Hopping over to the other side…

29 10 2006

… of the country.

I flew to Sydney on Thursday as I was presenting at a conference there on Friday. I stayed on for the conference sessions on Saturday, and am now writing this in Sydney Airport awaiting my flight back to Perth. A quick trip!

Last night they changed the clocks in Sydney – actually, in all of NSW, Victoria and South Australia – going on to Eastern Summer Time. Which makes it very confusing when you have a flight later that day – is it due to depart at the stated time, the time plus or minus one hour, or what?

In Western Australia we’ve voted out Daylight Saving in three referendums, so it’s not a situation I’m used to… However, I’d better get used to it as it looks like our pollies will be voting very soon on trialling it in WA – if they haven’t done so already – and it’s likely to be up and running either by Dec 1 or Jan 1 if it gets through Parliament. Of course, the pollies tell us this is only “a trial” for 2 to 3 years, after which time they “might” have another referendum. Personally, I don’t care one way or the other about daylight saving as I avoid the heat of summer wherever possible by staying indoors!

Overall, the conference was good (a couple of sessions didn’t interest me), but there were one or two things about the venue (Citigate Sebel) that narked me a bit. First, the only loos we could use were through the restaurant, and they closed the restaurant between 3:00pm and 5:30pm! So we had to go downstairs to the lobby area, then up the stairs again from another angle. The other was the lack of anything to drink at the breaks other than tea and coffee (plenty of water was provided on the tables). Most conferences I’ve been to, have had some juice and soft drink available for those of us who don’t drink tea or coffee. After 2 days sitting in the conference, I’d drunk so much water, I was sloshing! I love water – but a small Diet Coke would’ve been nice occasionally.

I was lucky to stay with a multi-removed cousin (we have a common ancestor in the 1700s I think!) who was also attending the conference, so that meant I didn’t have to stay in a souless hotel, eating over-priced and uninspiring room service, and catching cabs or shuttles  to and from the airport (she lives quite close to the airport though not in the flight path, thank goodness). It was good to curl up on a couch with the cat!

Just heard… flight to Perth is delayed at least an hour (as was the flight over, by the way).

Weekends away should be compulsory

23 10 2006

Weekends away without mobile phones, computers, email, newspapers, TV, etc. should be compulsory. Add in two good friends, some brilliant wine and food, gorgeous spring weather, a delightful location, and you couldn’t ask for more to relax you and just chill.

We drove down to Bridgetown on Saturday morning with our friends, listening to a compilation of some great music from the 60s. The weather was delightful – quite hot, actually. After a detour to show them where we intend building (they were impressed!), we checked into the Bridgetown Hotel and had lunch. The hotel rooms (like the pub) have all been refurbished, and are very very classy. Minimalist – but classy. High quality materials and fittings, and a luxurious feel to them.

Lunch was as good as usual – the Bridgetown Hotel does a great feed! (We had a superb dinner there too on Saturday night, as well as a full breakfast on Sunday morning – it was all good!) The food’s not cheap, but it’s excellent quality, with great presentation, and big servings – the price doesn’t really matter under those circumstances. Oh, and breakfast was included in the room price.

After lunch we walked across the road to the Blackwood Valley Wine Show. What a bargain that was! $5 entrance fee got you access to 150 wines of the region – and all you could drink! You helped yourself from the bottles laid out on the tables, and could have as much or as little as you liked. Excellent nibbly food was also part of the deal, served by a couple of high school boys.

Our favourite reds (and we tried to stick to the local wines, not those from Margaret River or elsewhere in WA), were the Sunnyhurst 2004 Shiraz (gold medal), Killinchy 2005 Shiraz (silver) and our old favourite, the Two Tinsmiths 2004 and 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (silver).

I’ve never been to such a casual wine show! The idea of helping yourself went out the door 20+ years ago in Perth, and no doubt, over time as it gets bigger, there’ll be much more control in later years. But it will be nice to say “Remember when you could come in and have as much great wine as you wanted in 3 hours for $5?”

There were quite of lot of people there, though it really was a small gathering compared to other shows we’ve been to. And the really neat thing was that we saw some people we know from Perth (now living part time in Bridgetown), who introduced us to others who we’d heard of but not met, who still live in Perth but get down to Bridgetown most weekends. So that’s increased the network of those we know in the area.

After the wine show finished at 4:30pm we walked back across the road to the pub (how convenient is that!), and had dinner there later that evening, followed by an hour or two of playing Euchre sitting out on the old upstairs verandahs (3m wide!). It had been hot all day, and there was a great thunderstorm while we were playing cards – thunder, lightning, heavy rain – the works! It was great!

