Twittering on

ThanksgivingParty

Who knew?!

Only a couple of years ago, I picked up my dormant twitter account and started actually sending off tweets, instead of waiting for them. It worked. It worked so well, that today I crossed a milestone and ‘achieved’ 3k followers. It’s a bit hard to believe how effective twitter is at enabling community and providing an efficient stage for the sharing of one’s humble interests and memes. I am very glad that so many find my cobbled-together pictures funny, and are also willing to engage with me on a daily basis.

People usually fall into one of two camps: those that love and use social media and those that don’t. And within those two camps are a myriad of other distinctions. Were it not for my involvement with the Outlander fans who regularly post on both twitter and facebook, I would NOT have:

  1. Had such a social and lively trip to Scotland; a trip in which I felt completely ‘accompanied’ all the way
  2. Enjoyed a fantastic gathering of over 200 fans from around the world in Crieff, Scotland
  3. Met a number of amazing people, both here in NZ and abroad, whom I consider friends
  4. Been provided with a range of costumes, beautifully designed and made, and offered for free by a Kiwi fan and friend
  5. Felt so creatively stimulated in a year in which I was barely employed in a ‘real’ job.

Of course, the downside that is often pointed out to me, and which is very real, is that life on devices can take the place of life in the ‘real’ world (I argue a little with that, because the people I post with are very real). I take this comment to mean that sometimes the issues close to home, and the people who are owed our attention because they are present in front of us, sometimes play second fiddle to what’s happening in cyberspace. And I agree. It’s a line that is not often clearly seen.

Anyway, personally, I try my best to balance both worlds and have found life has grown a new dimension which I find stimulating and a lot of fun. Narrow though my view might be, I’m delighted to find an outlet for my humour online, and connect with others who feel the same. As a small celebration of crossing a milestone in twitter, I’ll finish with a few of the memes that I did along the way. Enjoy!

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Turns and roundabouts

Merry Christmas!

Ours was celebrated with family at the usual gathering for lunch of ham and/or cold meats and delicious salads, and the customary pavlova and trifle to follow. It was a glorious day so we had it outside, with gusts of wind keeping the heat down.

We didn’t spend a lot this Christmas – all of us having different reasons for keeping the costs down, but still – it felt lavish. The trouble that is taken to make a gift for a loved one, and wrap it, all add so much to the experience, and if that side of things was counted, we had a very ‘wealthy’ Christmas. My sister made me (and her children) a wonderful individual terrarium, nurtured for a week or so beforehand, and with little icons in amongst the plants. She got the glass containers from various op shops, and so everyone’s was different. We love them. I received homemade liquer fruit, and everything was wrapped like this:

Mum had just been moved into a resthome a couple of days earlier, and so we visited her to open presents in the afternoon.

Boxing Day was spent truly relaxing and I didn’t leave the house except to get on my bike late in the day, as the sun had gone down to meet the horizon, and I thought I’d check out the newly opened portion of the western cycleway, where it meets my own turnoff to the peninsula. Here’s a wee movie of the discovery. Enjoy.

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Christmas Eve

So much for my ‘daily’ blog – my excuse is that the build up to Christmas has been busy with moving Mum into a Rest home where she will get more care than the independent living of her other home. She was moved there two days ago, and is settling in well.

In the meantime, Christmas has been downplayed a bit this year. Not that I am sorry about that. In fact, it has been a very pleasant experience avoiding the crowds and the shopping centres, in favour of making my own gifts and baking. As much as possible I’ve done my quick trips out to get things, by bike. It’s been so much easier and more relaxing than most other years when I try and do more. I still managed to make the ginger shortbread I enjoy and the strawberry shortcake, both of which are long gone (Christmas bbq last Saturday). My normal contribution to the Christmas day feast are salads – and I’ve made the kumara, red onion and cranberry one already. This all means that I can wake up slowly tomorrow and calmly approach a day that will be rich with fellowship and the enjoyment of catching up with my cousin and family, my sister and her children, and my Mum later on. We always have a good time, and it is full of laughter and good food.

I’ve sat and watched a few of the old favourites on TV just now: Blackadder’s version of A Christmas Carol, Father Ted, and Graham Norton. What I have missed though, are carols. We sang a few last weekend at the church barbecue – I meet with some others in our homes around our neighbourhood – and we finished the year with a potluck outside. In the past, I’ve got my cello out and played the lower part and my sister has played her violin, and various friends join us if they have an instrument. Missed that this year.

