Magnolias in bloom

One of my favourite things about our current home is a beautiful magnolia tree out the front. In winter our front yard is filled with pink blooms – something that really brightens up my day. It’s so striking, even from the road, that the other day I had a stranger pull over and ask me whether he could take some photos of the blooms. He was an artist just driving past, all the way from Taree on a daddy-daughter day.

What a great subject for me to test out my new 50mm lens.

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Sunrise from Long Reef Headland

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I mentioned my new found enthusiasm for photography in my last post. My latest adventure was to Long Reef Headland, to take photos of the sunrise over the ocean. Anyone who knows me will understand that this in itself is no mean feat – I am not a morning person AT ALL. So when I came up with the suggestion, my husband was doubtful. Me, get out of my warm bed, pre-dawn, in the middle of winter, to take photos?!? Surely you jest!

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When the alarm went off at 5:45 am, I turned over and told Hubby that we weren’t going anymore. He took it well, asking me if I was sure. We checked the forecast and I dragged my butt out of bed, while my awesome Hubby got the gear together for me. Off we set. And I’m so glad we did.

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It’s so serene at that time of the morning, and the colours in the hour before sunrise are so vivid.

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We even had a soundtrack to enhance the experience – a local guy with a didgeridoo came up and started playing, improvised but perfectly fitting.

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The sunrise itself was quite hard to photograph. There weren’t many clouds to highlight the colours that you’d normally get, and I’m still unsure about what settings will get me the results. Light is my passion in photography, and I think I’ve managed to capture some of that here. I guess I can only keep practising. *Sigh* And I guess that means more pre-dawn alarms going off…

Vivid Sydney 2013

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I am a brand new photography enthusiast. Actually, I lie. I have been into iPhone “photography” (also known as iPhoneography) for a few years, but we recently purchased a real DSLR – a Canon EOS 60D. After a one day photography course I’m in love with it. I’m still no good, but I’m practising!

Here are some shots of Vivid Sydney this year – and my first night shoot. What an awesome program the City of Sydney has put on. From animated light shows with their own sound tracks to interactive light installations along the foreshore – they all fill you with a sense of wonder and joy. It’s kind of like the New Years Fireworks. You’ve seen it all before in various forms, but there is still a buzz when you’re there immersed in it.

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It has drawn thousands of people to the Harbour – scores of locals and tourists alike traipsing about from Walsh Bay through to the Opera House, many carrying their own DSLRs and tripods. Then there was me and the Hubby (my tripod bearer), trying to get my first night shots. And loving it!_MG_0581

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P.S. The Vivid light show is only on the west side of the bridge, unlike the fireworks and almost every other activity they have featuring the bridge. As I had done limited research we ended up at Mrs Macquarie’s chair first off, and got a harbour different shot 🙂

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Cat Adventures – Lovedale Long Lunch

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I’m a massive fan of the weekend away. There’s just nothing like hopping in the car, bags packed and setting off on adventure. Any direction will do – it’s about getting out of the city and really making the most of the weekend.

Hunter Valley VinesThe other weekend we  headed 2 hours north west of Sydney for the beautiful Hunter Valley, and the famous Lovedale Long Lunch. Eight of us set out Friday evening to i villini, the cottage we had rented for the weekend.  The cottage was perfect – 3 bedrooms all with their own ensuites, and a living area complete with two fireplaces. There  was nothing to do but crack open a bottle of red, cheese up some biscuits, crank up some tunes and relax. Before long we were through the 12 bottles we had brought up with us and half a case of beer! True to form we had once again peaked on the first night, and needless to say everyone was slow moving on the Saturday morning… Our only problem was we still had to get through the main event!

After 20 years, the Lovedale Long Lunch organisers have it all sorted. Your $85 ticket gets you your (plastic) wine glass for the day, 2 glasses of wine, 2 meal tickets and a dessert/cheese ticket. All of the wineries involved have food stations, music and seating, and of course plenty of wine! A $25 shuttle ticket gets you unlimited rides between the wineries for the day, so as long as you can get yourself to the first venue  and home again, you’re set.

It was a stunning day – a fresh and warm spring day. We started off at Wandin around lunch time (did I mention that we were slow moving?) which had an reasonable band and a great DJ playing. With the doors opening at 10:30 it was clear that everyone else  had a head start on us. What I hadn’t expected was that people would turn up in costume. There were groups of story book characters, where’s Wallies, flapper girls. You name it – they were there and they were already tipsy!

photo 1After a bite to eat and a few bevvies (which were also relatively slow flowing), we eventually moved on to the next winery, Allendale, which was pretty much the first stop on the shuttle route. After another hour or two there our time was almost up and we needed to find our way back to our pick up point. We arrived back at Wandin with about 20 minutes left of serving time. That of course meant we bought another couple of bottles so we could sit back and watch the end all unfold. By this stage there were a lot of very funny drunks around and they were honestly the best entertainment of the day. People escaping security, people getting walked out by their friends, lots of dirty dancing and many costume crimes.

