That was quick!

24 11 2006

Only 3 days ago, the politicians in Western Australia voted to trial daylight saving for the next three years, starting next weekend (Dec 3, 2006). Today Microsoft announced a Daylight Savings patch for Western Australia!





Last week

20 11 2006

Bit of a funny week last week. There was the preparation for the home open on Saturday (most of which was done on Saturday morning); one of my remoter clients was down from Darwin and we spent all Thursday going through stuff (and Wednesday night with him at the local Indian restaurant [Suriyen]); then on Saturday afternoon we walked to the revamped Karalee Tavern in Como for lunch while the house was open; friends popped by unexpectedly in the afternoon to look at the house; then on Saturday night we went to the Ten Ten Kitchen for a meal with some other friends, followed by some Texas Hold’ Em poker.

And all through Thurdsay, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we heard the mosquito buzzing of the planes in the Red Bull Air Race that was held in Perth on Sunday. Following the race, the streets around our house were gridlocked for a while (a bit like the Skyshow, except during the day), but I did notice a Jaguar and a Mercedes stop and take a good long look at the “for sale” sign outside the house. Maybe???

So, it was a busy week. Oh, and the hubby is back swimming again, and is already up to 1500m!





Home Open

20 11 2006

We had our first “home open” on Saturday. I was a bit disappointed as the agent said only 5 groups came through. But on the other side, only ONE family will buy this house… maybe they just haven’t seen it yet. Even if 200 came through (unlikely, even at the height of the boom!), only one could buy. So I’m vacilating between being ambivalent and disappointed.

There was a lot of work done to put things in cupboards etc. for the “home open”. It’s quite stressful, yet exciting and scary too.





Comfort Food 7: Lemon Meringue Pie

12 11 2006

Second stage of my “let’s use up some of that frozen lemon juice and those extra eggs…” afternoon. I haven’t made lemon meringue pie in I don’t know how long – years and years. I love eating it, but just never make it. So today was the day! I used the recipe from my old favourite: Australian and New Zealand Complete Book of Cookery (published by Paul Hamlyn back in 1970!)

First off, I find I have to make shortcrust pastry – which reminded me why I don’t make this recipe… I really don’t like making pastry. It always goes wrong, and it’s fiddly. But anyhow, make the pastry I did, and blind baked it. Then it was on to the lemon filling. And finally, after about 2 hours of making, chilling, rolling, blind baking, whisking etc., I made the meringue topping and got it into the oven. Considering it will all go in a few minutes, I’m wondering whether this effort was worth it! I must say, it looked good when I’d finished!! (though if I did it over, I’d double the lemon filling as there didn’t seem to be enough once I’d added it to the pastry case)

lemon_meringue02.jpg

OK, here’s the recipe:

Rich Shortcrust Pastry

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 (4 oz) cup butter (cold!)
  • 2 tablespoons castor sugar
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • small amount of cold water (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup)

Sieve flour into a cold mixing bowl, add the butter and rub it into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre of the dry mix, add the beaten egg yolks and a little cold water. Mix until you have a slightly crumbly stiff dough. Knead the dough a little. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 10 mins before rolling out. Roll out and line a flan tin (or similar) with the pastry. Place some baking paper in the tin – enough to cover the bottom – then add some dried peas or beans or similar to weigh the pastry down. Let the pastry rest for 10 mins, then blind bake in a moderately hot oven for 10 mins. Remove the baking paper and contents, then return the pastry case to the oven for abouther 15-20 mins. Cool.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon filling:

  • 4 tablespoons cornflour
  • 1/2 pint water (285ml)
  • 1 oz butter (1/4 cup)
  • grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2/3 cup (4 oz) castor sugar
  • yolks of 2 large eggs (keep the whites for the meringue!)

Add all ingredients EXCEPT the egg yolks to a saucepan. Whisk over a moderate heat until boiling. Whisk for a further 2-3 mins. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Whisk in egg yolks. When a little cooler, pour into pastry case (see above).

Meringue:

  • whites of 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup (4 oz) castor sugar

Beat egg whites until stiff. Add half the sugar, continue beating, add remainder of sugar, beat until you get stiff peaks and the mix is glistening.

Pile meringue over lemon mixture making sure it covers the pastry edges. Bake in a slow oven for about 30 mins until the meringue is golden.
Lemon Meringue Pie





Comfort Food 6: Lemon Muffins

12 11 2006

It was a baking day this afternoon – I have a lot of frozen lemon juice to use up! So first cab off the rank was Lemon Muffins.

