Sunday, June 30, 2013

Camera love

Ella spent most of the day with us yesterday and put up with having her every activity recorded on the new Fujifilm X20 with remarkable tolerance, and a minimum of protest (mostly).

First up, we cooked some "pop cakes" using her birthday pop cake maker. This was all new to me so Mr Google (and the iPad on the bench) were both very helpful. It was VERY early in the morning on a cloudy day so with Rob operating the X20 for the first time, it coped quite well with the artificial light, the strong contrast and all the reflective surfaces (and being so frightenly up close to my face this early in the morning).

Then it was time for some art work. I had monoprinting set up but I think I had more fun with it than Ella did today. I thought the camera exposed these difficult shots beautifully with no frontlighting.

We did portraits of each other. I loved Ella's of me - complete with the Judy Horacek decorated ("Woman with Altitude") apron I was wearing (and it struck me for the first time how much "Woman" looks like Julia Gillard!) and my characteristic untidy eyebrows??

We engaged in a bit of imaginary play about selling the pop cakes door to door. In the process Ella made up a story about Nellie's involvement. She wrote this completely unaided.......

Translation....... Please make sure that Ella's dog isn't at your house. Clever isn't she??

Ella's learnt to skip in the last few weeks and participated in Jump Rope For Heart at school this week. She had no trouble raising a good amount of money, including a $10 donation from her own piggy bank - which had taken her AGES to accumulate.

The X20 captured movement in low light very well I thought (on Auto too).

She got me skipping too although I don't think she was very impressed that I could only do about 4 skips in a row without losing it!

With rain threatening we took a quick trip to the National Aboretum around lunchtime.

The Australian Government funded the construction of this amazing playground for the children of Canberra as part of its centenary gift to the city. It has only been open a week or so, so we were keen to see Ella's response to it.

 She loved it (of course).

The rain came and we were forced inside. All was not lost though as a shop was found with very desirable headbands (made with real kimono silk from Japan) and some cool multi media table top devices.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Carry on

We live a 10 minute drive from Parliament House - the site of great upheaval, media frenzy and high emotion over the past 24 hours. I didn't like what happened to our first female PM last night but realise it was probably inevitable given the diabolical polls. However I am sure that just like the formidable Julia G, our country's sturdy and stable democracy will carry on with little disruption despite these histrionics.

We're political tragics so we had a late night following all the coverage and had endless debates about all the pros and cons and ins and outs. I hope Julia G and all the others off the front bench after last night's events had as much fun as we did today in the wash up of all this drama (hopefully the ex PM has more time to complete her knitting for Will and Kate's bub now).

Abi enjoyed a walk in the neighbourhood. She loves the birds (and the birdbath), the leaves, the rocks, the dogs and being able to climb over anything remotely climbable.

I have missed my Canon 30D so much....but had great news yesterday that my new Fujifilm X20 F2.0-2.8 lens compact camera was in store and ready to be picked up.

After Abi had gone I was able to unpack it and give some serious attention to working out how to use it. These are some of the first shots I took around the garden in the late afternoon winter light - a huge improvement over what I was able to do with Rob's Canon compact - these exposures are very true to life - even with the settings on Auto.

And by playing with the shutter speed with the aperture wide open I got some lovely contrast in this close up of the Sasanqua - as well as a bit of bokeh (thank you Mal).

There is a macro and super macro setting which gives pretty impressive results without a tripod, under artificial light.

 And a panorama setting!!! Joel are you watching?

I'm shooting everything tonight - even dinner (prawn, salmon & coconut curry - thank you July 2013 Delicious).

I have heard my Canon 30D is on the mend too - just needs some "adjustments" to the exposure metering (due to impact) - not even too expensive given the years of good service it has given me and the bad treatment I dished out to it when I dropped it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Manly reunion

Old friends contacted us during the week and good fortune conspired for us to be able to meet them in Sydney today for a very long lunch at Out of Africa in Manly. We had HOURS of catching up to do since it was 8 or so years since the last time we'd had a good chat together.  It was a BIG birthday weekend for Barry - celebrated with their grown up family in Sydney. We were lucky to find this time with them in between the celebrations.

Sydney was cold and very wet today; not the best day to enjoy the ferry ride from Circular Quay to Manly Wharf - but the warmth of the welcome at Out of Africa and the quality of the dips and dukkah and veal couscous made us forget all about the grey day outside.

