Christmas week

31 12 2006

We’re back! Actually we got back on Friday after almost a week down south doing very little.

Christmas Eve

Last Saturday morning we drove down to Busselton (where my folks live). Then mid-afternoon we headed over to my sister’s and all her family for Christmas at the farm (they have 50 acres in the Yallingup Shire).

My sister and the nieces and nephews (well, one!) were cooking up a storm. It was a hot day but we had the works for Christmas Eve dinner – a roast ballantine of turkey (the turkey was stuffed with a duck, which was stuffed with a chicken, which was stuffed with… stuffing!), crispy roast potatoes and other roast veges, green beans and broccoli, a superb cheese sauce, perfectly blended gravy, and cranberry sauce. All followed by a yummy sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce courtesy of Michelle. Someone forgot to put the ham on the plates, but it didn’t matter – we had more than enough!

Before dinner, we sang Christmas carols with “Sir Elton” Bill on the keyboards and Shannon on the microphone. Someone had thoughtfully printed out and photocopied the words to all the carols, so we weren’t sitting there ‘la la la’ing for the second and third verses. Will loved “Jingle Bells” and seemed to know all the words.

Of course, having a little boy aged 3-and-a-half around meant that the pressure was on to get some of the presents opened before dinner instead of after! What started out as ‘just a couple of presents’ became the lot. The nieces and nephews all received lots of food-related gifts – either food or cookbooks. And of course little Will got more stuff than he could take in at once.

The highlight of the afternoon was the gifts that Will gave his Dad and older brothers and sisters – they all got Collingwood beanies, caps, and scarves. The transformation from Dockers supporters to Collingwood supporters is almost complete… Paul was home for Christmas – it was good to see him again, and he’s looking really well. He enjoyed the Collingwood bonding session in the US when they went to Arizona for high altitude training a few weeks back. Oh, and Paul gave Will a Collingwood guernsey with his new number on it. Will looked a treat!

West Australian Christmas table

Busselton and Bridgetown

The rest of the week was spent quietly at Mum and Dad’s, except for Wednesday when we went over to Bridgetown to have lunch at the Cidery with a couple who are building in rammed earth, then to take a look at the progress of their building. Their house looks fabulous and the colour and texture of the walls is magic! Rammed earth walls

View from their kitchen window to our property (in red)
They can see our block from their kitchen and family room – we’ve already arranged to have a red flag and a white flag to run up the yet-to-be-installed flagpole when the red or white wine has been poured!

30cm thick walls give rammed earth its wonderful thermal properties Colour and texture

Once we finished with them, we met the Property Manager at the house where we’ll be living temporarily to go through the maintenance things that have to get done between now and when the tenant moves out on Jan 27 and we move in on or around Feb 20. I also measured up the rooms as we don’t know what furniture we can take with us or have to put into storage or give to the Good Sammies. It was a damned hot day in Bridgetown – yes, I know – it’s one of the coldest towns in WA, but hell, it was hot there on Wednesday! We were glad to get back into the air-conditioned car and drive the 75-90 minutes back to Busselton.

On Thursday we went into Busselton to look at and purchase light fittings for the Bridgetown house – those that are there need replacing, and I want some decent lights in the kitchen and the family room where we’ll have the study/office. Currently, there are two open fluoros in those rooms; the bathroom light doesn’t work at all; there’s no cover on the hallway light; the bedroom light shades are cheap and nasty plastic ones; and the light fitting outside the laundry door isn’t weatherproof and is falling apart – a safety hazard if nothing else… $400 later and we had 2 sets of 4-track halogens, 5 oysters, 1 bunker light, and a tropical fluoro for the bathroom (tropical meaning it’s OK in humid, moist areas).

We left the folks on Friday and came back to Perth the long way via Bridgetown, as we had to drop off the light fittings so the electrician can fit them when he gets to do his part of the maintenance program.

