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.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Appreciating the Local

To officially tick something off my 50 List, a blog post about the achievement is necessary.
So here's the post about...
Go to a local (South Auckland) theatre performance.
I took myself to see the Manukau Performing Arts production of "Oliver" tonight. Ordinarily I would not have chosen this show to fulfill my goal - although it is one of the first musicals I remember seeing as a child, and although I loved playing the soundtrack (LP!) growing up, as an adult  (having seen it several times) I find the way the story evolves, especially in Act 2, 'fantastic' (in the fantasy notion of the word, not the amazing).
But late last year a Year 8 student and her Mum told me they were auditioning for this particular show. I voiced my encouragement and wished them luck, and didn't think much more of it. However the Mum then let me know they were both successful in becoming cast members, and later emailed me when tickets went on sale, so it became the 'right way' to achieve my goal.
I would say I appreciated the experience as opposed to enjoyed it. Small group amateur theatre (as opposed to larger amateur organisations with larger budgets and facilities) is a great place for the average person with a yearning for the limelight to get some time in it. I know - I have been there earlier in my life! It's also a great way for kids to gain stage experience and confidence in front of an audience, and Oliver is a great show to accommodate this.
But I am ashamed to say that too many top end professional shows have spoiled me, and warts-and-all small time theatre doesn't quite do it for me as entertainment any more. A bit like not being able to drink instant coffee anymore; only a freshly made espresso will do.
I openly confess that makes me sound like a total snob, but I promise I am not turning my nose up at my experience. I am pleased to have achieved my goal, and I absolutely commend each and every cast member; I was particularly impressed with the young guy who played Oliver, and the woman who portrayed Nancy. Oh, and the young girl who encouraged me to attend - she was a little star too; one of those ensemble members who stands out because of their commitment and believability. I hope she goes far.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I wasn't particularly enamored with any of the images I entered for last night's MPS club night, so coming away with two 'Highly Commended's left me satisfied.
The set subject was Monochrome, and the image I got the HC for is this one. The judge - who I did learn stuff from, and have no bones at all with - seemed to have an aversion to anyone who had chosen to go with sepia tones. In my defense, I did not apply a sepia preset - I used muddy brown colour monochrome.
He applied the same criticism to my photo as he did to many others who applied this toning to their images - that it would probably look better in black and white, and that 'the author' should go home and try that.
I had already tried it. In my mind it was insipid in black and white, and the brown tones brought out the broodiness in the sky which prevents the photo from being flat.
Still, everyone has their own opinion, and that's what a critique invites. What do you fullas think? (I have also included the original)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Textures and contrasts

A 'found' moment.

I will just let the photo tell the story.

Garden Goodies

My Mummy and Daddy Box
I often feel a little jealous when my friend Viki blogs about the things she gets and creates with her regularly delivered Ooooby Box. Today I came home with a whole heap of fresh garden goodies of my own, which came together thanks to my parents. I am calling it my Mummy and Daddy Box -  an array of produce fresh from the garden at Fothergills on Mimiha; carrots, beetroot, beans, courgettes, cabbage, cauli, broccoli and feijoas.

Plus a few extra things that also originated from the garden, such as...
Forgot to include the feijoas in the ensemble above!
  • Several jars of preserved feijoa and apple (last year's lot being palmed off to make way for this years!)
  • A coupe of jars of my favourite Bread and Butter pickles.
  • A fat pork chop, bacon and ham steaks
The latter items came from a home grown piggy -  who would have been raised on scraps from the garden...
Dinner smells delicious!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

There's No Place Like "Home"...

5 Reasons Why it's Great to Come "Home"
  1. The dogs LOVE it
  2. Awesome photographic opportunities
  3. Yummy food :)
  4. Someone to drink wine with (thanks Mum)
  5. This man...

On 'Hope'

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

As is the general design of my nature, I equate hope with optimism.  To me, having hope is visualising a positive outcome, without the arrogance of expectation. That way if your hope is not realised, the disappointment can be managed.
Today I hoped for a small thing in the realm of life as a whole, but a big thing for me in my current list of goals. I hoped that my lovely little Stirling would get his 8th Challenge Certificate and would therefore become the champion many say he is destined to be. We only had one dog to beat!
But today was the day the judge put up the dog that has never beaten us before. I'll admit, it was a shock. And a disappointment that was hard to manage on this occasion - I think I had hoped too much. The disappointment was compounded by the fact that my parents had come to watch, as well as my friend Rosie. We all felt a bit let down.
But now upon reflection, I hope that when we finally get that elusive 8th and final challenge, that we  actually 'win' it in the company of quality dogs, as we have done many times before. (Because if I was a bitchy person, I would say - "Does that judge even know what a cavalier looks like? They are meant to have level topline not look like they are going to take a crap as they move around the ring! And what about those cock-eyed hocks? For heaven's sake!" But I am not a bitchy person so I would never say that.)

The photos today come from my Mum's camera.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Beached As

I was just having a chat conversation with a friend about titling photos.
I found online, advice which said titles are supposed to evoke a suitable response to a photo, such as...
  • surprise
  • contrast, contradiction, cognitive dissonance
  • pique curiosity
  • amazement
  • amusement
  • empathy
  • horror
And that in creating title/captions we need to answer the following questions:
  • How do we want the viewer to see the photo?
  • Does it need context for understanding?
  • Will additional information be helpful?
  • What reaction are we trying to create in the viewer?
Finally the title is meant to give a small insight into the mind of the photographer.
Well from the minute I saw this skeleton on the beach this morning, I could only think of...  "Beached As".
Does that give any insight into my mind?

(If you are not familiar with this phrase, please watch Beached As, Bro. Gotta love that Kiwi accent! Oh and humour )

I thought they were blue?

Early morning appointment this morning, finished by 8 so I thought I would see if there was anything within the local Wattle Downs community worth photographing before I returned home. Whilst it is a pretty little peninsula surrounded by water - as the name peninsula suggests - there really is not a lot of attractive scenery to tempt a photographer.

My little adventure coincided with an early winter frost. Onlookers may have considered me mad as I wandered along what Wattle Downs residents consider a beach... I was disappointed that my general summation of the area in photographic terms was pretty accurate despite the tide being completely in, though a few water birds did catch my eye.

A spied what I believe was an oyster catcher, though my photos lacked the sharpness and proximity to be sure. It flew off as I approached. I was also unlucky with the fast moving and cheeky kingfishers who ceased their dipping and diving as I approached their fishing spot. I stood for quite some time amidst the frosty flora, waiting for them to leave their perches, but alas, they were too smart for me.

I did manage to steal a few photos of a heron. Now I thought it was a blue heron, but when I came home and did my research, turns out it's a white-faced heron.

True, it does have a white face. And general observation shows it really is grey not blue. Except when you photograph it in the silky morning blue-tinged water. I have posted the same photo twice here, one with the water painted in black and white so you really can see that I was right - it is BLUE.  In the first photo anyway. (No post processing on the blue either!)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

We have ignition...

I was invited today to see what the budding young scientists at my school were up to at their Science Ignition Day - a series of fun, hands-on activities designed to spark the wonder and curiosity in their young minds, before embarking on their own science Inquiries.
You might not be able to discern the scientific principles from the gloop and slime etc here, but be assured they were there - and well articulated by the students.