Lemon Muffins
I haven’t made these before so it was a bit of an experiment, and to add interest, I added some chopped dried apricots and a handful of dried banana chips. I thought of adding poppyseed, but I didn’t have any! I used the same Canadian recipe book that I use for my blueberry muffins.

Here’s the recipe (I doubled everything to use up more lemon juice and eggs!):

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (plain flour for Australians)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • grated rind of 1 or 2 lemons
  1. Combine the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and rind and beaten eggs.
  3. Stir egg mixture into dry until well moistened.
  4. Fill muffin cups, sprinkle tops with remaining sugar.
  5. Bake in 400F oven (about 180C) until lightly browned.




Hard drive crash

9 11 2006

I’ve been getting daily emails about the state of my server ever since it was installed a couple of years ago. But about 3 or 4 weeks ago, I started noticing some unexplained errors, such as backups not being done, then a bad sector on the hard drive etc. I’ve been trying to contact the guy who put it together and who manages it remotely, but he seems to have dropped off the planet.

So after speaking to the sys admin guy at one of my workplaces, I bit the bullet and scheduled a time for a local company who deals in Microsoft Small Business Server and focuses on home and small business computer systems to come in and take a look at a few issues. Neil from PC Guru (http://www.pcguru.com.au) arrived right on time at 5:00pm on Tuesday afternoon (that’s always a big plus in my book!). He took a look at the logs and said what I was dreading – that he wouldn’t look at the other issues until he got the bad sector thing sorted… and he suspected a dying hard drive.

He discovered that the mirrored array wasn’t mirroring at all – and hadn’t been for some time. Then he tried to backup the data on to my desktop (which has plenty of space). But the backup script was one of the errors. So he tried a soft reboot, but then it went into Checkdisk mode (which he was trying to avoid until he got the data off), reporting a number of bad sectors. On boot up, there was a Registry Hive error (a nasty!!!). So Neil said that he’d take the server with him as he didn’t want to risk it and they would attempt to clone off the data in the office on Wednesday, but meantime replacement hard drives were required. It was now 6:30pm.

On Wednesday morning Neil called me with hard drive prices, and told me that he’d started the clone last night. Later that day I was called and told the cloning was still happening and that the ETA for my server was Thursday. And today I got told that were able to get the data off successfully – yay! The bad news was that the mirrored drive was totally dead, and the main drive was in a death roll (my words, not theirs). So two replacement 320GB hard drives later, and Aaron arrived this afternoon (on time!) to fit it all back together.

Unlike previous occasions when the server’s been down for whatever reason, this was absolutely painless. Everything just worked! The internet connected, the printer worked, network connections re-established by themselves, Exchange Server went and collected the email from the ISP as it should, and so on.

I’ve been very impressed with them to date, so much so that I have taken up one of their pre-paid plans. The things that have impressed me most have been:

  • Good customer experience from the very first phone call
  • They turned up on time
  • They knew their stuff, but they didn’t baffle me with techno mumbo-jumbo – it was at the level I required and understood (which is probably more than many, but they figured that straight up)
  • They dealt with me in a professional way at every step
  • They contacted me about what was happening – I didn’t have to call them to find out
  • They gave me a fair deal on the price of the new hard drives – and the hard drives were either already in stock or they had a supplier they got them from first thing Wednesday morning
  • They had no problem working out of normal business hours, and offer a 24/7 service
  • They are local! In fact they’re about 5 minutes drive away from us in South Perth!
  • They set up another appointment with me to deal with all the other small issues that have been annoying me for some time – and again, had no problem with the time being at the end of the working day

I haven’t had such good customer experience from a company for a long time – I hope that they continue to maintain it as they grow.

And if you’re in Perth, I wholeheartedly recommend them just based on this brief experience so far. Details: http://www.pcguru.com.au; 1300 724 878





Whirling dervishes

9 11 2006

Our house is now on the market and the professional photographers come in tomorrow, then the first “home open” is next Saturday (18th November). Today we had a landscaping company come in and “do” the garden – clean up the straggly stuff, trim, mulch, plant new plants and basically give the front garden – especially – a make-over, including a proper step at the gate.

They arrived at 8:30am and finished around 3:00pm. There were only three of them, but boy! have they made a difference! They weren’t cheap by a long shot, but they were quick and did a great job. I took some “before” photos this morning, but haven’t taken any “after” ones yet as the server was being reinstalled (more in next post) and it was raining this afternoon.

As I’ve always said, you only have one chance to make a first impression – and our front garden is that chance. Hope it’s all worth it…

Before and after photos…

Front garden - before
Front garden – before

Front garden - after
Front garden – after

Side - before
Side – before

Side - after
Side – after

Full set of photos (including some taken by professional photographer of the inside)