Purging and Packing…

Yesterday (Saturday) and today I’ve been sorting, purging, and packing. More to come tomorrow, but for now, I’m buggered! Oh, and yesterday I also did an inventory of all our furniture, and made mock-ups of the rooms and the furniture (using SmartDraw 2007), and placed almost everything – sorry, no spare bedroom for visitors… both extra bedrooms will be store rooms! There are only a few smaller pieces that won’t fit, so it looks like we may not need a storage unit after all! We’ll be giving some furniture away, but not a lot. At least not this round. When we’ve built the new house, we’ll do the big purge of all the old furniture.

So that brings me up to date. Tonight is New Year’s Eve, but I think I’ll only be seeing the backs of my eyelids come midnight! More purging and packing tomorrow…

Almost forgot – while I was hunting out things to pack in nooks and crannies of boxes, I found this storage jar. At some point it got hot! So there’s this whole Salvador Dali thing happening with the rubber seal.

Salvador Dali-esque storage jar

Updates from the past week

20 12 2006

Since we accepted the offer on the house last Wed (13 Dec), things have been moving at a fair clip. The purchasers have agreed to a later settlement date (‘closing date’ for those of you in North America) of Feb 20, 2007; the building inspection was done last Friday; the bank valuation was done today; the deposit was paid today; and my other half purchased some 50 packing boxes from a removals company yesterday, as well as making calls to the cable company about what to do to get satellite when we move, etc.

I’ve been in contact with the Property Manager in Bridgetown to arrange for maintenance and repairs to be done on the investment house we’ll be living in after Feb 20, and she told me she may have found another house for the current tenant. If that’s the case, then all these things look like they may dovetail in nicely with us moving down at the end of February or thereabouts.

Oh, and somewhere in there I had a birthday, continued going to work, attended one client’s Christmas Party, and in my spare time did some work for an ad hoc client, and did quotes and draft contracts for two potentially new small clients (one to edit their geological reports, the other to do their newsletter template and edit the content), and sorted Christmas gifts!

We celebrated my birthday in style at the Bluewater Grill in Applecross. The venue was suberb – overlooking the Swan River and the city on a balmy summer’s evening (and with daylight saving the sun didn’t go down until well after 8pm); the food was fantastic (I had the grilled swordfish and a to-die-for warm fig pudding with a butterscotch sauce; hubby had the fillet steak); the service was reasonable to good; but a lovely evening was let down by a couple of small things.

First, the bar was full of Xmas party people when we arrived, so we had to have our pre-dinner drinks at the table. That was OK, except for the fact that our drinks took an age to arrive. Mojitos weren’t on the cocktail list, but I asked the waiter if they could make one – he said yes, and took the order + my husband’s beer request. And we waited, and waited, and waited… We’d also ordered a bottle of red to have with dinner and asked for it to be opened now to breathe. So there we sat – open bottle of red on the table, waiting for our pre-dinner drinks. After about 15 minutes (and asking where the drinks were) someone came over to apologise and say they “didn’t have any mint for the Mojito” (it’s a bar for heaven’s sake!!!) and would I like a “<blah>” instead. After explaining the ingredients (lots of lime!), I agreed, and asked where my husband’s beer was as he could’ve had that while we waited for my drink. So the beer came, as did my drink – eventually.

The other disappointment was the tables and chairs themselves. This is basically an outdoor venue, but plastic tables and chairs with NO covering at all was a bit too much like a cheap cafe. And the Bluewater Grill ain’t cheap! With the bare placcy tables and chairs, brick paving/concrete etc. there was nothing to absorb the sound, so even though we were outside, it was very noisy. The large umbrellas over some of the area just seemed to capture and bounce the sound around. For the price, I’d have expected cloths on the tables.

Despite all that, it was a lovely night.