I started teaching way back in 1973 with Dorothy. She is a very lovable, artistic and quirky character with a penchant for collecting vintage colanders - and then painting them. She is also known - around the world - for her textile jugs - she's made hundreds of them to meet the demand!  She started her career in Food, way before most Aussies knew much about it. We always have a lot to talk about!

Dorothy and Barry recommended Out of Africa, having been here previously when their son Joe was photographing Hassan M'Souli's lovely cookbook Moroccan Modern.  Dessert was simple, but lovely: dates soaked in coffee liquor for 14 days, with handmade spiced icecream - served with sweet and strong Arabic coffee.

Unsurprisingly, there was quite a bit of travel talk as Barry and Dorothy have been lots of places we haven't. They celebrated Barry's last BIG birthday with a trip to Ethiopia - with their kids and grandkids. They're taking a more luxurious option for their next OS trip in September, a gourmet food tour with Gabriel Gate, to the Alsace Lorraine region in North East France.

No camera

I am without my Canon 30D.  After the excitement of buying my first prime lens (50mm f1.4) last week I accidentally DROPPED the whole kit (camera and new lens) onto the tiled floor from quite a height.  The camera is now at the Canon hospital getting fixed...and I have to use Rob's compact and the iPhone for the interim.

We've had some fun with the girls this week. Abi loves accessories and enjoys unpacking our shoes and trying on hats and my bangles during her visits. She also enjoys adding to her rock and leaf collections while checking out the birds in our garden.

Rob did Grandad duty at Ella's class's all day excursion to the Botanic Gardens on Wednesday. They looked at the role plants, air and water (PAWS) play in maintaining life.  The kids also expended a lot of energy running around the gardens like crazy, which was quite tiring for the Grandads supervising them.

Kindergarten class hosted assembly on Thursday. It was very entertaining, with a full rendition of their Jolly Phonics repertoire (no Whole Language approaches at this school), complete with all the hand actions to reflect the sounds ......

...while Abi engaged in her own diversionary tactics ....

I thought that Moon River was an unusual choice for the Kindies to sing - but delightful nevertheless.  I suspect their choir leader is a bit of a Breakfast at Tiffany's afficiando.  Ella does a pitch perfect Moon River even without accompaniment, but doesn't like her Granny to sing along with her (I wonder why!). 

Ella also had an announcer's role, which she did with great clarity and confidence - reading beautifully from her cue card.

She came back to our house after school for a playdate and dinner. Before we leave she loves the way Granny and Grandpa will stay back in the school playground for how ever long she likes while she gets uncrowded time developing her already considerable skills on the equipment

Monday, June 10, 2013

No Sydney Vivid

Our Sunday in Sydney promised to be an exciting one. We started off the day normally enough with a good walk, as far as the Waverley Cemetery, on a section of the coast walk where the district's buried must really appreciate the oceanfront real estate they occupy - in perpetuity (?).

....then back to Coogee by way of sweet Clovelly....

.....past the beginner diving schools at beautiful Gordon's Bay....

..... and back to Coogee Beach where we had our first minor celebrity sighting of the day - the admirable Amanda Keller walking her dog on the esplanade.  

The beach volleyballers were out in force this morning on the beach while the littlies were tearing up the esplanade with their scooters.

We were back in town by a little after 1.00pm, with just enough time to enjoy a quick but delicious lunch at one of our favourite Sussex Street eateries, before heading off to the Lyric Theatre at The Star at Pyrmont.

We had seats booked for the wonderful "War Horse" at 3.00pm, presented by the National Theatre of Great Britain.  Without the amazing horses created by South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company and their extraordinary puppeteers, this could have been just another anti war, human (and horse) interest story.  For us, the "puppets" and their handlers who brought them "to life", gave the production such an emotional boost. We found it a really poignant and memorable show - fantastic to see.

We're so ignorant that we walked out of the Lyric Theatre after the show and headed for Darling Harbour without realising that BRAD PITT was nearby, here in Sydney for the premiere of World War Z, also at The Star - we only realised it when we read the papers this morning (duh!)

We were on a mission to get to Circular Quay and a good viewing position to enjoy the light show presented by Sydney Vivid - the annual festival of light, music and ideas. 

