTrip I now have my process down pat and it means I don’t miss out on any points. My biggest points loss was my rent & utilities. Almost $1000 a month and it just was not possible in the past to use a credit card. New owners came in and they allowed credit card rent payments, but with a $38 fee. Stuff that! I can buy $500 gift cards at QFC or Fred Meyers for $6 a piece, they can have a pin assigned to the card (not all allow this) and I can then load them onto my bluebird at the local Walmart, where I can then write a Bluebird check for my rent. Sounds complicated? It’s not.
I did this for the first time over the weekend and it was easy. My time in Walmart was all of 3 minutes, I shop at Fred Meyer weekly so adding on a gift card to a weekly shop is nothing. The hardest thing is writing the check and walking it to the office.
What does it cost me to do this? Well the cards are $6 a piece so $12 a month plus all up about 10-15 minutes of my time each month. The good thing is that using my amex getd me double the points as I’m buying at a grocery store. 2000 points for 12 aint bad. What’s even better is I can earn grocery points towards fuel discounts at the same time!
Ahh the life of a points junkie. Confusing right?
I woke up this morning to an email I had been hoping to see for a number of weeks now. The dates for the Paine Field Aviation Day have been set and that means the Fly Day 5K is on again! Last year I did this and I ended up smashing my expected time, and it was only a few weeks after I got here. I did blog about the run last year as it was one of the highlights of my year in 2012. So lets just hope that this year it is going to be just as much fun. But here is a problem. It is the day before the Seattle Beat the Bridge. Which I was also going to do… but now I don’t know. Beat the Bridge is an 8k run and I really don’t want to do an 8k race (cause you have to beat the bridge so it is a race) right after a 5k race. I could probably skip the Fly Day 5k, but why?
Why would I want to skip seeing this up close and personal again?
|From Expat Life|
That is a GE90 attached to a 777-200LR. I remember running up to that point during the run and then seeing that plane sitting there and it gave me a giant burst of energy to finish. If you check out the Course map you will see that you don’t get onto the runway, but that is ok, because your running along the perimeter road and in some cases on taxi ways. The awesome thing at the moment is that there are so many 787s out there, that they are parked everywhere, it is going to be awesome.
The race does go to support Muscular Dystrophy and there is a pancake breakfast there afterwards (mmmmm pancakes) and then after the race and the pancakes. Well its Paine Field Aviation Day. A day hopefully filled with sunshine, planes and lots of shots like this:
|From Seattle Spotting 2012|
|From Seattle Spotting 2012|
|From Seattle Spotting 2012|
So if you feel up to running with me, well why don’t you sign up to!
Well it is time to get the Avgeek side of me in gear and tell the world about an event that is happening here in Seattle in just a few weeks time. Aviation Geek Fest is run by my friends David from Airlinereporter.com and Sandy from Future of Flight. Along with the folks at Boeing and heaps of other Avgeek peeps here in Seattle they are throwing what is essentially an all out weekend of awesomeness.
All the details are here:
But the basic gist of the weekend is this:
Saturday Afternoon – Boeing Renton Factory Tour
Sunday – Dreamliner Gallery Tour, Boeing Everett VIP Factory Floor Tour, Geekfest Party at Future of Flight
Boeing Everett Factory Floor tour? Sign me up! I missed out during the Qatar 787 festivities as I was on my way back from Vegas. So I am so doing this! Then add on the fact that the Renton factory is ONLY open for invitation only and hardly ever sees the public inside. Even more win! I haven’t been to the Dreamliner Gallery so it’s a weekend that I just want to do so badly, yet I have to wait
Now yes it does come with a price but that price is very little $20 for each day at the Boeing Tours plus $5 for the Dreamliner Gallery. But that is really nothing considering a standard factory tour at Everett is $20 and you don’t get being treated like a VIP! Either way this should be an awesome fun filled weekend. For part of the morning on Saturday, I am volunteering my services at the Museum of Flight (possibly might even be volunteering at Future of Flight in the not to distant future) but I am still going and I don’t mind that i have to pay $45 for a weekend full of fun avgeek stuff.
What is even more fantastic in my opinion is the fact I get to see a lot of my good friends. So far one is flying up from LAX, another might be coming down from Vancouver, I don’t know who else might show up from out of town but I am looking forward to it. My living room floor might get severely crowded at this rate!
