Friday, April 6, 2012

A new experience

So yesterday Sonia and I had the opportunity to attend the marriage of a couple who live in our ward. It was a lovely wedding, in a beautiful part of Brisbane known as the Samford Valley. The location they had chosen for both the wedding and reception was at a function centre set up on a hill with a magnificent view over the valley.

The bride was radiant, the groom was looking fairly calm and relaxed, and they both looked very happy. I have known this couple for about 6 months, and like most of us, they have had their share of challenges. It was wonderful to see them finally make it to the altar (figuratively speaking, as there was no actual altar) and 'tie the knot'.

What made it especially interesting for me was that I had the privilege of performing the wedding ceremony for them. It was a great experience, and I felt honoured to take part in this way. I look forward to seeing them enjoy a long and happy life together.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Feeling the iLove

So this month is bonus month at my work. We have a fairly good annual incentive scheme in place, and I received a nice bonus this year. We bought a new bed a couple of months ago, and also had roof restoration work done on the house. After paying for these things out of my bonus, I had a little left over.

By a very happy coincidence, this month also happens to be the same month Apple released the New iPad. It's a lovely device, with a slightly better processor than it's predecessor the iPad 2. The New iPad also features a new Retina display, having 4 times as many pixels as iPad 2.

So by now it should be fairly obvious where this is going. After spending tons of money last year on new gadgets for most of the children, buying our kitten and all the stuff required for him, as well as most of my bonus this year on important stuff for the house, I finally got to spend a little of my hard earned cash myself. Yes, I bought a New iPad.

Ostensibly it's to help my productivity in my calling, and by all means this is largely what I will use it for. I find I do a lot of reading and study, and using the new online tools the Church has created for leaders. Being able to do this during my commute time to and from work is great, as I don't need to spend so much time doing these things at home, typically after visits or interviews in the evening.

I'm definitely feeling the iLove right now...

Monday, March 12, 2012


So. About time I wrote something again. It's been not quite a year since my last blog post...

We've been in our house now for exactly 1 year. What a year it has been. About six months ago we had a fairly big re-organisation within our stake - practically every ward had a boundary change, and a new ward was created as well. Our bishop was released, as he was moved out of the ward by the boundary change. Bigger change yet - I was called as the new bishop in our ward. What a life changing experience this has been.

So I guess I have had a pretty good excuse for not blogging the last six months, as life has been fairly hectic adjusting to life as a bishop of a good sized ward. Not really procrastinating at all... We won't talk about the 5 months or so before that.

Now that things are settling into more of a routine again, and I am getting better at delegating more stuff, seems I might have a bit more time to write a note now and then.

Life is still good here in the Sunshine state

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A new member of the family

We decided some time ago to get a new pet when we moved into our new house, and now that we are settled enough, we finally got our kitten.

He is a little Rag Doll kitten that we bought from a breeder, not just a local pet shop moggy. His name is Beau, and the kids just adore him.

In fact, we are already getting some nearly arguments about who gets to hold him, and jealousy when it's someone else's turn. At least we know he won't be neglected :)

Beau is still getting used to us, and his new home. No doubt he is wondering where his mother and brother and sister are, but he is surrounded by lots of very eager kids (and adults) who are giving him a  lot of attention.

Welcome to the newest member of our family.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Too much stuff...

We finally moved into our new house a few days ago. Moving day went pretty well, with all of our furniture moved on Wednesday morning in just a few hours. We spent the rest of the week moving our other stuff from the rental to our new house. Given that we have downsized our house from what we were living in over in Perth, we can now get a better perspective of how much stuff we actually have.

Sonia did quite a bit of decluttering before we left Perth, and we thought we had gotten rid of quite a bit. Looks like we will be doing more of the same as we unpack and settle in to the new place. We seem to have more stuff than room for it all. Conveniently enough, the council is doing a kerbside bulk rubbish collection in our area in a week or so.

This is a good thing - we can get rid of stuff that we really don't need, but have been hanging on to for whatever reason. It's good to look at things and realise that you really don't need it. Decluttering your physical environment is a good opening to decluttering the rest of your life, should you so feel inclined. Certainly works for me.

Now to get ready for going back to work tomorrow. If only I could get rid of that too...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

House hunting comes to an end

It's been a while since I last posted. We bought a house!