The following day (Friday) I had my 2-day-a-week client’s Christmas Party. They’d chosen to go to a lawn bowling club – and it was the one around the corner from where we live! How cool was that! After last year’s experience of waiting 2+ hours for a cab that never came, I wasn’t keen on repeating that experience, so was mightily pleased that I could just walk 50m and be there. We had great fun – most of us had never bowled before, and we had a small tournament with the staff from the sister company upstairs. Lots of laughs and cheers and fun. And a bit of sunburn too!

The weekend was super hot (38C on Saturday, from memory), so I did packing and Christmas present wrapping early in the mornings, then did paid work in the air-conditioned study the rest of the day. Oh, and I purged a HEAP of clothes from the wardrobe. To give you some idea… the boot (trunk) was full! and I ended up with THREE shopping bags of wire coat hangers to give away! I thought of selling the clothes ‘on consignment’ to a recycling boutique, but they were very finicky about what they wanted – “summer dresses, current fashions (yeah, right!), strappy sandals, no skirts, no tops, no trousers”. So I decided that these good business/work clothes in good condition could go to a better home! I contacted the Belmont Clothes Library [which has now closed down], and they put me on the YWCA in Osborne Park who are setting up a similar thing for the unemployed. The whole idea of a clothes library is that unemployed people can borrow clothes for attending interviews etc. I figured my clothes would fit that market much better than the recycling boutiques! Sure, I don’t make any money on them, but they’ve gone to a good home where I hope the classic (not fashionable!) jackets, shoes, tops, trousers etc. can help someone get a job. (There was even a Louis Feraud blouse and a Giorgio Armani suit amongst the throw-outs… the recycling boutique missed out on them, ‘cos they were so finickety!)

So that prety much brings me up to date. We’re off down south for Christmas with the family (Busselton area), so I doubt I’ll be posting much/at all until early January.

Have a wonderful Christmas season wherever and however you spend it. And for those of you in North America, it’s expected to be 36C here on Christmas Day – that’s about 100F in your money!

Done and dusted…

13 12 2006

Well, we signed the Offer and Acceptance form on our house this afternoon! We ended up selling for a little less than the figure we had in our heads, but we should make that up by parking the money for the next 6 months or so anyway.

So, it’s sold! And now comes the hard part of packing up, throwing out, storing some 16+ years of STUFF we accumulated while being here! We’ve done some already in anticipation, but there’s still a way to go. But now that the house is sold, there’s an extra incentive – not least of which is that Settlement is at the end of January!

I feel good about this -and I know in my gut that we sold at just the right time. The market peaked a few weeks ago, in my opinion, and had we not accepted this offer (the ONLY offer) then we could still be hanging out for our price in 3-6 months time… and not getting it. I think the market has turned, so I believe we sold just after the top of the peak.

Losing days

11 12 2006

Last week I was in increasing pain from my lower jaw. To the point that I scooted to the doctor’s on Tuesday afternoon, convinced I had bone cancer! (The pain wasn’t muscular, or specific to a tooth, not even sensitive to touch – it felt like it was in the bone.) My kind doctor sent me off to get an x-ray taken which happened Wednesday morning. He got the results that afternoon – nothing obvious. No bone disease (relief!), no infection that they could see. Nothing.

But hell – something was there as the pain was getting worse. By late Wednesday afternoon, the pain had localised to a tooth… a left rear molar that had had a crown some years ago. My first thought was “root canal”! I still had some strong painkillers left from May when I had previously had a tooth infection that required root canal work (yuk!). So I dusted them off in order to sleep on Wednesday night. They worked – too well! I was like a zombie on Thursday morning and incapable of driving a car or even moving my limbs too much.

So no work for me on Thursday. I got in to the dentist in the afternoon and my worst fears were confirmed – her x-ray showed an infection at the base of the tooth where the nerve has died and root canal work is now scheduled for mid-January (something to look forward to – NOT!). She also prescribed some antibiotics and some more pain killers.

So after paying $60 for the Dr’s visit, $70 for the x-ray, $100 for the dentist, and $30 for the drugs, I’m finally (5 days later) starting to feel half human again now that the antibiotics are taking control of the infection.