Tickets go on sale at 11am tomorrow (Saturday 26th). I will have to take a few minutes away from my Australia Day celebrations and grab my tickets (yes even I have to pay) but so looking forward to it
Each year I try to set myself some goals to achieve in 2012 and this year was no different. I set one goal, tick off as many things on my bucket list as possible.
Here is what I managed to complete:
* Fly a Plane
* Cook a Meal for the people in my life who i cherish the most
* Move out of home
* Run on an Airport runway
* Take a Shower, Mid Flight
* Get a flight in a War Bird – Double points if its a B17 (ended up with a B17)
I also really got stuck into this one:
* Read “The Clasics”
So that’s not bad in my opinion for the last 12 months. Moving over here to the USA was a big achievement for me and that was one of my biggest moments in 2012. I did have some pretty amazing other moments as well when looking back, things that aren’t worthy of a bucket list item but still awesome none the less.
* I took my first ever real mileage run and that took me from Brisbane to Mackay & Rockhampton via Sydney and Brisbane again. Along with another one to Canbera via Sydney & Melbourne.
* Bought my truck after moving over here, a dream I have had for quite some time
* I flew down and did some spotting at LAX just for the hell of it on two seperate occasions, along with another one north to Vancouver just for spotting.
* Traveled all the way out to Ohio to see one specific Aircraft the XB-70 and then also getting a chance to touch the YF-12 at the same time.
* Visited my first real US Air Show and got to see a B2 and then an F-22 Raptor at another show.
* Saw both the Blue Angels & the Thunderbirds on seperate occasions
* Stepped foot on my first 787
* Saw my first 747-8 take off and was as giddy as a school girl
* Started doing a bit more blogging and photography on the side
* Got me a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer (sad yes I know but I love it!)
* Got to see a Patriots football game
So much else has happened in the last 12 months but to be honest, you probably don’t care.. but one thing I have enjoyed over the last 12 months has just been the challenges and how I have managed to work through them in the last 12 months. No matter what curve ball was thrown at me, I took it in stride and kept on going. It has been a great year looking back at all the things I have done and places I have visited, people I have met and things I have done.
Next year brings a whole new set of challenges and goals. Looking forward to it!
HAHA just like Dr Frankenstein shouted when he created his monster, I feel like that this afternoon now that I have created what I am referring to as my “Media Beast.” For so long now I had been running a Western Digital WD TV setup at home. It was fantastic for the videos that I “acquired” and was a great way for me to watch them on my TV at home. Well thanks to the upgrades in the Systems I went from an original non HD version, to a HD Version before I left Australia. Now that I am over here in the USA, I am taking it one step further.
Media Beast Phase 1 is now complete and this is my Living Room TV. The Main Big Screen (Sony Bravia LCD 40″ HDTV) doesn’t have Cable TV hooked up. I decided against forking out almost $100 a month for it over here. Sure this means I am limited to only Free to Air but to be honest, I don’t watch all that much TV anyway (well TV at TV times that is). More often than not I miss the shows I want to watch and end up having to Stream or Download (legitimately of course) or whatever. So Free to Air is fine (King 5 News in the morning for me before work, way better than Sunrise back home).
Well connected to the TV now is a Cheap Blu Ray player (no discs yet though) but then it gets nice. I picked up a cheap Soundbar for the sound system (it works, its nothing all that special) and then it gets creative. I picked up the newest version of the WD TV, the Live version. It comes built in with WiFi so it can stream Hulu and Netflix directly to my TV. But that’s not all. Before I left I had picked up some Seagate GoFlex drives and when I got over here, put them all together with the GoFlex Net which is like a little docking station that turns the portable drives into a Network Attached Storage Server. Not only does it mean I can access my Files on these drives from work, it feeds directly to the TV now as well!
So right now, the small drive connected directly to the WD TV Live is currently syncing some data across, but really once this is done, I will probably just share across the network my “Unwatched” folder and that way once Phase 2 (Smaller but similar bedroom setup) is complete I will have a fully networked Media Beast where I can watch anything I want, anywhere I want in my apartment or even on my balcony thanks to WiFi, Technology and being a Geek on so many levels!
