Friday, 22 February 2013

I began the web site, according to (the registry of web site information) in May 2002.  I had a site before that, so really I started in 2000.   That is reassuring as 'old' is 'good', according to google, which rewards the site with a better ranking as a result.  It means it is well-established and solid.  

If had a mission statement, it would be fairly unpretentious, eg "to recommend my apartments and to provide information on prices and availability on a range of other good quality serviced apartments in London".  

"My apartments", that I primarily manage, include those in Canary Riverside and London Bridge.  These are good flats.  Without repeating the whole listings, which are linked to below, the Canary Riverside flats were built and designed to 'American standards', which in 2000 was bigger, better, solid and quite expensive.  The Canary Riverside development is unique on Canary Wharf because it is the one residential complex that is on the riverside and also has the look and feel of the central buildings of the Wharf, with their high class design and high maintenance values.  The riverboat calls on the riverside just down the stairs, where there are several restaurants with attractive views upriver to the City.  The quality comes with convenience, being about 3-4 minutes walk from Westferry DLR, which is 5 minutes from Bank, and 6-7 minutes walk from Canary Wharf tube, which is about 15 minutes from the West End etc on the Jubilee Line.  It is an energising feeling to arrive in the Canary Wharf tube station and there are lots of shops including Waitrose, Tesco etc and lots of clothes and jewelry shops and restaurants, and clubs, catering to the large population of workers and residents.  Canary Riverside suffers a little from the reputation of Canary Wharf as being not in the centre of London, but that is a little bit of a state of mind really when you look at the minutes to travel to various places.  Some people say it is too business like and some don't go for the highly manicured environment.  As I say, I find it energising and convenient, and when you are exhausted in London, that is a bonus.  I would like to let the flats long term with a cleaning service, but I will also take shorter stays.  We think the cleaning service is important to maintain the standard of the flat.  (There is a laundrette on site that we use, that is also convenient...)

Here are the links to the Canary Riverside flats:

The London Bridge flats are also good.  They are well located for business stays, if you are working in or around the City.  They are good for families, with queensize and 2 single beds, sofabed, and two bathrooms.  And they're good for short stays because you can, as they say, fall out of bed and start walking to many of the main London attractions within 5-10 minutes: Tower Bridge, Tate Modern, South Bank and many more.

Here are the links to the London Bridge flats:

Interestingly, in ID 6 we have just changed the heating system to 'far infra red' ceiling heaters (made by InfraRAY) giving a 'sun-like' feel to the heat and a better quality of air - less drying etc.

The second part of the proposed 'mission statement' is to provide information on other flats.  I have done a lot of work on researching availability.  Prices are generally set once a year but availability is a constant stream of changing data and it is quite a process to gather this for apartments - there are systems dealing with the more 'fungible' situation of hotel rooms, but apartments tend to be unique, each one different, sometimes grouped (like 6-12 apartments in a building), and the companies or people owning them do not subscribe to a central system of availability.  Still, I like programming and have been able to report on the shortstay-london site availability of many groups of apartments.  At the moment, there is a series of links on the home page:

Some availability is shown on a calendar, in a static way.  Otherwise, availability is shown in response to a query on specific dates, and then the system can report available or not taking account of minimum stays and the interval before arrival etc, ie it is dynamic, changing availability with the details of the enquiry.  Where it is static, I can update the site calendar, where it is dynamic I can only repeat the answer on a specific set of dates.  To merge these methods into one answer to the user is a fairly complex task.

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Monday, 2 July 2012

Home news and Irish soda bread

Today is 2 July 2012, Wimbledon is on.  There is a hint of rain.  

I am baking bread in the Panasonic breadmaker.  Yesterday, I fixed the light switch in the cooker fan by by-passing it so it works from the wall switch.  The lavender on my 5th floor, slightly windy and chilly, balcony is just turning out its purple flowers, while the orchid (sitting on my piano) is an impressive waterfall of blooms, 18 inches of white and deep pink.  I am hoping to grow Miscanthus Sinensis, a large grass, from seed for my windy balcony.  World Botanics is the name on the seed packet, and I also chose Strelitzia Reginae, to try - check back!

Today is 22 February 2013.  Well, the grasses grow slowly and don't like drafts (it dries them out at a delicate stage).  They are only a few inches.  The orchid has worked well, just don't overwater it as it lives in trees and gets moisture mostly from the air.  There is a great display of them in Kew Gardens in London's Richmond area.

The bread - that was yeast bread I was making. But I have developed a good recipe for Irish soda bread:

Dry ingredients:

brown flour (coarse, normal [no need for strong flour) 450 grams
white flour (plain or self-raising) 50 grams
bread soda (bicarbonate of soda) 15 grams/1.5 teaspoons
salt (good mineral salt preferably) 10 grams/1 teaspoon

Mix the above well.

Butter 20 grams - rub this in.

Wet ingredients:
Yogurt (can make from milk) 500 millilitres
Molasses sugar (a treacle-like liquid, optional, adds colour and flavour) 1 tsp

Mix well (takes time).
Seeds and bits:
Sunflower seeds 25 grams (these go green in the final baked loaf)
Apricot or date pieces 25 grams (adds flavour bits and colour)
Pinhead oatmeal 25-50 grams (adds texture)

Mix these into the yogurt, rather than the dry ingredients (helps with mixing the molasses sugar in the yogurt, also allows you to see that butter is well mixed into dry ingredients)

Well oil a pan* and dredge with flour.

Pre-heat oven to 220C.

Mix yogurt etc into dry ingredients by folding in, ie mix dry/wet well but not more than necessary.    If it is very wet, add some more pinhead oatmeal - do this as soon as it appears to you it is too wet.  This is a wet mix, use spatula etc not your hands.  Dump into prepared pan.  With a knife make a cross in the bread so that the heat can get into the bread more evenly.  Cook for 15 minutes at 220C and 40 minutes at 120C.  Allow a while for bread to come away from the pan, and allow time for the bread to cool down if you wish to avoid it 'rolling' when cut.  After an hour or two, it will cut with a nice texture and a little crumb coming from the shortening butter in it.

Brown bread goes well with butter, marmalade, smoked salmon or other fish.

Oh, the yogurt.  It provides a softer texture to the bread than buttermilk, but for a cheaper option than buying (and the expensive probiotics and healthy bacteria probably don't survive the cooking anyway), make it using about 620 mls of milk, heat in microwave to 83 degrees C (850 watt microwave takes about 6-6.5 minutes).  You need to add just a drop of live yogurt to the milk at 42 degrees and keep in a thermos at that temperature for about 7-9 hours without opening.  Do not re-heat as it will split.  I cool it from 83 down to 42 degrees in a metal pan in a basin of cold water - this is for speed and to reduce any bacteria from the air starting to get into the sterlilised milk.  I also pre-heat the thermos, add the milk, check the temperature, then add a drop of the yogurt - all for accuracy, as you don't want to kill your starter.  The milk will have a skin on the top, which is obviously harmless but either discard or incorporate, as it does not fall apart.  The yogurt will keep in the fridge for a number of days, but will then start smelling increasingly suspect as it goes off.  The funny thing is that you can make nice fresh smelling yogurt with a drop of even slightly old yogurt, as if the culturing works to maximise the good bacteria selectively, which is another reason I only use a very small amount of starter yogurt - to leave behind anything else.