On Sunday morning we had a late breakfast (fully cooked brekky too!), then went down to the farmer’s markets to buy some produce. Not much was left, so we got what we could, then headed out of Bridgetown and back to Perth.

Well, they don’t call the South West Highway the Harvest Highway for nothing! It took us about 5-6 hours to get back… we stopped at Wattle Ridge Winery near Greenbushes to pick up some cleanskins (the cleanskins are their 2004 Two Tinsmiths Cabernet Sauvignon), at Donnybrook for more fresh produce, at the Brunswick EziWay for bread (though they were out, so we got family pies instead), at Wokalup for HaVe Cheese, at Harvey for a light lunch (like we needed it – NOT!) and a wander around the gardens and river walk at Stirling’s Cottage. And then back to Perth laden with too much food, a lot of fresh produce, some wine, and a very relaxed state of being.

Highly recommended.

We got it at last

20 10 2006

Some 13 months since putting down the deposit on the 4400 square metres (about 1.1 acres) of land down south that we want to build on, settlement FINALLY came through on Thursday afternoon. Whoopee doo!

And we’re going down there this weekend with friends for the Blackwood Valley Wine Show – so it’ll be good to show them the property as they’ve heard so much about it from us in the past 12 months or so.

Anywhere but Collingwood!

13 10 2006

After all those years of bagging Collingwood and their one-eyed supporters, I’m going to have to take a little bit of interest in them next year because Paul got traded to them today in a multi-trade swap for Chris Tarrant going to Fremantle. Bummer.

It’s just a little typo…

13 10 2006

Seen on a message board (names removed to protect the author and the company!):

“General Manager – … I will be seeking a candidate … who has significant experience in ruining a … company of similar size…”

I’m sure he meant “running”!

A brilliant sting!

12 10 2006

Where do I start? This is just such a *great* sting, and the pity of it is that the person being stung (we’ll call him “X”) probably will never realise it, and the person who is behind the sting (we’ll call him “Y”) will probably never get to see X’s reaction. Nonetheless, it’s a great sting…

To understand the nuances, it helps if you know something about Australian wine, particularly the reverence in which Penfolds Grange Hermitage is held. And it helps to know that both X and Y like their red wine, and both profess to know quite a bit about it. Ready?

X worked with Y for some years. Last year, X brought in a case of ‘vin ordinaire’ red – a Pinot Noir – to have for Friday afternoon drinks. The wine was *very* ordinary, to say the least (some thought it cheap and nasty… especially “nasty”), and we were all very glad when the last bottle was finally finished. But it really wasn’t – X had held back a bottle and gave it to Y as his “secret Santa” gift at the company Christmas party, to great guffaws of laughter from the rest of us who knew how much Y hated that wine.

A few weeks ago, X resigned from the company and we had a farewell lunch for him. Y couldn’t be at the lunch as he was on company business somewhere in the world. The company gave X two pairs of Reidel red wine glasses – a beautiful gift, and especially fitting for someone who likes wine. And Y, through the Managing Director, gave X a bottle of 1987 Penfolds Grange Hermitage! A magnificent gift by anyone’s standards. All at our restaurant table – including X – were most impressed. And some of us were surprised at the enormity of this gift as we didn’t think that X and Y really got along all that well.

(Sidenote: For those who don’t know, a single bottle of 1987 Grange sells for between $200 and $400 Australian dollars, depending on where you buy it. We’re not talking cheap wine here!)

Time marches on… Y is away from work on various things for a few weeks. And today he and I are both in the office together, where he tells me the story of the Grange he gave to X. I’ll cut to the chase:

  • Y stored the gifted bottle of ‘cheap and nasty’ wine on a ledge in his shed, in direct sun, for 10 months.
  • Y very carefully opened a bottle of 1987 Grange and shared it with his wife (cut the seal super carefully, removed the cork as carefully).
  • Y just left an inch or so of wine and sediment in the bottle.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

Y then poured the bottle of ‘cheap and nasty’ into the Grange bottle, recorked it, and glued the seal very carefully so you wouldn’t notice that he’d tampered with the wine. He then gift wrapped the “Grange” and gave it to the Managing Director to give to X.

X called Y this week to thank him most profusely and humbly for such a magnificent gift.

