This guy knows cats

29 07 2008

My friend Steph posted this YouTube video on her blog the other day. For me it was a real ‘laugh out loud, tears running down down my face’ video, bringing back fond (?) memories of my now long-departed Anouschka. If you’ve ever had a cat, you’ll relate!

Oranges: Winter sunshine!

27 07 2008

Yesterday was one of those gorgeous sunshiny days we get in winter—very little heat in the sun, but the light was glorious, and the air was clear. Time to prune the grapevine and the wild rose bush down the back…

And time to pick some more lemons (I’m giving nearly all of them to the pub at the moment—there’s way too many for me to deal with and I don’t want them rotting on the ground), and some oranges. Last year, the oranges were pretty pathetic—small, dry, sour and not worth peeling to eat. But something’s happened this year. They’re much bigger, sweeter, and juicy. Maybe it’s our natural ecosystem…

So I picked a bag full, then cut and juiced some 20 of them straight away. That fresh orange juice was like nectar from the gods! Talk about ‘low food miles’! These had come from less than 20 metres away and were juiced within about 15 minutes of being picked. I juiced a few too many and thought the juice would be nice this morning, but it was starting to go acidic and tart, just like the 100% orange juice you buy in containers, which I don’t like. So next time, I’ll just juice enough to have now, and juice more as I need them.

Photo-voltaic cells

27 07 2008

We’d like to incorporate photo-voltaic cells in our new house, if and when we ever build it (the stock market meltdown and the direct effect of that on our retirement funds have put all plans on hold…). Why? Well, the thought of not being 100% reliant on an external power supply is the main reason, then there are the carbon footprint/green reasons.

When we first saw these systems, we were impressed. But not impressed with the approximately $20,000 price at the time. Then we found that the Federal Government offered a substantial rebate to householders who decided to install them (somewhere between $8000 and $12000), making them much more affordable.

But since then we’ve had a change of federal government, to one that rode the coat tails of ‘being green’ to get into power. The same government that now wants to commit Australian companies to a draconian Emissions Trading Scheme (don’t get me started…). Anyhow, this new ‘green’ government has decided to apply a ‘means test’ to photo-voltaic cell systems for households, so you only get a partial rebate if your household earns less than $100,000 per year. Well, you only need two income earners on $51,000 a year each and you’re already over that mark.

My understanding is that the whole idea of these household systems is twofold:

  • to make homeowners partially self-sufficient for their electricity supply
  • to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions required to create and deliver electricity.

Now, if the federal government is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions created by producing and delivering electricity, then it should be doing everything in its power to get these solar cells on to every Australian rooftop. That doesn’t mean bringing in a means test for the rebate! It means subsidising the industry (gee, that’s a dirty word these days) to the point where the price is such that purchasing and installing such a product is as cheap as buying a new TV. It means making a serious difference in the way that we use the one unlimited and free resource we have plenty of—sunshine! It means looking at the small things (like photo-voltaic cells on rooftops) as well as the big ones (the proposed solar array installations that will cost billions of dollars, take up massive amounts of land, yet only service about 50,000 households).

Anyhow, if you live in Australia and feel as pissed off annoyed about this change to the rebate conditions as I do, then head on over and sign the petition organised by the Channel 7 “Sunrise” team. So far there are nearly 50,000 signatures. Maybe yours can make a difference.

You can add your name to the petition here:

Comfort food 12: Lamb Shanks

26 07 2008

One of the delights of the depths of winter is the yummy stews and casseroles you can make. It’s many years since I made lamb shanks but I gave them a go the other night. Unfortunately, they didn’t taste anywhere near as good as they looked—I don’t use salt in my cooking, but I do use some chili mixes and suspect there may quite a bit of salt in them as I didn’t use them this time and these lamb shanks tasted very bland. They were definitely missing salt.

The ‘recipe’ was one of those ‘bit of this, bit of that’ ones—look at what’s in the fridge and just toss it in! I’ll try and formalise it…


  • 2 lamb shanks
  • Lots of veges, all chopped coarsely into chunks. From memory I put in a couple of onions, some carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, half a zucchini, a few mushrooms, some celery stalks,  maybe a potato or two… whatever you think goes together, really.
  • 1 or 2 cans tomatoes
  • half a long red chili (to taste—if you don’t like chili, don’t add it); I think I also added a slurp of chili sauce too
  • a couple of sprigs of rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste


I used a heavy cast iron pot with lid on top of the stove, but you could do this in the oven too, or in a slow cooker.

  1. Brown the onions, chili, and mushrooms in a small quirt of oil.
  2. Add the lamb shanks and brown them lightly.
  3. Add the rest of the veges, including the tomatoes and the rosemary.
  4. Add some water if you think it’s necessary. But don’t add too much otherwise you’ll have a soup.
  5. Throw in the rosemary and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  6. Turn down the heat and leave to simmer for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally if it’s on the stove top. Add water as required if it seems to be cooking too fast and drying out. (If using an oven, this is the step where you put the dish into the oven!)
  7. When the lamb shanks are nearly falling off the bone, they’re cooked!
  8. Serve with something to absorb the lovely tomato-ey juices/gravy, such as rice, couscous, or mashed potato, and some green veges for color. You might want to have some crusty bread on hand too, to mop up those juices!

Here are the lamb shanks nearly ready for serving—look at all those lovely veges in the sauce:

And here’s one meal—one lamb shank is MORE than enough!

Just ‘cos I haven’t blogged for a while…

14 07 2008

Just because I haven’t blogged for a while doesn’t mean that nothing’s happening. Yes, we’re in the depths of winter, and this year is much colder than last—I checked the weather bureau’s daily stats on maxima and minima for June and July and it seems we’re about 2 degrees colder each day than last year. The heater’s been on quite a bit so far!

