Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Little Moment of Skitey-Pride...

This week was the final 'Salon' club night of the year for Manukau Photographic Society. It was the first of these events I had attended, so I was unfamiliar with the format until I got there.

All of the 'Honours' images from across the year were presented for judging prior to the evening. These 130 or so images were running as a slide show as we arrived. In doing a count, I was rapt to see 11 of my images in that group, which was amazing to me, considering the amount of images entered across the year, and the number and calibre of photographers who enter.

The process then narrowed down the selection to 27 images for judging for annual awards. One of my images made the cut. The judge then delivered her pre-considered critiques of the images, highlighting the reasons why they were so awesome in her view. When it cam to commenting on my pic of Lily, she said only four words - the shortest critique of all - "Beautifully crafted, classic portrait". Oh well, I thought, she had very few words to say, she can't be that impressed.

So imagine my surprise when I was called up to receive one of three Honours awards for that image! One of the top 6 images of the year! The photographers I stand beside in this photo (and many others in the club) I admire greatly, and I am humbled to be in such amazing company.

I have, of course, to thank the lovely Lily for being such a delightful subject. The photo is one I actually took early on in my photography journey; Lily is now well over two years old! I have recently arranged with her Mum to take some more shots of her family in the near future. Maybe she will again provide me with a winning shot.

"Lily #2" (7 months)

Lily today (2 yrs 8 months)

What last night's achievement has done for me is fuel the belief others may have in me that perhaps I do have some talent? and also re-ignote my passion for photography, which has taken a sideline position since I have been writing my Masters thesis. Bring on my Bali trip - and look out 'Footwear'; the first 'set subject' for 2013.

PS Here are all the images I received Honours for this year. The first three received Open Image of the Night for the month on which they were entered.


My other honours pics:



Saturday, December 8, 2012


As the title suggests, it's a bittersweet day for me today. I am both happy and sad about the outcome I am about to reveal, but currently feeling like a 'bad mother' as well as feeling very sorry for myself.

Today my darling Stirling goes for a trial at a new home. There are several genuine reasons for this, but none of them seem adequate as I sit and reflect upon my decision here, once again with tears rolling down my cheeks.

I am trying to put myself into the shoes of the people who will be Stirling's new family. I am trying to imagine how excited they are, and how much love they will pour on him. He will be the absolute centre of attention, and will therefore be in Stirling heaven.

Stirling has brought me much joy and pride; he is, of course, a breed champion, and the feature of many posts here on my blog, in fact his name is the post tagged word on my blog. So clicking on this will let readers relive the many happy moments we have shared.

Whilst I have to be strong and let him settle in his new home - should it work out -  I am lucky that he will literally be loving around the corner, so I will still see him from time to time. Hopefully the other two boys and I will meet him regularly at our reserve, which will placate my fear that they will miss each other.

Right now however, my heart is breaking.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Not Particularly Attractive...

I reckon a tourist attraction should be representative of its area, unique, fun and relatively good value for money.
Kelly Tarlton's is an iconic destination for locals and visitors alike, and I have positive memories from my previous visits there. However yesterday we visited during a period of refurbishment which, in my mind, severely compromised its reputation.
I am not complaining about the fact that there are necessary upgrades taking place, just that for an adult entry of $34, there was bugger all to see. I felt sorry for the penguins that were 'on display' in a plain, small room. The Novus glass repair guy sitting in an empty aquarium doing his thing held about as much interest as they did. Things just looked dowdy and disheveled in general.
Our tickets come with a voucher for $10 off a subsequent visit. I for one will not be redeeming mine. In my opinion this $10 should have been taken off the original ticket price, to be a little more reflective of the current state of the place.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"Crap" Coffee???

Kopi Luwak originates in Indonesia.  Touted as the World's Most Expensive Coffee, the product's uniqueness is attributed to its unusual journey through the digestive system of the civet, a tree-cat. Basically they eat the coffee berries, and crap the whole beans out the other end. These are then collected, cleaned and processed for sale. Having a partner who lives in Indonesia who knows my appreciation of a good coffee, he was kind enough to fork out the big bucks to bring a packet home for me to try.

So the verdict? For me it was different, and after reading the Wikipedia article about it, I understand this is because it lacks the bitterness of the coffee we are used to, and I admit that I usually select coffee based on their strength and bitterness. I also wonder if having ground coffee as opposed to beans may have affected it's freshness. But it was definitely not crap.