So I watched a video the other day about happiness in our lives. The talk that it came from was really great and one thing they suggested doing was for 21 days, list 3 new things each day you are grateful for.
So here I begin with day 1. Each day I’ll use my posterous account to list them. But for day 1 here are my three things:
* Sunshine – after days of gloomy weather a touch of sun just makes the world seem better
* Calmness – after going to work all day I like the fact if i can slow my heart rate down, stay calm and relax the world becomes a better place
* Convenience – what more needs to be said, our lives are often go go go something easy and convenient makes it all the better, like the auto mode on my coffee machine, RSS feeds for blog, other small things that make our lives easier
Is it a Cheeseburger? Or is it a cake… you decide…
Well it’s both.. kinda. My friend Clare sent me a link a while ago to this and I just wanted to do it ever since. Work was having a birthday tomorrow, figured what the hell. I was baking for my dad for his birthday so what the hell. I usually torture Dad on my birthday, well this time, I would let him make the choice and truth be told, I was up for whatever he had to throw at me. He tried to play it off and just said “just a cake” and I pushed back. Asked him what his favourite was and I knew he liked some old school stuff. Finally got it out of him. 2 things he has always liked. Vanilla Slice & Cherry Ripe Slice. Well he got his wish!
Today i spent the day pretty much in the Kitchen from 9am till 4pm making a whole load of mess. I made everything! The cup cakes, the frosting, the custard for the vanilla slice, the icings, the whole shebang. The frosting was something I had not tried before and it was a “7 minute frosting” which took like 30 minutes really. IT was a french style (i think) frosting that was meringue and sugar syrup (or is that italian style, i don’t remember).
I tell you what though, it was fun decorating those cup cakes. Here is a is a link to all the photos from the afternoons efforts… Absolutely enjoyable day (Cept for my waistline).
|Random Baking 2012|
Well This one I have put off for what feels like forever. As most of you would remember I ran the 10km at Gold Coast Marathon Festival last year as one of my big goals. Well I bought the lovely photos that went with it, kept the race number and the medal and wanted to put them up framed as a good momento of that life changing goal of mine.
Every time I looked in the cupboard at the medal and the race bib, I reminded myself “yeah ill do that this weekend” then something came up, i got lazy, or just plain forgot to do it. Well I finally pulled my finger out about 6 weeks ago and bought a frame to put it in, along with some glass for it. Then procrastination took over again and it sat and did nothing for about another 2 weeks till I remembered to get the cardboard. Dad cut out the backing wood for it out of some old scrap masonite we had lying around. Again it sat as procrastination took over till this morning where I had some free time and thought, I should really just get this done and dusted and put together so I can get it all up on the wall and done.
So I spent the 30 minutes or so it took to get it all together, with my dad’s help thanks to his old work ways coming out wanting to take over to make sure its all perfect, in getting it all mounted and ready to get secured by the frame store (they use some special pin things that they said they would put in for free for me).
Total Cost: $30
Estimated Cost at store: $85!
So as you can see… its completed! After only a few weeks worth of work by both me & my dad (he liked to do stuff without telling me like the painting etc).. Its all done We spent today and yesterday finishing it off. Getting the last little pieces done. I am sure that if we had of worked solidly it could of been done in one weekend but would not look as good as it would not of had time to dry etc.
But its all done now. It sits proudly in the corner flicking photo to photo. Its exceptionally clear and of such a decent size that it looks good. And what is good is that if my parents want to put on a dvd, they can. The frame was and has been for them the whole time. If i make one for myself I intend on trying the laptop variant I have seen so much of on the internet.
But to be honest. I am really happy with this thing. Total cost of parts was only about $70. Considering brand new 15″ models cost about $200 or more and this is 24″ that can’t be beat!
For all the photos check out the below gallery.
What is my next project… well that one starts in a few weeks time!
One of the websites that i visit on a several daily basis (Overclockers Australia Forums) has a pretty active food section. People like to get in and share their food recipes and triumphs etc. There was one thing that piqued my interest. The Sponge Cake thread. I have always been afraid and yet mystified by sponge cakes. I have always loved how light and fluffy the cake is and how a simple cake can just be one of the most wonderful tastes.
