Monthly Archives: July 2012

Weekly photo challenge: Purple-headed high-fliers

Yum yum yum – candy floss for breakfast

This very hungry bird is an Australian Lorikeet … a purple-headed beauty gorging at the feeding trough. I love the magnificent colours – especially the purple – of these cheeky birds, they look so vibrant as they flit from branch to branch.

I had to get out of bed very early for my date with the Lorikeets. Watching them suck on the ‘candy floss’ (cotton candy for my American friends) was very entertaining. They preferred to eat than to perch still while I tried to focus!

Photographed on the Sunshine Coast of Australia.

Weekly photo challenge: Dreaming

Early morning reverie

Early morning is often a time for contemplation, reflection and dreams – just as these two young men appeared to be doing when I snapped them. Maybe, they hadn’t been to bed …

But they were certainly soaking up the opportunity to bask in the hot pool’s warmth in solitude – or so they thought. A few seconds later, my second photo shows them looking at me – the invader!

I didn’t stop to chat.

Location: On the shore of Lake Taupo, New Zealand

Recipe: Spinach and feta muffins

Fresh from the oven

Anyone for tea?

Well, you asked for it … you being one lovely blogger – Grace!

Our local deli – the Gipps Street Deli (Wellington, New Zealand) – makes their wonderfully delicious spinach and feta muffins in gem scone tins so the muffins are oblong and larger than these made in a conventional muffin tin. The mixture for the conventional size, made 18 muffins. In a gem scone tin, you’d probably end up with 12 or so.

4 cups flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
pinch each of salt and pepper
2 cups grated tasty cheese
150 grams feta cheese
spinach, half a bunch chopped medium to fine
200 grams melted butter
2 eggs, whisked
2.5 cups warmed milk

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Mix flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.
Add cheeses and spinach and mix again.
In a separate bowl, mix butter, eggs and warm milk.
Add to the dry ingredients, mixing just for the wet mix to absorb the dry. Don’t over mix!
Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes

My son asked if I could sprinkle this batch with sesame seeds – adds a bit of extra crunch to the already slightly crunchy crust. Next time I make them, I’ll add a bit more spinach. And I might even add about a cup of diced roasted pumpkin!

If reheating them, it’s best to pop them in a 150 degree celsius oven, rather than a microwave, for 5-10 minutes.

Weekly photo challenge: Movement – ebony and ivory

Keyboard dexterity

This afternoon I was privileged to sit in on a masterclass for young aspiring conductors. Four of them aged from 15 – 24. I work for our national orchestra – this is one of the perks!!!

I write and edit a small quarterly magazine so had decided to take photos of the young conductors with my ‘point and shoot’ camera – the one I keep in my handbag. I kicked myself for not taking my big camera to such a special event – a lost opportunity!

Anyway, I moved round quite a bit – very quietly of course even though wearing my bikie boots- getting different angles, and while behind the piano my attention turned to the movement of Katharine’s hands. How to capture that movement. Not easy … but in this one image, everything excepting the hands, seems to be in focus.


Anyone for a muffin?

Snapped in a Dunedin cafe

Yesterday a muffin recipe from our local deli – Gipps Street Deli – was featured in the newspaper. Whoopee – one of my all-time favourites, Spinach and Feta with lots of tasty cheese. Although the deli changed hands recently, the new owners have continued making all our favourite neighbourhood treats…

I’ve tried to replicate the muffins several times but have never quite succeeded – close, but not exact. So, imagine my delight at seeing the recipe. I wonder if they’ve left anything out … do chefs do that?

Sometimes, on a Saturday morning, I’ll whip round to the deli and buy a couple for us to have later in the day with a cup of tea. They are best enjoyed after heating in the oven for five minutes, then lathering with butter. Divine.  And if I have to go to a workshop day – as I have to do this coming Saturday – I’ll duck in and buy one for my lunch.

You got it – my stomach rules!

My son was alongside me as I saw the recipe and whooped with delight. He grabbed his cell-phone and raced out of the room. Next thing, I hear a familiar ‘pling’ on my phone. Up pops a message: Great muffins … and a picture.

Not that we’re into outdoing each other, but his muffin (as pictured) had pumpkin and sesame seeds in addition to the spinach and feta!

If anyone would like me to share the recipe for our local deli’s muffins, just say the word … and I’ll post.

A winter’s day in Wellington

You can’t beat Wellington on a good day

I participated a day-long photography workshop recently. It was on a farm about 30 minutes drive from my home.

We were asked to take a long an example of one of our favourite images. I spent ages going through all my files – getting more and more confused about what to take. But in the end, I took this one, or one very similar having taken several on this beautiful winter’s day two years ago.