PS Kopi Luwak appeared in this scene of the movie The Bucket List. Quite funny :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Warm Fuzzies

The photo of this card is deliberately out of focus. It's a visual analogy for how it made me feel. While you may not feel the warmth from the photo, you can detect the fuzziness lol.

My day was made today by this gem that arrived by snail mail. If getting a large, coloured handwritten envelope in your mailbox when it's not even your birthday isn't exciting enough, when it contains a card such as this it gets uber good.

It's also a reminder that it's often the simplest things that have the greatest impact in terms of making a person fell valued and appreciated. Even more so when there's no agenda behind the gesture.

Many, many thanks to the person, who will remain nameless in this post, who thoughtfully created and sent this card. It certainly made me feel humble and proud. And warm and fuzzy.

The Time of Year I Love to Hate

I know it's a good thing to be able to annually purge your property of all the accumulated junk that is gathering dust and taking up space. The local inorganic collections allow us all to do this, and I have certainly taken advantage of the opportunity this year.

Like the responsible citizen I am, I follow the rules and wait until the prescribed dates to load up the grass verge with my broken and worn out large inorganic items. I do this neatly, making sure that, as is requested, everything is left tidy and compact.

But no sooner is that done than the old adage 'one man's junk is another man's treasure' comes in to play. The vultures in their people movers scour the carefully stacked piles for what they consider to be useful. In my case I could barely unload the car before someone was baring down on my castoffs. And they don't care how slowly they travel, how spontaneously they stop, or where they stop - middle of the road, across the driveway...

Certainly they give no thought to retaining any 'order' the the junk piles. By today, the third or fourth day since most of us put our 'junk' out, shrapnel is spread across the road, broken glass is scattered through the piles and the whole suburb is, quite frankly, an eyesore. (I know I am generalising here, and lumping all the pile browsers into one unsavory category, but ... if the cap fits.)

As I said, I appreciate the opportunity to get rid of unwanted junk. But I wish it'd be picked up sooner, so that our neighbourhood could be spared the embarrassment of looking as it does today.

Beware What Lies Beneath...

We all like to think we keep ourselves, our houses and our belongings clean. For me that can be an extra challenge with three long-haired, (formerly) inside dwelling dogs. I say formerly as I have been encouraged to let my 'babies' rediscover their true natures and be 'dogs' again instead, and part of this is having them spend more time outdoors being animals. But that's another story.

Having dogs and trying to keep things clean for me involves a lot of washing -  of floor coverings, dog beds and towels etc. Hence a large number of my washing machine cycles contain loads made up of those items.

I hadn't ever really given much thought to the effect this was having on my washing machine. My mother did surmise at one stage that perhaps dog hair might clog things up in the hoses, but this proved  not to be true. I certainly hadn't given any thought to what was accumulating behind the drum etc, which the ordinary person ordinarily never sees.

When you have a clean freak partner (that's a compliment honey) who knows from experience the effect washing dog stuff can have on a washing machine, and who has the expertise to dissect one to prove it, you could be in for a shock with what lies beneath.

I sure got one helluva shock. You'd presume washing machines would be clean receptacles, and I was totally grossed out to think I had been washing my clothes in what I saw, which is what you see in these photos. I'm not proud to admit it!

However I'm lead to believe that it's not only 'dog stuff' that could cause this residual build up, so my blog post is one of social responsibility; encouraging those of you who, like me, were blissfully unaware of what lurks in places you don't often see, to find yourself a handy man to show you the error of your ways. And try not to throw up as you scrub it all away...

PS Here's my new weekly haunt to take care of the doggy stuff so my newly cleaned machine remains pristine!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

50 Shades of Lighten Up!

Not one to often deliberately provoke controversy me, but this post may do it.

If you have not heard of 50 Shades of Grey, you might well have been living under a rock for the past couple of months. As with anything that becomes a part of popular culture, 50 Shades has become a hot topic (lol) in many circles. And the subject of many spoofs/parodies. Many of these parodies in some way marginalise a particular group. As parodies often do.

If you are a painter, you may be offended by Selena Gomez's Fifty Shades of Blue

If you are a mother, watch out for the gross generalisations on Amazon's Mother's Day parody

And even author E. L James may take offense to this parody of herself  (my personal favourite, do watch it lol) however she probably is not getting her panties in a bunch (unlike Anastasia - Oh My!) as every bit of publicity buys her more cash for her bad writing and over-dramatized sex scenes. Which I have nearly finished reading all of.

