Monday, January 31, 2011

Seven things...

Once again I have been surprised and pleased to receive another opportunity to talk about ME. It's come in the form of those rather nice blogging awards - the ones I am absolutely hopeless about passing along. I think it's all the lectures we were given about chain letters as children... or it could be my general uselessness. Probably the latter.

This time it's (surprisingly) the Stylish blogger award from the ever stylish Kerry A Tranquil Townhouse and Le at Third on the Right. Thank you both ladies. Before I started I thought I should check the last time I did one of these All About Me lists as;

1. I tend to repeat myself and tell the same story a couple of times... luckily I am terribly witty and interesting and people tend to hang on my every word so of course they don't mind. Except my husband. He cuts me off two sentences in. Poor man. Who could blame him?

2. I love it when my printer whirs into action the first time I press the print button. This last happened in 2007. Inevitably I have the page setting on A3, the connector thingy unconnected, the printer off or no paper. 

3. I love the sun.  I remember vividly the day each spring in London when you could actually feel the warmth of the sunshine on your skin for the first time in months.  At this end of the world the sun is too warm for most of the year and you can get burnt on a cold day. We might all be dodging skin cancer but we are definitely not depressed by a lack of light. I love that.
4. I love swimming in the sea but I like it to be clear beneath me so I can see the nasties that might be lurking. Ideally for me the ocean would be like a huge saltwater swimming pool with the occasional Nemo-type fish swimming by. I think that's why I like Sydney's rock pools so much... (Bronte's my favourite). I know... it's un-Australian to be such a wuss.

5. I also love chocolate which is nothing new. But not all chocolate.  Not chocolate cake, chocolate desserts and those overdone handmade twiddly chocolates (although I demolished half a box last night and will eat a cake to be polite of course). I really like just plain old chocolate, milk not dark if there's a choice.  I have had to go cold turkey quite a few times to check that I can actually survive without it.

6. I love old things, furniture particularly. Not groovy, mid-century stuff, and not those real antiques crafted from mahogany but well-used wooden tables, chests, chairs and useful old things with a solid feel and a lovely patina of age through use. 

7. And I'm sorry fellow bloggers, I love all your blogs but I loathe these little things... 

Inglatie? My brain and fingers freeze and then I type the word it nearly is. Without them I would be a much more efficient and then clearly better blogger.... I think.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Island life...

We spent the weekend at Kawau Island... a little less than an hour north of Auckland and a thirty minute trip across the water from the mainland. It's a little private patch of paradise, coves lined with jetties that lead up to the baches built up on the hills. Our friend's family has had theirs for thirty years.  
The weather was not on our side - it was wet but warm enough. We swam a little, kayaked a little, ate a lot and all in all had a lovely weekend. Life on Kawau (Cow-wow) revolves around the jetty...
This is our two year old 'bombing'  - about a two metre drop off the jetty into the water. 
I did spend a few seconds wondering whether we should let him try it but he popped up out of the water like a cork with a big smile on his face, then jumped again and again shouting with glee. The kid is crazy.

We'll have to go back one day when the sun is shining.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Too much water - here AND there...

We have just spent a wonderful weekend away in another beautiful part of New Zealand  but it was wet, so wet that the usually clear aqua water turned an ugly silty brown.

When we returned to Auckland last night we found that a king tide and a sea swollen with rain had caused  flooding in parts of the city. Nothing of course like Australia's issues... but it did make me think once again of the massive clean-up in Queensland and the continuing crisis in Victoria.

Books have been on my mind too - thanks for all your suggestions for my 2011 Reading List. I spent some time on Sunday grilling my Kiwi friends about must read NZ books so they'll be there too. It's beginning to look like my Reading List for Life!

Then today I found mention on Twitter (I lurk there but don't tweet) of Writers on Rafts.

A whole bunch of Australian writers (130 so far) have got together to raise money for the Premier's Disaster Relief Appeal. There are wonderful prizes on offer - the raffle tickets are $5 each and you can win book packs, help with your own writing, author visits to your school, local library or book club and tickets to writers festivals or even the chance to have a character named after you in a book... that rather appealed to me (as if starring in my own blog isn't enough!).