So, what have I been up to? In no particular order:

  • Quilting: I’ve finally finished all 144 blocks for my log cabin quilt (168 if you count the 24 blue guys that I decided not to use!). I haven’t taken photos of each of the colourways yet, and haven’t started to pull the blocks together into a quilt top, but small steps… I think getting 144 block completed in my spare time was an achievement, considering each one took about 15 minutes to do. It’s amazing how they add up when you do a couple each evening after finishing work. Oh, and while watching the football on TV.
  • Travel: I went up to Perth for the office ‘end of financial year’ lunch. Although the lunch was only a half day, I travelled up on the Sunday, spent all of Monday in the office plus Tuesday morning, then we had the lunch on the Tuesday afternoon. On the Wednesday I did a lot of running around (dentist—had to have a filling; hairdresser; old bank to collect new VISA card) before driving home. And a couple of weeks ago we went over to Busselton to have lunch with my folks, and for my husband to go see Hancock (which he enjoyed). While he was at the movies, I looked at stoves (the one in the rental property has died) and laptops, and did a bit of shopping.
  • Catching up with friends and family: While in Perth, I caught up with friends for dinner on the Sunday night, and with my nieces and nephew and their respective partners for dinner on the Monday. There was the work lunch on Tuesday, and then I had breakfast with a couple of ex-work colleagues (is that how it’s hyphenated?) on Wednesday morning so it was a bit of an eating feast! But there’s never enough time to catch up with everyone… It was fabulous seeing the nieces and nephews again! I’ve hardly seen them since we left Perth, and definitely not all together like that.
  • Computer issues: I took my PC to Perth with me to get it serviced. Nothing was wrong with it, but I was getting regular ‘overheating’ messages which I’d been told to ignore. But I didn’t like them—getting a message that the computer is running at 70C when it’s only 10C in the house is a worry! Anyhow, the PC Guru guys looked it over, did some cleaning and testing and found that my power supply was nearly gone (something about capacitors?). So they replaced that, installed SP3 for Windows XP, did some other tweaks, and I packed up my baby in the car and brought her home. SP3 gave me a few problems, which I’ve documented on my professional blog, but they seem to be sorted now. I also had issues with installing Acrobat 9 on my aging laptop. And as a result decided to get a replacement laptop! It’s been something I’ve been considering for a while, so I bit the bullet. I pick it up next Thursday when we’re in Busselton, and it will have Vista on it so I’ll get a chance to try it out, as well as install Office 2007 and try it out too. I’ve been wanting to test Office 2007 for a while, but not on my production machine while all my clients still use Office 2003. Mmmm… new toy! (I’m trying not to remember the pain of installing lots of apps…)
  • Work stuff: I was told by my boss that the division of the Brisbane company that I work for had decided that the volume of work coming in was now sufficient for them to employ a full time tech writer in the Brisbane office (which it is). No big deal—that’s the life of a contractor. So I’ve helped them find someone in Brisbane (yes, I know people in all sorts of places!) and he starts with them mid August. There’ll be some handover time, but I expect to be off that project towards the end of August. There’s other work at the company my other boss there wants me to do, but I’m not sure of the arrangements for that. I suspect that it won’t be enough for three full days, but we’ll see. Meantime, all sorts of other possible opportunities have been cropping up from people I’ve worked with before. We’ll see what comes of those…
  • Stuff related to the technical communication profession: I was asked to be on an editorial advisory panel for Intercom, the non-academic journal produced by the Society for Technical Communication (STC). We’ve had one meeting so far, which was an interesting exercise in logistics for the organiser and others in the group as I was the only one based outside the US. While I’m very familiar with issues arising from working and communicating across international time zones, most of the others weren’t, so if nothing else, they’re gaining an appreciation of the global nature of the organisation! I’ve also been asked to be a co-moderator of one of the biggest user groups for those involved in Help authoring, and have been asked to write some articles for an Australia/New Zealand technical communication publication, and for an international web magazine that focuses on user experience issues. I was also asked to be on a panel but that was in Perth and required me to be on site for just 90 minutes, so I passed along the details of a friend who I was confident could ‘fly the flag’ for technical writing.
  • Enjoying the birds: We have a great variety of birds that pass through the airspace above our backyard, occasionally stopping to sample parts of the garden. We regularly get red-capped parrots and ring-necked parrots (a.k.a. Twenty-Eights and Port Lincoln parrots) foraging on the back lawn, magpies, New Holland honeyeaters, wattle birds, willy wagtails, the occasional kookaburra, and just lately, the most gorgeous tiny Splendid Blue Wrens, with their bright blue iridescent plumage (no, I didn’t take this picture!).

Well, I think there are winds of change in the air. Nothing I can put my finger on, but as I look at this list it seems that parts of my life will be going in different directions soon. That’s not scary—just an observation.

Site for parents raising kids

3 07 2008

I was trawling through some old ‘sent’ emails in an vain attempt to delete some of my thousands of accumulated emails, when I came across this one I sent out a couple of years ago.

A chap I’ve recently done some work for has been asked to do some work for these people: It’s a site for parents all about raising kids. It works on the principle of free advice, word of mouth hints/ideas, etc., not advice about parenting from “the experts”.

Just thought those of you with kids may appreciate this resource.

I just checked and the website still exists and seems to be pretty active. There are some 6500 questions and pieces of advice, all ranked according to their usefulness to the readers; some 8000 questions; and some 25,500 members.

Not being a parent, I have no clue as to whether the advice is sound or not!