Though I’m not looking forward to the dental bill for the root canal work. I’ll get some of this back on private health insurance but nowhere near what it will cost me.


Telling it like it is…

11 12 2006

Got home from work this afternoon to another batch of Christmas flyers and store catalogues in the mail. Mostly I skim them ever so lightly then throw them in the paper recycling bin. But today one caught my eye. It’s for a new women’s clothing boutique not far from here, and the catch line was “… If it makes your bum look big, we’ll tell you! …”

I’d like to see that!

Comfort Food 9: Real guacamole!

5 12 2006

Seth Godin ranted about Kraft Gaucamole on his blog yesterday, specifically about the list of ingredients that has real avocado comprising less than 2% of the whole, and even less than the salt content! I couldn’t agree more – in fact, it is probably easier to MAKE guacamole than to buy it in a jar… and a helluva lot healthier, to boot.
Here’s my simple top-of-the head recipe for a great guacamole:

  • 1 or 2 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
  • 1 finely chopped red chilli (leave it out if you’re not into chilli, or use less; if you’re feeling lazy, use the crushed chilli in a jar but make sure it’s got very little else in it)
  • 1 pot of sour cream or Greek-style yoghurt – plain, no fruit!

Mash the avocados in a bowl with the yoghurt or sour cream. Add fresh chilli to taste. Mix light or hard to get the consistency you want. Serve immediately. (If serving later, add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice over the top to stop the avocado discolouring.)

That’s it! Super easy!!

Of course, if you want to get a bit more exotic, you can add finely chopped red capsicum (red peppers for the North Americans), coriander (cilantro for the North Americans), perhaps a small amount of finely chopped tomato, maybe even some very finely diced red onion, lemon or lime juice, cracked black pepper, even cumin powder.

It’s really up to you as to what you put in, but there’s NO EXCUSE for buying guacamole in a jar full of unknown chemicals, flavourings, gums, and preservatives. The excuse of “avocados aren’t in season right now” doesn’t wash – if a fresh ingredient is not available, MAKE SOMETHING ELSE that uses whatever fresh produce IS in season.

Home open: Week 3

2 12 2006

Update on the sale of our home:

  • Week 1: 5 groups through on the “home open” day (well, 45 minutes, actually!)
  • Week 2: 10 groups through + 2 groups outside normal “home open” hours
  • Week 3: not sure yet -not open for another 30 minutes or so… 5 groups through + 1 couple returning from last week

No offers yet… but the “expressions of interest” time frame is until 5:00pm December 12, so I’m trying not to be concerned about it.

Comfort Food 8: Mini Xmas Cakes

1 12 2006

I decided to do something different for little gifts this year – you know, the gifts that you need to have on hand just in case you get a gift you weren’t expecting and need to have one in return, or in case people drop in who you weren’t expecting…

For the first time in my life I decided to make a Christmas cake, but mini ones, in muffin pans. The aim is to wrap them in ribbon and cellophane and tie them with some pretty red, green and white thin ribbon.

The first batch is in the oven right now. These are going to be unbelievable! There’s at least a litre of a mixture of whiskey, Grand Marnier, Orange Curacao, etc. in the mix, and massive quantities of raisins, sultanas, currants, dried apricots, mixed peel, red and green glace cherries, walnut, hazelnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. The mixture tastes damned good! Looks pretty ordinary, but tasted terrific – very alcoholic too!

Xmas cake mixture

Mini Xmas Cake mixture

Mini Xmas Cakes still in the muffin pan

Oh, you want the recipe? It’s an adaptation of this one: Adaptation because no recipe is more than a guideline!

Interesting statistic if it’s true

1 12 2006

Got this from someone at work yesterday – if it’s true, it puts a lot of pricing into perspective, including fuel prices. Unfortunately, no attribution.

Ink compared to blood and other fluids