I wouldn’t say that it got rubbished – not quite that. But there were suggestions that I should crop it horizontally making a long narrow strip of yachts and masts. Get rid of the red centrepiece, deepen the blue of the sky …. but this is what I saw! I loved what I saw on this day, and I photographed what spoke to me. A few minutes after the shutter clicked on this one, several ducklings waded into view. I snapped again and captured their movement with shafts of shimmering light …

I was reminded on this photo today while looking through my digital files. Today was a day just like the one in the photograph – clear, still, warm and sunny. Low winter sun – magic! I should have raced down to the waterfront with my camera to see if I could take a photo just like the one our tutor described.

But I still like this one…

Weekly photo challenge: Movement – candles in the draft

Banana cake with chocolate and sherry icing … not enough candles to commemorate the 25 years…

Celebrating a birthday grandchildren-style … an evening in the company of the young ones

First movement: baking son’s favourite banana cake

Second movement: making the icing … chocolate …

Third movement: icing and decorating the cake with son’s favourite nuts

Fourth movement: sharing the placing of candles with partner’s nine-year old granddaughter

Fifth movement: sharing the lighting of candles with said granddaughter

Sixth movement: turning off all the lights in the room and tricking son into coming into room

Seventh movement: taking a photograph

Eighth movement: son blows out candles

Ninth movement: son cuts cake

Tenth and final movement: we all devour … yum yum yum yum yum!!!

Quite a lot of movement really …

Tears for Christchurch

Earthquake ravaged

We spent last weekend in Christchurch, the city that suffered irreparable damage and huge loss of life on the 22nd of February 2011.

Although I spent a week down there for work in October last year, I never ventured into the city. We listened to the stories and imagined the devastation.

This time we did wander round the inner streets looking over the cordons at the ruins of what had once been a beautiful city. A magnificent Cathedral as its centrepiece, and lovely old buildings gracing the wide streets. No longer.

“There’s the Crowne Plaza,” my partner said, the Crowne Plaza having once been a grand and imposing hotel.

“Where?” I responded.

“There, right in front of you.”

I looked at the pile of rubble, it didn’t seem significant enough to have been such a massive hotel. A hotel in which I had sat many times enjoying a cappucino in the Piano Bar with my beloved friends Doreen and David. Every time they walked into their favourite coffee spot, the pianist would see them from the corner of his eye, stop whatever it was he was playing and play their song – Somewhere my love  from Dr Zhivago …

I’d read some time ago, in an article by Jane Bowron, that a friend of hers said the Crowne Plaza resembled the ruins in Sarajevo. I guess he wasn’t far wrong.

The first of my tears started to flow. They continued as I saw what remained of the Cathedral, and then High Street and Cashel Street. Gone were the city scapes of well-known buildings – replaced by cranes, bent iron sculptures, empty window frames and fluttering building paper.

Amidst the devastation are bright spots of colour …

Pop-up shops … colour, energy and optimism

The first photo was taken at one end Cashel Street – a street with the exit blocked by wire fencing and warnings.

This photo was taken on the same stretch of road – where optimism reigns. Brightly coloured containers line both sides, housing bustling boutique shops. The footpath features floral sculptures – yes, the deer above is fake – and big tubs are filled flowers and native greenery.

We had a cup of tea in Ballantynes. Ballantynes is a department store which suffered the worst fire in New Zealand’s history in 1947; 41 lives were lost. Ballantynes suffered again last year – thankfully it escaped serious damage and is in the process of renovating. It is already a beautiful store … no doubt it will be more so when renovations are complete.

A bright future…

It was hard looking at the ruins of a city. I felt like a voyeur … looking on from the comfort of my warm and dry home in Wellington. I felt like I shouldn’t be taking photos – that’s why I didn’t even take one of the Cathedral. It felt like I was claiming their loss as mine. But the quake in Christchurch hasn’t changed my life…only made me more aware how everything can change in the batting of an eyelid…

Then on Tuesday night we had a quake. Just as I was about to climb into bed the house started shaking. I watched 110-year old door frames as they rocked from side to side. The quake lasted seven seconds, it seemed longer. My heart raced and continued to throughout the night. No damage, just a few fallen photo frames.

The batting of an eyelid …

At the close of day – the wondrous sky

My heart soars when the sun sets

The beauty of our changing sky never ceases to amaze me.

From the pink, sometimes orange, sometimes red hues of the early morning to the drama of the setting sun. I love it…

I love it when I have the time to just stop and admire. To watch it as it changes and to try and capture its beauty.

When I took this photo in April of the sky above Lake Taupo, it was one of many. I went out every morning and every evening with my camera. I stood at the lakeside and waited. This is my favourite – it speaks to me. Maybe it’s the lone figure in silhouette.

I hope it speaks to you to…