So if you're in Australia and you're a book lover - head on over and get buying. Every little bit helps and 100% goes to the Appeal.  Actually if you're anywhere in the world you can enter (I checked) but you won't qualify for a book visit - book packs and online writing support could be yours though and a warm fuzzy feeling for helping!

I also have a small thank you of my own too (all business here today). If you look up to the top of the screen at my site address you will see a lovely little house now adorns  

I didn't know but it's called a favicon - short for favourites icon.  Cool isn't it? I won it in a lovely and very unexpected giveaway over at Striking Keys.  It's a giveaway you don't even have to enter... My very favourite way to win! Thanks again Angela for the gift and the blog tutorial!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reading in 2011... the list goes live

I've been promising you a reading list for 2011. It's done and you can find it here.
You can also get to the page anytime on the top right hand side of the blog... just click '2011 Reading List'. 

I want to give my reading some direction this year and a list will also make it easy for me to order ahead from the library or buy on Amazon or Book Depository. 

There are some books listed that I  should have read years ago (and I'm almost embarrassed to admit I haven't) and others I may struggle to finish. Many have won or been shortlisted for awards but that is not the only reason they're there.  In fact some are there despite that. Like movies I tend to go off a book if I hear too much about it.

I would love to know if you think there's a book I should add. Or one I should take off the list!

I don't do self-help books - blogging my New Year's resolutions is about as 'self-help' as I get and I haven't even done that yet this year.  I'm really trying not to fall back into reading too many crime yarns (Sayers is new to me so that's ok) and I am banning aiport-lite chick lit (mostly!).

One book I definitely won't EVER be reading is Little Vampire Women.   I came across it on my book search and couldn't quite believe that a) someone has written it  b) someone else published it and c) people are buying it. Surely they're not reading it too?! 

By the way, you can buy the pictured book jackets here.  I thought they'd make great wrapping paper for a book gift but I certainly will not be covering the books on my shelf. That would be a little odd... 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

And the award goes to...

I just love the Awards season. LOVE it. People who have known me for a long time will think that sounds odd. I will do almost anything to avoid dressing up myself and I'd always rather be the least dressed up in the room.

I did dress up a little and walk the red carpet at the BAFTAs (the TV BAFTAs not the film ones) a couple of times in London. We didn't really 'walk' the red carpet but rather scurried in past the press pack with a lot of scantily clad soap stars and Joan Collins.  It felt great until a whole pack of snappers told us greasy journos to get out of the way with a 'move along love' and a wave of the hand.

Hollywood red carpet events involving big time celebs? I cannot get enough. And I don't really care who won what.

I love the frocks. The good, the bad and the downright shouldn't-have-got-out-of-the-limo-in-that-love-what-were-you-thinking?

E's Fashion Police has evolved into the very best bit. A 3D camera? Excellent, frozen spinning celebs in all their botoxed, bosomed glory - surely they all wear spanx? Apparently this season it's all about black, no peach, no blush, ummm no, emerald. I'm confused but I do hate peach.

I love the inane conversations and that wonderful question which makes no sense at all. Cue simpering, "So who are you wearing?" And that rare and wonderful moment when some new starlet forgets.

I love the palpable discomfort when the red carpet interview does not go that smoothly. It happens quite a lot. Interesting how ill-prepared the interviewers are and how unhelpful many of the actors are - surely it's their job to co-operate? Perhaps some are a little out of their depth with no script and the others are too famous to need to worry.

I like Ryan Seacrest trying to do serious.

When Michael Douglas (jokingly) told Ryan Seacrest that he Ryan had been his inspiration during his cancer battle this year, Ryan didn't miss a beat "Thank you" he said "You're inspirational to me too."  Eeergh. It was a JOKE.

It got even better this year when the show itself got underway and Ricky Gervais let loose (again! Who asked him back?). Introducing Bruce Willis as Ashton Kutcher's dad and that sort of thing... he was so mean and so on target with his jokes I almost felt sorry for Angelina. Almost.