But you know, actually just being a 'college educated woman', I could be offended by the way 'we' are portrayed by the character Anastasia in the book - all that lip biting and eye rolling, the way she drools and succumbs to Mr Grey's demands... and the expectation that all that a man has to do to a woman to evoke an earth shattering orgasm is to basically look at her. And of course 'it' happens Every. Single. Time. Several. Times. A. Day. And because she is like that surely that must mean every single woman in her demographic is like that and E.L. James is making a gross generalization? Stretching it a bit I know, but I am trying to make a point.

I am amused therefore, at the outcry of a little literary parody doing the rounds here in Auckland/NZ. I have included it as an image below. Yes, I can see how this South Auckland parody (which I read on one sight was originally about another Auckland suburb, Avondale, a.k.a "A-von-da-lay") can be seen racially offensive. But it's also bloody funny. Lighten up people. About 50 shades should do it. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

No Like, No Pay! - Yeah, Right!

Another Venetian tale, although this one is not so ambiguous as to whether it was 'worth it' or not.
Shane's ambition on our one Italian stop, was to sample an excellent, authentic Italian pizza. Made by an authentic Italian. I had done some searching prior to leaving NZ and had identified an area away from the usual tourist haunts that recommended we would find exactly that. Unfortunately the iPhone GPS was not playing nicely as we navigated through the back streets, and we kept losing our way.
Hungry tums and hot feet therefore took us back to a place slightly off the beaten track, though still quite touristy looking, which we had passed earlier. Ristorante 1251. A guy had been vocally advertising a mantra of "You no like-a the pizza you no pay". We took a seat not anticipating that this would be a reality for us.
I was a piglet and ordered two courses, starting with a mozzarella and tomato salad, which despite being a little under-seasoned, was quite refreshing and delivered what it said on the packet. When Shane's pizza arrived - funghi with additional olives - it was sans olives so went back to the kitchen. It reappeared with a few cold olives scattered on the top. He ate in silence, leaving the majority of his pizza uneaten on the plate.
Meanwhile the order for my seafood dish had not gone through. I eventually realised this when it had not turned up and alerted the waiter -  foolishly as it turned out as it coincided with the realization that the funghi pizza was not good, and I wished I had just stuck with the salad.
The waiter cleared, enquired after the uneaten pizza, and was told it was 'not nice'. When he returned with the bill, the pizza was charged for. What happened to "You no like-a the pizza you no pay?", we asked.
Exit the meek waiter, enter the firey chef/owner or whoever. What ensued was a barrage of shouted insults from this dude, including his insistence that all his pizzas were excellent, and a good amount of punctuated finger pointing at Shane accompanied by "I no like you! I no like you!"
Well we didn't like him either. And we don't recommend any visitors to Venice eat at Ristorante 1251

PS Ristorante 1251, in a digital age beware the pissed off customer. This is not the only place I have expressed my displeasure!

Ascertaining 'worth'

Well it has sure been a long while between posts - a two week break overseas and the obligatory recovery time will do that for you, but will also provide topic fodder for a few posts to come. Unlike my brother, (link to his travel blog here) who is currently on a 7 week excursion in Europe with his wife, I did not blog whilst I was away - I only had my cell phone and not a lot of data or downtime. Retrospective blogging therefore means that posts will not be chronological in terms of the experiences we had. To give context to the posts I will briefly define the 'we' as being myself and my new best friend Shane lol. A man from my past who has now become my future *collective sigh*.
It was a brilliant, spontaneous holiday, and we packed A LOT into the brief time we had. This meant we did not necessarily do the standard tourist things, but in Venice, we did.

A couple in love in Venice can't NOT go on a gondola ride, can they? A quiet, romantic glide through the back canals of this amazingly unique city? We had already meandered the streets by foot as we made our way randomly from the train station to the Piazza San Marco in the morning, and I had loved the authenticity we found away from the tourist mayhem of the Rialto Bridge area and St Marks Square. The gondola ride was much like that, but with the perspective of being on the canals. Our gondolier offered us the occasional snippet of commentary, but I don't think we were particularly interested; after all the walking we'd done I think we were both glad of the chance to sit down and relax!