The girlsBack at our cottage we reflected on an awesome day as we settled back by the fire into another round of cheesy goodness, more wine (although nowhere near as much as we had the previous night!) and a few rounds of poker.

If you get the opportunity, I’d definitely recommend partaking in the Lovedale Long Lunch. It’s a great activity to enjoy with a few mates, a great little weekend escape, and I dare say always an adventure.

What I learned about myself watching my first fight night

The other night I attended my very first live fight…

Anyone who knows me would think that was out of character – I’m not your average blood sport kinda gal. But I was there to support a couple of (unrelated) mates who were part of a reality type internet show called Wimp2Warrior.  You know the type, where they take your average Joe from off the street, train them in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) for 6 months or so, and then set them out to fight against each other. And from hundreds of applicants from all around Australia, I happen to know two! How could I not go?

I can honestly say I was a bit apprehensive. I had seen a few snippets of fights on TV (as my bro is your average blood sport enthusiast) and it was a bit gory for my liking. The sound of a punch hitting skin is not really one of my favourite sounds, and these nutcases are so determined not to “tap out” that quite often broken and dislocated limbs are the only things that stop the fights. And having to watch two people you actually know stepping into the cage… That’s just a different story. Luckily for me they weren’t fighting against each other, despite being in the same weight division.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself hoarse after the first round from yelling –
“Go Adz!”
“Kick him!”
“Elbows!”

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Adz (blue) in the ring

Granted I’d had a beverage or two, but there I was bellowing at the top of my lungs, telling a friend to hurt someone else! And it didn’t end there. I screamed my support right up until the point he tapped out (guillotine move apparently), then picked 2 strangers to go for before cheering my little heart out for my other friend, Vaughan (who also lost in a split decision by a single point). It was thrilling, it was stressful but I was having a grand old time.

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Vaughn (left) waiting to hear the points decision

After we left the event my hubby and I were discussing how weird it was that I had gotten so into it. Maybe it was the personal connection? No, that wasn’t it because it took me no time at all to find some strangers to support. Maybe I’m just a sports supporter – I love watching a bit of rugby, a bit of tennis, and I’ve been known to yell a few words of support. But “kick him”?! Or maybe I was a blood sport kinda gal…

I started thinking about the ancient Roman gladiators. I always thought it was disgusting that people would go and watch people fight to the death. Sometimes they had the power to affect whether the gladiators got to live or die, and it was not uncommon for them to vote for a death. Would I have been one of those people, one who would get so caught up in the atmosphere that I’d vote for an execution? I can be so self-righteous sometimes, and I like to think my values and ethics are first class. I had really caught myself out.

I still can’t explain the inner blood nut that I seemed to awaken the other night, but I guess I knew that they’d never let anyone get really hurt – if anyone looked like they were in serious trouble the trainers would throw in the towel. Despite the production value of the Wimp 2 Warrior finale, and the fact that I personally knew two of the competitors, being there live actually felt more disconnected than watching it on TV. You’re further away, you can’t hear any of the noises going on in the ring, and you have a cage between you and the fighters. Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

So for now I’ll take comfort in the fact that I still get grossed out by watching MMA fights on TV. Surely that means that the ancient Roman Cat didn’t get caught up in the hysteria and send gladiators to their death!

NB: I’d like to give a special shout out to Vaughan and Adz. I cannot imagine how hard you boys trained for those 6 months (although I’m about to see on the show!) and how much courage it would have taken for you to step out in that ring knowing that no matter what you’re going to be hurting the next day. Well done – absolutely incredible stuff.

Getting out and about in Sydney

Curra MoorThe Hubby and I are making a concerted effort to change our lifestyle. He’d like to be lose a few kilos while I just like the idea of being healthier. We kicked it off in February after a couple of gluttony, with an aim to minimise processed food, carbs and no alcohol (for me anyway). We also started walking at night 2-3 times after dinner just around the neighbourhood. Six weeks later and we plan to continue this new lifestyle. We’ve both gained fitness and lost some weight, although we’ve picked the alcohol back up and relaxed some of the rule a little.Walking has been great for us- we get more time to actually talk to each other rather than just cohabitating the same space. If the hubby happens to have a weekend day off (which is unfortunately rare) we try and get out bushwalking. This Saturday Hubby found a great loop walk at Curra Moor in the Royal National Park. The walk starts off in a coastal bush type environment, decorated with some beautiful angophoras, colourful wild flowers and grass trees. The path then heads to the coast, where you walk cliff side and see some stunning views looking across the Pacific Ocean. The highlight of the walk is definitely the waterfall.

View across the waterfall to the Pacific Ocean

Being at the top means you miss the spectacular drop into the ocean, however the sandstone plateau that preceeds the fall are gorgeous.

These rock pools are so typically AustralianThe walk continues along the coast then loops back in to the car park. All up the ten(nish) km walk took us 2 hours.

After the walk we headed down to beautiful little Bundeena, where we grabbed a sandwich and ate it by the beach. A perfect finish for our little outing.

Sydney has so many beautiful places worth exploring. Time together with the hubby and the calorie burning can become just incidental benefits.

If anyone out there has any good walks I should consider, then do let me know!