Someone ended up posting a recipe for a CWA sponge cake. I thought to myself “i should try that sometime.” My dad’s birthday was fast approaching and I asked him if he minded if I took a stab at making a sponge for his birthday. My dad loves sponge cake. He always prefers the Sponge cakes you get from Woolworths (fake cream and all) and thats probably where I get my love of sponge cake from. So I thought to myself, I will make it from scratch for him. And I will also go all out, make the jam from scratch, and the icing. I wanted it to look like an old school sponge, kinda like this. I was really looking forward to this but in case it didn’t turn out I bought my dad a back up cake. I did not want him to go cakeless on his birthday. And in case it didn’t fail, it was cheap the back up cake so could be chucked/donated if necessary. Here it is, in all of its fake cakey goodness
This Morning was cake baking day. Since I don’t go out running or anything on Sunday mornings meant I could make my dad breakfast (and my mum to lest I never hear the end of the complaints from not doing it!) I would then have an empty kitchen to do what I need to do (and swear as much as possible if I need to). And so it began. I will put all the recipes right at the bottom.
First off you can see all of the ingrediants (just like one of my fav food websites Pioneer Woman does. The Cast of Characters
Pretty easy cake to. No flour, no butter. Cornflour, Castor Sugar, Eggs, Bi Carb, Cream of Tartar & Vanilla. Considering sponges have this lore of how difficult they are, I was looking at this thinking “wow… and this is meant to be scary”, I would soon find out why.
First thing after measuring out what I needed I greased and floured the two tins
I then set about beating up the Eggs & Sugar. Now this was meant to go on for 10 mins. So i set up the stand mixer.
So while this was going, I went to work triple sifting the dry ingrediants and getting that out of the way ready so that this could quickly be folded together and into the oven. But then disaster struck. The mixer was doing its job but was totally inadequate to the job. It just did not do anything good at all. So It was into the trash they went, stand mixer shoved out of the way and I pulled out the stab mixer with whisk attachment.
But again disaster struck. About half way in, the bowl was just getting way to full and going everywhere! So I had to get a bigger bowl. Stop the clock, grab a bigger bowl and restart the clock.
With that done it was time to mix the wet & dry together, into the Tins & into the oven. quick and easy. All up if it had not of been for the stuff up, a cake finished in half an hour with no real effort!
With the cakes in the oven I quickly tidied up and got started on the jam. This time I wasn’t going by any recipes, I was making it up as I went along.
Another cast of Characters. Rasberries, Lemon Juice & Agave Nectar. Why agave and not sugar, I was trying to be a little bit healthier and not use any sugar. The less sugar the better I guess. We will see how it turns out in the long run. I made some of this about a month back (using different fruit) and it lasted pretty good with the Agave.
Shove it all in the pot, turn on the heat and let it go. Simple as!
15 mins after going in, timer goes off, out come the cakes!
With the cakes out, it was back to the jam.
Then seriously after like 1 minute out i was slowly getting sad. I thought I had failed as this happened
I just let them sit for about 10 mins, turned them out onto a clean tea towel and walked away, thats right walk away (Alton Brown reference there, most of you wont get it)
I got back to focusing on the jam, wondering if it was going to set, was it going to be ok, the usual cooking panics
After a good 20 mins of cooking time, It was pretty cooked down and looked good, So I pulled the jam off the stove, placed it into a lovely sexy black plastic tray and into the Fridge to help it set.
I then left the house to go off and run errands and while I was out, I heard an ad for a Harvey Norman’s sale. I was tempted to go and buy a new stand mixer, one of the nice shiny ones. Ideally I would love a kitchenaid. Its the ones you see in every cooking show (Alton Brown’s has Flames!) and I wanted one so badly, but it cost $800! So not gonna happen. But There are some good more budgety models. Harvey Norman would do me one for $285.. down from $350… thats tempting. But I had to run off to the airport, so was going to come back. Then seeing as I was making good time to the airport (which is a whole other story) I stopped off at Good Guys, same mixer, retailing for $350… negotiations look good.. lets see if i have to pull the “harvey norman are offering it for less line” the conversation went like this.
Store Clerk: Can I help you with Something?