We finally found a house that suits us. It's a brick house, not termite food. It has no termites. We will be homeowners again at the end of this week.

It's actually quite a process buying a house here in Queensland, and it seems more complicated and time consuming than it does in Perth. Nevertheless, we have been through all the work of getting masses of paperwork completed and signed and witnessed by JP's etc. Now I can have time to do important and interesting things again...

The other good thing for us is that our landlord found someone else to live in the house we are renting and take over our lease, which means we don't have to keep paying rent as well as our shiny new mortgage!

There's a few things we need to do to the new house, and the extra money from not paying rent will come in handy. Things such as replacing the pool fence to meet the requirements of Queensland's strict new pool safety laws, as well as enclosing the existing carport into another room.

All in all, it should be exciting. We are definitely looking forward to having our own place again, somewhere we can actually settle in.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A house hunting we will go...

So we've been in Brisbane as a family now for two months. We're living in a rental house that is OK, but is a bit smallish, and like many rental properties has it's 'interesting' bits.

We've been looking for a house to buy pretty much since I arrived here last October. I've looked through a number of houses, some of which were quite nice, but out of our price range. Some have been pretty ordinary, and one or two have been real fixer uppers.

We found a house that we really liked back in October, and put an offer in, which was accepted. We did the inspections, and unfortunately it turned out they had a termite problem that they didn't know about. Further, they had never installed a termite barrier, or had inspections and treatments carried out on any kind of regular basis. We decided we weren't going to go ahead and that was that.

Fast forward to January this year, and we find another house that we really like, and it appears to have ticks in all the right boxes. Owners have done some extensive renovations, and it looks really nice. So we come up with an offer, and after a little negotiation, we get an offer accepted. Great. Now to the inspections.

Oh-oh, the building inspection isn't too flash, but it's not disastrous. The inspector can't access much of the sub-floor under the house because the owners have their stuff all over the place down there. So, we don't know if there are any real problems there. There are also some drainage problems, and a fair amount of moisture in places it shouldn't really be.

The pest inspection report is a little delayed, but finally comes through. Oh-oh, not too flash. No termites found in the house, but the inspector couldn't inspect most of the sub-floor area (same reason as the building inspector couldn't), so that part of the inspection is really of limited value. However there is extensive termite activity around the property, which apparently isn't too unusual either for Brisbane or this particular area. The moisture in the underneath of the house is a termite attractant (and a source of rising damp). Furthermore, there is only effectively half a barrier installed, and then only around the extension work carried out 7 years ago. Nor is there evidence that there have been any regular inspections or treatments. And there are several instances of bridging of the barrier. So, the little red flag is waving most insistently, and we are now looking to ending this contract on the basis of unsatisfactory inspection results. We don't see it as desirable to have to spend a few more thousand dollars getting all the problems fixed.

If we weren't talking about a weatherboard house, then we might be willing to take it on the basis that a proper barrier is installed and a treatment carried out by the sellers before settlement. But, because it is a timber home, and because the inspector couldn't inspect half the place, it's a no-deal now.

What astounds us most about these experiences, is that it seems these aren't isolated cases. Seems a lot of people here are pretty blasé about termite protection, notwithstanding there is a termite problem in Brisbane. I've spoken to a few people here, and get some funny looks when I state that it's a problem when people don't properly protect their properties from termites. C'mon people, we are talking about wooden houses here - termite food.

In Perth, we made sure we had our termite inspection done every year. And of course, when selling a house in Perth, it is the seller's responsibility to provide a current white ant certificate.

Buying a house in Brisbane is certainly a much different experience. But, we will do it, and find a decent house notwithstanding. We've come to the conclusion that maybe looking for a brick house would be better...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A thunderous event

Another storm tonight. It's a big one too, and has now moved right over us. The lightning show is incredible, and the thunder is ear-splitting.

One thing though, it has cooled things down considerably. I think today seemed like a pretty typical summer day in Brisbane - hot and humid. There's no comparison with the heat in Perth, it's altogether different.

It will definitely take some getting used to the subtropical climate here. One thing I am glad of though is that it doesn't get freezing cold here. We would get some very chilly winter mornings in Perth. I spent a winter in Canberra as a missionary many years ago, and I couldn't live in a place that gets that cold.

The tropical storms here don't seem so bad now...