So we can tick "Gondola Ride through Venice" off our 'list'; although I had ridden a gondola on my last visit to Venice some 15 years ago, it was with a bunch of fellow Contiki tourists, not with my 'fellow'. But an expensive tick it was. NZD $120 was the 'city price' for this supposedly 40 minute ride; that's some hourly rate! Was it worth it? Of course it was. What price do you place on experience and memories, huh? (Even if it's just to recall how ridiculously overpriced it was lol)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June's Book Done and Dusted

Well it's had a lot of hype and press surrounding it so what's a girl to do but read it?  Tagged as 'Mommy Porn', "Fifty Shades of Grey" by E. L. James is described as a romance/suspense/erotica novel. Well yes, it's all that. Not the most cerebral read in the world, certainly explicit in terms of its sexual content, but to be honest, all that bedroom/ red-room-of-pain stuff gets rather passe after a few chapters.
The writing is bland and the plot is thin. The characters are pretty one dimensional with repetitively annoying behaviours (all that lip biting and eye rolling). Despite other friends rollicking through the whole series in under two weeks, it has taken me almost a month to get through the first book. Those who know what's happening in my own life currently may say there's an explanation for that, but I did expect it to be more engaging than it was. 
So am I going to bother with the next two. Of course I am!
I had been warned that the ending of book one was designed to make you want to start book two immediately. Well mine's packed away for a long plane trip, so I will just have to wait till I get seated to find out what happens next... and actually, I can wait. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Perfect Timing

On the day of our Tiki C.K.C.S Club Winter Championship Show, Mr Stirling's Championship title became official on a number of levels:

The obligatory bottle of bubbles was shared with the folk who have encouraged and supported me. Within my circle of cavalier exhibitors, this is a tradition when a dog gets 'made up'.

Stirling and I received his Championship plaque on behalf of the club, and lead the Parade of New Champions at the conclusion of the show.

When I arrived home, the official Championship certificate had arrived in the mail from the NZ Kennel club. 

So, we didn't win any major placings at the show today, but I think all of that makes for a successful day nonetheless :).

Monday, June 11, 2012

Broken Wings

As I have previously posted, I was obsessed with nurturing my monarch flock over summer, with mixed success because of the invasive wasp population. But when the weather cooled the wasps left, the caterpillars sprang into action. At one stage I counted up to 35 chrysalises on and around my swan plant.
But alas, as my mother predicted, because they metamorphasized (morphed?) in the cooler weather, the chance of survival is slim for the butterflies. It's just too cold for them to hatch most of the time, and when they do, many are turning out munted.
Today being a milder day, I returned home to find five newly hatched butterflies floundering around under the bush. To protect them from the dogs, I transferred them to a nearby plant. Three looked OK, but two had trouble staying on, due to damaged or malformed wings. The prognosis for them is probably not good... but all five together provided the opportunity to take some sweet pics!


PS There were those I had previously rescued and brought inside, such as this chrysalis that fell on the ground and was then sellotaped to the bookshelf ... then hatched under my wondrous gaze... only to have a particular dog who shall not be named use it as a plaything when my back was turned...

Before .........................and after!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Clip of the Year

Maybe it's because I am in a romantic frame of mind - not quite to this extent however - that this clip which turned up on my FB page has struck such a chord with me. What an amazing group of people to do this for this woman (Amy) and her beau... I have had to watch it several times because there's so much you miss the first time. I especially like watching the bride-to-be's reactions in the top LH corner... What a lucky lady!

Click on the top pic to link through. So worth it!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Recommended Dining

I took up the opportunity to dine at one of Auckland's newest restaurants, Botswana Butchery, last night. With locations in Queenstown and Wanaka, the Auckland restaurant opened in March this year. Despite the mixed reviews I read prior to going, I must say it was one of the best meals I have had for a while. (Certainly a million times better than Wildfire on Friday - a bitterly disappointing experience).
Two of our party are young chefs-in-training, so the menu was carefully devoured and dissected and the waiter suitably quizzed (mainly by me actually) prior to orders being made. He did really well, contrary to some of the criticisms I read about wait staff in the reviews.
Given the name of the restaurant, it would have been wrong for a farmer's daughter to not order red meat, so a Savannah Eye Fillet it was. The menu allows diners to select the sauce they want from a comprehensive list, and I went with the waiter's recommendation of a mushroom and cognac sauce. You can then select your own sides - the five of us shared our choices, and there was plenty to allow for a decent taste of each (except maybe the baby beet salad I ordered, which really was side sized.)
The wine list is extensive, and I was more than happy with my Gibbston Valley Pinot Gris, though it was pointed out that perhaps with the red meat that I should have gone red; others enjoyed Hawkshead Pinot Noir.
Dessert menus were perused with four sets of eyes heading straight for the chocolate fondant; me though - I went for the lemon tart with melon parfait, which was amazing. The phone pic does not do it justice. Apparently the fondant was better. Not that we shared tastings, but there was certainly much raving about it from the four who ordered it. I also very much enjoyed my Cloudy Bay dessert wine. Delish.
All in all, while not a cheap night, Botswana Butchery will be a future destination for me for a special event.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Proud First