Me: Yeah, what kinda price can you do on this mixer?
Store Clerk: How you paying, cash or credit
Me: Credit card, I want the points
Store Clerk: What kinda card?
Store Clerk: can’t discount on amex, but if you have a visa or mastercard I can do a price
Me: Yeah i can do that (was hoping the payments to my mastercard had cleared but they didn’t)
Store Clerk: Types away at computer, comes back $245
Me: Really? $245?
Store Clerk: Yeah
Me: What colours you got
Store Clerk: White…. looks at other box Or White
Me: Thinks Ok I’ll take it
So back to the baking. With new mixer ready to go, I was going to decorate this cake, old school styles. Kinda. Now some of you may know that I have IBS, and one of the triggers is Cream. I can’t eat cream. And after a cake request from a friend (which will be shown to the blog in a few weeks time) I was hunting round for a “non dairy” topping that was used in another recipe that I needed. Now it looks like cream, whips like cream but its not diary, so why not give it a try in the lead up to the other cake to see how it turns out. Dad was ok with trying it so went ahead with it. It’s called Rich’n Smooth. Similar to “Cool Whip” in the states.
All you do is shove it in the bowl and start to whip it like you would cream. That’s it… simple as!
Unfortunately it whipped up a lot more than i expected but hey, what can you do!
Cake Assemble (I have to stop with the sad references, this one to the Avengers… u know Avengers Assemble… ok I will stop now). First Up. Jam onto the bottom layer of the cake. With the cake tops facing In so that the bottom and top are totally flat and level.
Then the “Cream” goes on next… nice thick layer (got player to spare)
And then on goes the other half of the cake.
Wow… its coming together! It looks almost complete, now for some old school icing. When my dad worked for a company called “William Brooks Publishing” they printed some really old school cook books. I am talking old school, hell it was targeted for School Age kids learning to cook in the 70s. So there is some old school stuff in there (even a recipe for making a cup of coffee). I figured, old school cook book is bound to have an old school icing recipe. None of this fondant icing as you would see on all the cake shows (although I do love watching Ace of Cakes). Recipe found time to make. Not content with plain icing.. i chose yellow. Cause i can…
Another Cast of Characters. Icing Sugar, Butter, Water, Vanilla & Food Colouring
Pretty simple recipe. sift icing sugar into mixer bowl (hell you could do it without the mixer but i wanna play with my new toy). Beat in the butter, add in the vanilla and a touch of water to form a paste. Add in some food colouring. ice your cake. how easy can you get!
Icing Sugar in Bowl…. Check
Butter, Water & Vanilla in bowl… mix away… Check
Food Colouring Added… Check
Time to finish this cake off. Spreading some of the icing on the top. Not to much to start with so that it doesn’t go to far over the sides, I want it to look pretty.
And here it is… the finished Cake:
But heres a better Look
So there you have it. Now to wait for dinner so that I can have my cake (and eat it to! hello weekly treat, although I did lick the icing bowl a little bit.. ok maybe the cream to )
Now for the recipes so you can try it yourself!
Corn Flour Sponge Sandwhich (CWA)
* 4 eggs
* ½ cup castor sugar
* 1 cup ‘Fielders’ Cornflour (i used homebrand)
* pinch salt
* 1 teas. cream of tartar
* ½ teas. bicarb soda
1. Preheat Oven to 180C
2. Grease 2 x 20cm deep-sided sponge tins, dust with flour.
3. Sift cornflour, bicarb. soda, & cream of tartar three times.
4. Beat eggs & sugar together for 10 minutes. (if using a stand mixer, make sure to have a whisk not beater attached)
5. Fold in sifted ingredients.
6. Divide mixture evenly between tins.
7. Bake in oven for 15 minutes.
8. Turn out onto clean tea towel.
9. When cold, join together with raspberry jam.
Day to Day Cookery – pg190
* 1 Cup Icing Sugar
* 2 Tablespoons Butter – Softened
* 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
* 1-2 Tablespoons Water or Milk
1. Sift Icing Sugar into a Bowl
2. Work in softened butter with a wooden spoon (I used the mixer)
3. Add sufficient Water (or milk) to make a smooth paste
4. Add Vanilla & Beat Well
5. Add Food Colouring if desired