**For those concerned (yes you Mum) that I may have watched four hours of TV yesterday - I didn't. I recorded it and watched it at high speed with my beloved Sky remote. The only way to watch anything these days. Now bring on the Oscars.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Simple silhouettes...

I am quite pleased and rather proud of myself. I don't really DO much in the way of drawing or sewing and craft projects generally bring me out in a rash so my sense of pride may well outweigh the result. 

This little project happened largely by accident one sunny Sunday afternoon while the boys were playing outside on the deck and I was inside playing with the camera. Our white duvet cover drying on a rack was the accidental backdrop for a silhouette shot... 
I snapped these (and about 45 more) without getting up from the couch.  Trying to capture a two year old whizzing by on a scooter was challenging... they got a bit sulky but like any good mother I ignored that.
Eventually I  nailed the two pictures I needed...
 ...played around a little with the very basic photoshop functions on iPhoto and popped them in frames. Christmas gifts for the grandparents and a set for us too.
There are a lot of very crafty people out there with advice for making silhouettes the traditional way but the mere mention of black paper, scissors and tracing paper makes me start itching and I don't mean itching to get started.

My way all you need is a camera, sun, white washing and a little luck.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Flowers for a Friday...

Walking with the family in Wellington last week (actually running, my boys never walk anywhere) we came upon this little grove of hydrangeas in a shady corner of the Botanical Gardens. Gorgeous.

Okay so the dusty pink is a little bit grandma. But who cares? Grandmas are the new black, just ask my mum.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Summer in the Sounds...

My thoughts today are with Queensland. For the families who have already lost so much and the city folk preparing for a pretty tough couple of days. It puts my whining about our wet Queensland holiday well and truly in perspective. Australia is a pretty tough old place to live sometimes.

I thought I'd press on and show you a little patch of Kiwi paradise...
We've just spent a lovely week away.. most of it in the Marlborough Sounds on the tip of New Zealand's South Island. We've returned feeling refreshed and relaxed and as though we've been away for weeks. I think you only ever feel like that when water is involved.

We stayed in Queen Charlotte Sound with friends who have a family bach you can only reach by boat - a privilege for us to be invited to stay. They built their holiday home themselves twenty years ago, digging out the site mostly by hand and then bringing in all the building materials by barge and lugging every piece up a steep winding path. Incredible. Even the sofas we sat on would have been a job and half to haul up there. This is the view from the deck...
Much of the Sounds is inaccessible by road and of course that's what makes it such an incredibly beautiful spot.  Lush thick native bush sweeps down steep mountains straight to the water. Much of the more accessible bays were farmland fifty years ago, now the bush has taken over and in between are baches and boathouses.
We went to visit friends staying a little further out. It's hard to believe that some of this was ever farmland. Their bach is one of only four in the bay and has no power - just gas and solar panels for the lights. A simple delicious lunch, stone skimming, swimming, kayaks and cricket on the shingle beach. A day to remember.
Actually, all in all, a week to remember. 

Oh and it may look warm and inviting but the water is pretty refreshing (as in pretty damn cold) - if it wasn't the place would be overrun.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Now we are six...

When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am Six,
I'm as clever as clever,
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ev

AA Milne, Now We Are Six, 1927
Our boy is six. In his words a 'big six year old boy'. 

His proudest achievement is that he can now skim a rock and make it bounce three, four or even five times if he chooses the right one. He nailed it on Friday and dashed back down to the shore the next morning, the last of our holiday, to check he hadn't lost the knack while asleep.

We also discovered that he can kayak by himself, jetty jump and swim a lap freestyle and breathing properly (that averages out at about a two hundred dollars a stroke if you add up all the swim school fees - well worth it of course). 

He may be all grown up but all my new six year old wanted for dinner was cheesy pasta. That's plain old pasta, white sauce, grated cheese and peas. And he insisted on a tickle pat at bedtime, so I'm pleased to say he's still our boy for a little while yet.

We've been holidaying in a marvellously untouched part of this end of the world this week. But that's a story for another day, tomorrow perhaps.


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