Now, where will this story end? Well, it hasn’t ended yet – and no-one knows quite how it will end as there are a number of scenarios that could play out, none of which we’ll probably ever know about. X could:

  • Lay the “Grange” down for another 10 years before opening it…
  • Open it on a very special occasion with his wife, and/or friends…
  • Get permission to take it to a very swanky restaurant and have it opened there…
  • Take it to one of the free top-up days that Penfolds conducts in the capital cities of Australia each year and get the wine checked… (now wouldn’t we love to be a fly on the wall for that!)
  • Sell the “Grange” on eBay…
  • Give Y a bottle of Henschke’s Hill of Grace for this Christmas!

Such sweet revenge! And so carefully planned!

Some good news yesterday

6 10 2006

After more than a year since we put a deposit down on the block of land down south that we want to build on, I finally got a call yesterday from the real estate agent letting us know that titles should be released within 2 weeks. Yippee! Once we get that bit of paper we can start REALLY thinking about designs and planning and all that stuff… soil surveys, site surveys, architects/designers/builders, sustainable and accessible housing, and so on. We have no illusions about the building process and the time it is likely to take (probably around 2 years), and we’re very aware that building in the country is going to cost more than building a similar house in the city. But it’s what we want to do and where we want to live. And it was nice to get some good news after the stresses and angst of the past few months (a subject for some other time).

However, there is one fly in the ointment… Two weeks ago we found out that a developer has put in an application to the Shire to build a gravel quarry within sight and sound of our property! We are not happy about this on SO many levels, and have lodged our objection with the Shire, and every politician and environmental authority we can think of.

It’s a *very* small world!

5 10 2006

I met up with a first cousin of mine last night. Not unusual, you might think. But it was. We hadn’t seen each other for some 11 years (since our mutual grandfather’s funeral in Nov 1995, we believe), even though we live in the same city. Life somehow gets in the way, which is really no excuse, but that’s how it is. When we were kids, our respective families would share the kids – we’d go to them for a week of the school holidays and they’d come to us for another week. I guess it gave both sets of parents some time off parenting. So we sort of grew up with these cousins, and of all the cousins (not that there are many), my sister and I were closest to these ones on our Mum’s side of the family.

So how did we run in to each other?

Long story, but a guy I’ve known FOREVER married a girlfriend of mine some 15 years ago or thereabouts. She and I keep in pretty good contact and she told me her step-daughter (his daughter) was now 23 and a professional musician and was playing at a venue in Fremantle last night to launch her new CD. My girlfriend was going to be away so she asked if we’d like to go along and add some support. Which we did. This is not something we’d normally do, especially on a mid-week night.

And guess who was playing as a session muso in her band? My cousin! Really weird. Here are two very different branches of my life coming together in the one place – a place where we wouldn’t normally go – without either side knowing that there was a mutual connection.

Serendipity? Coincidence? I don’t think so…

Comfort Food 5: Strawberry Smoothie

2 10 2006

Hmmm… guess you can tell that strawberries are just coming in to season here! Here’s my recipe for a strawberry smoothie (or strawberry milkshake, if you prefer to call it that).

All ingredients are approximate – adjust portions to suit your taste.

Into a blender, add the following:

  • 20+ washed and hulled strawberries
  • About a cup of Greek-style creamy yoghurt
  • About 2 cups of milk
  • About a tablespoon of honey
  • About 2 teaspoons of powdered malt (optional)

Before the blitz!

Blend together for a minute, or until you get a nice frothy mix. Pour into glasses and sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg (optional).

After the blitz 1

After the blitz 2

I use this same recipe for pretty much any fruit smoothie – banana, apricot, peach, etc. Just change the fruit according to the season.

Comfort Food 4: New York Strawberries

2 10 2006

I have no idea if this is what they’re called, but that’s the name that our friends on Vancouver Island used when I first tried these delicious strawberries there a few years ago.  They are SO simple to make and SO delicious, and are a delightfully decadent dessert!

What you need:

  • Fresh whole strawberries (leave the hull/leaves on – you’ll need this to pick up the strawberry)
  • Dark brown sugar (the type that’s quite moist)
  • Either: creamy Greek-style yoghurt (my preference), sour cream, or real, thick cream

What you do:

  1. Put some brown sugar and yoghurt into separate small bowls and give a bowl to each guest, along with a bowl or plate of whole strawberries.
  2. Pick up a strawberry by its stalk/leaves, dip it into the yoghurt, then dip it into the sugar.
  3. Tip into your mouth and ENJOY the taste of the sweet and tart and fruit all mixed  in together!
  4. Repeat as often as you want!