Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Look, the family, doing something together!!

Jeff, Thomas and Catriona enjoy a bit of family time. And all it took was an iPad to bring them all together!

I think Catriona was playing Fruit Ninja or something...

Friday, 22 February 2013

Lunch at Agent 284

All the women at work have banded together to form a lunch club - we eat out every two weeks, and take advantage of the fabulous Collingwood restaurants. Also a great way to actually get to know each other, and talk about something other than manholes (yes, really). Did you know, in Russia, Medicine is the most highly prized university degree, while in India, the prestige course is Maths! So Larisa, who has a Maths degree from Russia, never got to be one of the cool kids.

This week it was Agent 284. We had a gorgeous time - nice things to eat, and super cute decor. They had a brilliant cocktail menu, and if I'm ever tempted to buy a $16 drink I'll let you know how they are.

Dish of the day was Goat Cheese Fritters with pear poached in red wine, with a balsamic reduction. Kim (from the US, and on the way home already) and Kirsty ordered this.

You know what a fan of fancy salads I am - roast baby beetroot and goat cheese was rather good.

Salt, pepper and sugar - loving those little bottles!

Check out all those books! Wait a minute, that's wallpaper!

And here's the gang - Ayendri, Pauline, Manju, Kim, Kirsty, Anmol and Larisa. Yes, we got the waiter to take our photo!

Collingwood restauranteurs can expect us some time soon.

How to read your Smart Meter - a tutorial

If you live in Victoria, and have an electricity smart meter, you will be able to look at the data they produce. It's a fantastic way of working out how to manage your electricity use.

Now, when they installed my smart meter, I noticed that they DIDN'T tell me about how to get information from it. I worked it out, though, so I'm doing that for you now.

Here's the steps:

  • make sure you actually have a smart meter. You'll know, some dudes will have come and installed it, and probably turned the power off briefly in the process. Plus, there will be a shiny new box in your meter box, with a sinister blinking red light.
  • find out who your energy supplier is (it's not necessarily the people who send you a bill). Go to this web site to enter your address and get a clear answer. That's the Department of Primary Industries. I know, we deal with them, like, all the time.
  • go to the web site of that company. For me, it's United Energy. Look for a nice bit on their web site that says something about smart meters - they might mention the word "Portal" too. This is the United Energy lady. She looks so friendly.

Here's some of the energy company web sites I know about:
United Energy (I use this one, it works fine)
SP AusNet (web site wouldn't load in Chrome, had to try Firefox)
Jemena (They have United Energy lady too, so you know that will work)
Origin Energy (they say they are "closed" at the time of writing)

  • sign up with an email address and a password. There will be terms and conditions.  Now they know you are a user of the web site
  • now the tricky bit, and since I've done it already, I can't really do it again to show you. They will ask you for your exact address (of course) and also an "NMI" - that's "National Metering Identifier", a unique number for your smart meter. You'll find that on your electricity bill. And forgive me for being vague, but I think there was another number too, which came from the bill as well.
That should be it. Now you can log on any time and see how much power you are chomping through. I found the presentation of the data to be really accessible. 

And I made discoveries too. 

Here's the United Energy portal running on my iPad (incidentally, works great on iPads!). That dark orange bar chart is the day of interest - it's comparing it to the previous day. The day we are  looking at is Thursday last week - Valentine's Day. The bars are hourly usage.

So, we see really low use in the early hours of the morning. A little bump when we get up and turn lights on. A big sustained bump in the middle of the day when the pool filter is on. A spike at dinner time when the oven is on. But wait, what's that OTHER spike in the middle of the day! It was a school/work day, nobody should be home!

Detective mum went to work to see WHO had sneaked home and used extra electricity. I checked the school's portal to see the attendance records of each child. I quickly found out, that was the day the teachers were on strike. So now I know the kids had pies for lunch! I also discover that the oven is the hungriest device in the house, so now were are very conscious of oven-sharing.

As well as hourly data, you should be able to see weekly, monthly and seasonal summaries. You will be sure to discover something you can change to get that bill down a bit.

I hope this has helped. Thankyou, United Energy lady.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Happy Birthday, Thomas and Jonathan

Happy birthday to the new 15 year olds! This is the cake I made. It was exhausting. Not to make, that was easy, but eating your way through a whole sliver, whoa, that required a nap and a walk around the block in the middle!

Kit Kat cake, look it up, it's a big hit with people that think they can take large amounts of chocolate.

And here's Thomas (left) and Jonathan (right) with their new ... um, whatever they are. Catriona put a lot of work into sewing them some very cool Pokemon characters. I could see that she represented them very accurately. Apart from that,  I have no idea if this is a good thing. The guys liked them a lot though!

And since we all like science here, here's a scientific mystery to solve. When left to itself in the fridge, how does it happen than the Kit Kats dissolve away from the cake so comprehensively? The M&Ms, also, were showing signs of evaporating. I finally finished the last sliver of cake today, which, as luck would have it, was completely confectionery free.

The 2013 tomato harvest

Some of this year's tomato harvest. The box at the bottom were all harvested today!

My lunch is tomato, basil and pasta salad tomorrow.

Cos it turns out I'm awesome at growing basil too. This year, anyway.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

OtterQuest 2013 part 4

Nothing an otter appreciates more than a couple of cheesy corn chips after an eventful outing.

OtterQuest 2013 part 3

The otter has popped by Brandsmart and done a spot of shopping. What a tired otter!

OtterQuest 2013 part 2

Otter checks out the bike shop (my bike has two broken spokes).

OtterQuest 2013

You know that fun thing people do, go on a holiday or trip, and take a cute toy? Then they photograph the toy everywhere they go? Jeff and I thought we might do that on a Sunday outing. You know, to let the kids feel more involved with our trip, even though they were saying home.

We proposed that the ideal toys to take would be both the Xbox controllers. Interestingly, the boys suggested that might not be as much fun as we thought. They proposed we take THE OTTER instead.

Here is Jeff in the car with the otter.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Purple paint is weird - scientific proof

I have a big set of Prismacolor pencils in my craft room. They sit in three cups, sorted into warm, cool and neutrals.

I also have a big skylight in that room. the room is very bright, if you leave anything printed there, it fades rapidly!

I noticed today that the pencils are fading! Well, not the pencils, just the paint on the casings of the pencils. And not all of them, just these few. All of the affected pencils are pinky-purple shades.

Since taking the photo, I've reviewed the whole set of 144. The ones that have faded are 929 rose, 931 dark purple, 956 lilac, 934 lavender, 993 hot pink, 994 process red, 1007 imperial violet, 1009 Parma violet, 1017 clay rose, 1029 mahogany red, 1038 neon pink.

I noticed 932 violet and 996 black grape are fine. As are all the other colors!

Just thought I'd record it here to see if anyone else is interested.