Monday, January 17, 2011

My favourite dessert

It was my daughter's birthday a couple of days ago, and I made one of our family's favourite desserts to have on Sarah's birthday. I also posted a picture of it to my Facebook profile, to share with all my wonderful friends what an awesome dessert we were having and they weren't.

I first came across this dish in Hong Kong when I visited there in 2007. A work colleague from Singapore recommended that I try it whilst in Hong Kong. I did, and fell in love with it. When I went back to Hong Kong in 2009, the first thing I did was find the nearest Hui Lau Shan and get some of their awesome mango sago.

After my first visit to Hong Kong, I searched the web for a decent recipe for this dish. Naturally I found many, and have now adapted my own. It's not identical to what you buy at Hui Lau Shan (theirs is very special), but it is pretty close to what I had in a few other restaurants in HK.

After posting my picture to Facebook, I've had a couple of requests to share the recipe, and so here it is.

Mango Sago

3-4 large mangos (pureed)

1-2 medium fresh mangos, peeled and cubed

1 cup sago pearls (uncooked)

80ml full cream milk

100ml coconut cream

375ml evaporated milk (regular or low fat) - you could also use the coconut flavoured evaporated milk, and leave out the coconut cream above.

1-1½ cups white sugar (more or less to taste)

200ml water

Cooking the sago pearls:

   1. Boil 5 cups water in a pot. Once boiled, add sago pearls and bring to boil again.
   2. Once it boils, cover pot and turn off the heat. Leave covered for 20 minutes.
   3. Remove the lid, stir the mixture, turn on the heat and bring it to boil again.
   4. Once it boils the second time, cover again, turn off the heat and leave covered for 10-12 minutes. The sago should be cooked by now (should be completely translucent).
   5. Drain the sago from the hot water and rinse in cold water. Soak in cold water (to stop it cooking further). When completely cool, drain again and set aside.

In a separate pot, mix the coconut cream, full cream milk, evaporated milk, white sugar and water together. Stir well and bring to the boil, then turn off the heat.

Add the mango puree into the milk mixture and mix well. Combine the sago and puree mixture together in a large dessert bowl.

Allow the mixture to cool completely before refrigerating for another 3 hours (or until chilled).

Serve chilled with fresh diced mango cubes.

In Hong Kong it is common to have this with some fresh pomelo cells sprinkled on top. I've never been able to find pomelo over here, but you might be able to substitute with grapefruit (I haven't tried that yet).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A new life in beautiful Queensland...

Having recently moved the family to Queensland, we are adjusting to life as Banana Benders. The major flooding in Brisbane this past week, as well as in many other parts of Queensland the last few weeks is a stark contrast to life in hot, dry Perth. We weren't directly affected by the flooding in Brisbane, as we live some distance from the river and are at an altitude of approximately 60 metres. However it was interesting (really), if not slightly inconvenient that our local Coles supermarket was stripped bare of milk, bread and fresh produce like many other supermarkets this past week. The main difference however, is that we are quite some distance from the flooding, and it was a simple case of panic buying by people who really had nothing to worry about.

It's these sort of events that help you appreciate the wisdom of the latter-day prophets in counselling us to have our 72 hour packs, as well as a year's supply of food. Unfortunately at the moment, we have neither in place. We had to give away our food storage before we left Perth, and are yet to start building it up again. Our 72 hour packs are likewise no more just now. Living in a rental property (and a smaller one at that) doesn't lend itself too well to keeping major food storage. But, we will make a start, and ensure we have at least enough of the basics for a couple of weeks. Hopefully soon we will be able to get to it in earnest. We just made an offer to purchase a new home, and it's been accepted. The house we are buying has plenty of room for the family, and lot's of storage space underneath, so we will have somewhere dry, cool and safe for our food storage.

This will also be the time to start a vegetable garden. With the Queensland floods wiping out entire crops, it is expected that prices for fresh produce will increase significantly not only here in Queensland, but also in other parts of the country (see this report from The Australian, and this report from the Sydney Morning Herald).

There's no doubt that life north of the border will be interesting. We certainly expected something different moving here; just not quite as exciting as this. We have much to be thankful for though, considering that so many have been displaced by the floods, and also those that lost loved ones in this disaster.

As a final note, please help out by donating generously to the Queensland flood relief appeal. You can do so online from here.