We crossed Cockle Bay by way of Pyrmont Bridge and caught the opening (at 6.00pm) of the light show in Darling Harbour.  We were underwhelmed by this installation - a new feature of the 2013 festival - but we did enjoy the projections on the roof of the National Maritime Museum. They were inspired by the colour, flavours and sounds of India to coincide with its current exhibition East of India - Forgotten Trade with Australia.

As we made our way down George Street towards Circular Quay it became obvious that a LOT of people were making the same trek we were.

By the time we got to the Museum of Contemporary Art - beautifully illuminated in waves of gorgeous colours and patterns it was clear that it was going to be IMPOSSIBLE to gain a good vantage spot and enjoy the sights around us. I have no way of estimating crowd numbers but to me the Quay seemed almost as crowded as that day in 1997 when we tried to make our way onto Tienanmen Square, along with at least two million other people, on October 1st, the Republic of China's National Day (and a public holiday in Beijing).

We shuffled our way past the ferry terminals in the tiny spaces left between the waves of oncoming crowds of people. By the time we'd made it to the "toast rack apartments" on the East of the Quay and were faced with a solid wall of people shuffling their way around to the Opera House we both looked at each other and decided the situation was ridiculous - and we called it quits for Sydney Vivid this year....WITHOUT seeing the Opera House!!!!

I took this quick pic of everyone's favourite bridge and we breathed a huge sigh of relief to get out of the city and back to Coogee.

In amongst the crowds and bus stop closures for Sydney Vivid we were lucky to catch a 374 bus back to Coogee. Across the aisle from us was an older man listening intently to his music of choice. We both recognised him as a fairly well known character actor - although neither of us could remember his name or any specifics about where we'd seen him before. I googled mature Australian male character actors - images as soon as I got back to the apartment - but his name remains a mystery (for now).  He got off the bus at the Arden St stop - so we'll look out for him walking beachside in future!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sydney Saturday

After a confusing hour or so at Peter's of Kensington, trying to select just the right suitcase to replace our Samsonite with the broken lock, we headed out to the new(ish) Fresh Food Market at Gardener's Road Public School in Rosebery.

At this stage it looks like it's a pretty tentative operation with not a lot of stalls and not too many people (by Sydney standards). The stand out performer for us was Flour and Stone, based in Riley Street Woolloomooloo.  They bake for love, life & happiness, and now for the grateful citizens of Rosebery.   We could not resist sharing a slice of the salted caramel tart - which was a show stopper! 

But we were most looking forward to our next stop in Crown Street, Surry Hills.  That painting in the window of the small gallery pictured below is one of Claire's beautiful Time Traveller blank_space.  Yes it's a tiny gallery but it is beautifully positioned in this bohemian inner city suburb, a short walk from the iconic Billy Kwong, Marque and Bills, all on Crown Street. 

We played it really cool (as you do in Surry Hills) and didn't let on we were RELATED to this talented painter.  It was reassuring that the attendant could see we were seriously interested viewers and made sure we were given more information about the painter....... nothing too intensive but effective potential buyer attention!!

Her work looked amazing...what an achievement to break into the Sydney gallery scene.

We always enjoy a wander around the historic streets of Surry Hills.  Those working class terraces from Queen Vic's time look a treat in the hands of those renovators who descended on the suburb after the sixties.

And Crown Street is lots of fun. Walking southwards there are cafes and bars galore and lots of independent design and clothing shops. We loved the look of the highly rated Fifi Foveaux's, and vowed to try it another day when we're not so full of salted caramel tart.

In amongst the Victoriana the lucky citizens of Surry Hills have the most high tech and modern of public libraries.  Those white leather sofas in the window are a nice touch for all those library-goers while they use the free WiFi.

The Clock Hotel used to be a favourite of Davey's.  And it's still going strong.

We ended off our afternoon in Surry Hills at the lovely Trinity Bar where I drank some lovely Stone & Wood beer while we reacquainted ourselves with the Sydney Morning Herald as the bar slowly filled with the happy hour crowd.

We caught the bus back to Coogee in complete darkness (It was dark by 5.15pm this afternoon). While we waited for bus 373 I was amazed to see a cyclist along busy Flinders Street riding, no hands, and texting on his mobile phone!!!