Well a few weeks back I was a little disappointed to miss out on getting Stirling's 8th and final challenge at Kawerau. However when I reflected upon 'winning' a challenge by beating just one other dog, I realised that it would be a far sweeter goal to reach if he actually won in good company. Well today he did just that, and under a Cavalier specialty judge too. It made obtaining his Champion title so much more meaningful.
And he showed his little heart out too. A welcome change from the shrinking violet he often turns into in the ring. My new tactic is pretty much ignoring him until it's time to go in to the ring, then he's all loved up on me. That and a switch of 'bait' from chicken to liver!

The show today was at Ngaruawahia, on the banks of the mighty Waikato river.  I was convinced to have my pic taken with this as a backdrop, with the judge and Stirling's final challenge...  The photo on the right is Stirling's breeder, Mignon, who was even more reluctant to have her pic taken than me.

But really it's all about my beautiful boy, CH Du Maurier Sterling Silver. My first Champion. Oh and another goal to tick off the 50 List.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Curiously Good Read

I polished off my book for May in super quick time for a number of reasons:
1. I was 'late' starting it
2. It was really written for a teen audience
3. I had read it before
4. I bought another book I was very keen to get into!
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon is a cleverly written little book about the murder by pitchfork of a dog, which a teenage boy sets out to solve. But it is not for the plot that I enjoyed this book so much the first time, and not the reason I chose to re-read it. It is because the story is told from the perspective of a boy with Aspergers syndrome. Having worked with so many children on the autistic spectrum over time, I appreciated both humorous yet 'real' voice of the narrator, Christopher, and appreciated the insights he gives into the reasonings and interpretations of a person who lives with Aspergers. I do understand however, that Haddon had received criticism for his portrayal of Christopher, for not accurately depicting the thought processes of an autistic person. Yet personally I feel this character engenders a real sense of understanding for those who live with the condition. And anyway, my understanding is that everyone on the spectrum presents and interprets in unique ways, so who knows really if it's not accurate?

Now bring on the next book - I am sure the ensuing review will be ... interesting!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Family Fothers

Big ups to my cuzzies Robyn and Fiona for organizing the Fothergill side of our family to get together in Taupo this weekend. My Dad's family is headed by Robyn's Mum Avril (only girl above), then my Dad (Hilton second from left), Ern (Fiona's Dad, on right) and Lance (the youngest, left).
All of their children (my cousins) who could be there, were there. The only cousin missing (in person) was Deena, who we sadly lost in recent years. Many extended family members were there also (missed you Lisa F), and together we make quite a picture!
It is through Facebook that many of us had reconnected previously and gotten to know about each others' grown up lives, prior to the weekend. And now that the event has passed, our Fothergills FB group is allowing us to share photos and memories, and will assist us in maintaining contact - without boring the rest of the FB world, for whom these events would have little relevance.. Those who pooh-pooh Facebook ignore the positive impact it has on renewing and developing important relationships.

Being a Tourist in NZ

I had the privilege of being a tourist in my own country this weekend past. Destination Taupo was the venue for a Fothergill family reunion, which I will address in a future post.
I love visiting places -  in my own country and beyond - with time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. I find it a real advantage that now I have photography as a serious interest, that I always look at places with the intent of seeing them at their best. Whilst I was without my own transport this weekend, I was fortunate that my brothers' paths, and thus my own, took me to visit places I would ordinarily drive past if simply heading from A to B.
The first photo here was taken at the Taupo markets in the morning. Certainly plenty of autumn colours on show, and a great setting by the boats.
It was a long time since I had visited Huka Falls (second pic), and I had never been to the Craters of the Earth (pic number 3). The latter was interesting, though not a patch on the geothermal wonders at Waiotapu, further north.
In Taupo an obvious attraction is the magnificent lake and saying in an absolute waterfront house helped with capturing the dawn sunrise yesterday morning. I had to wait and will the clouds to move to get my shot of the weekend. This I did for at least 20 mins in my PJs and a jacket, lest I missed that perfect moment. Brrr, there was frost on the roof next door!
 The sunset the previous evening was evidence that waiting is indeed what one needs to do to get the shot. We had to leave for our family function before the glow of the sunset had permeated the sky, so this rather harshly lit photo is the best I could do.