Aside from the major shift for my Mum, the other highlight was receiving Rhonnie’s gift of the Outlander Season 2 costumes I’ll wear in coming memes, and at the Kiwi Gathering in April. It was a delicious moment unwrapping that parcel and bringing each gorgeously made garment out and trying it on. Google photos made a wee animation of the balldress:

And now I’m about to go to bed, happy that all is prepared – including these little truffles all wrapped and ready to be eaten tomorrow. Merry Christmas and God Bless Us Every One.

Gull-ible Travels

Saturday morning means getting the bike out, if it’s not actually pouring down, and going on an adventure. And before you think that’s mighty exercising of me – well it is, and it isn’t. My bike has the advantage of a battery sitting under the panniers, which takes all the horrible effort out of uphills and headwinds, and makes the cycling more of a pleasant adventure. Sweat is involved – the bike would not go forward without peddling – and sometimes I have to push quite hard, but it means that the idea of getting on a bike is always regarded with pleasure.

We are very interested in the new cycleway gradually appearing alongside the motorway into the city from West Auckland. For the last year and a half it has progressed from the winding and sometimes narrow track that used to serve all the cyclists going in and out of ‘town’ to an increasingly wide and well surfaced pathway. THIS Monday, a major section will be opened right here by the Te Atatu off ramp, near my home. It involves a tunnel under the motorway and lovely curving paths leading in three directions from there. I can’t wait!

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Meanwhile, the longest section of the motorway path has opened up, with some nice features like boulders set up along the side that frames the inner harbour estuary and mudflats. To our delight, some Black-backed Gulls have taken to nesting not far down from the cyclepath. And a wee speckled chick looks nervously at us from the messy nest its parents made. (See top photo – taken by Carol Green, of Bike Te Atatu). My own photos of today’s nest is below – the chick looks ready to topple in the wind onto the rocks below, but seems to be kept a close eye on by is parent/s.

My sis and I had coffee at the end of this cycleway up in Pt Chev, and then went further down toward MOTAT before I turned for home again. I had a blog to write, after all! It was so nice to be ambling along on the bike, wind in our faces, when right beside us there were thick lines of cars going Christmas shopping. I’ve managed most of mine by carting stuff home in the panniers. I’m telling you – it’s the way to do it.

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Ponies, Presents and Paths

A glorious morning today – and I did a bracing walk, choosing to go up the long path to the pylon which is exactly 2 kms from my house. That means – with meandering paths on the return route – 5 kms all round. The bonus today were the ponies waiting by the fenceline as I walked past. Nothing like a close encounter with those limpid brown eyes and a stroke of a hairy cheek.

We’re not sure how long the ponyclub can keep using this prime real estate right on the edge of the motorway leading from the peninsula. Personally, I love seeing the horses and knowing that only 15 mins drive from the heart of Auckland city, there is this little patch of rural happiness. There have been plans in the wind for some time about how the land might be used, but so far, so good.

The view in the other direction is also superb. If I glance to my left going up the hill, this is what I see:

Yeah, it’s quite nice.

Summer is definitely here – the weather in the mid-20s C. Even for a Kiwi like me, I find Christmas not quite ‘authentic’ celebrated in the heat of a summer day. I’ve been brought up on too many British Christmas stories – seen too many Northern Hemisphere movies – sang an endless array of carols all like “In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan. . .” – to truly feel we have a handle on the whole festival. And we know we only skim the surface of it too. Don’t worry – there are plenty of ads and merchandising going round – and piped music, and jingle bells, but all those lovely frosty cards with snow scenes and snow men fail to hit the nail on the head here. Nor does the food. I was brought up by grandparents and parents who remember how to make Christmas plum pudding and a good roast with all the trimmings. A sturdy fruitcake with nut and cherry pushed into the top, and mince pies made by hand. None of that has borne the test of time. Now we just have salads and cold meat, which is perfect on a hot day. Oh, and yes, the pavlova. It all looks something like this:

Anyway, back to the moment. . .

Returning from my walk, I went past the post office and to my great delight, found my Secret Santa gift from ANZOFs waiting (Australia and New Zealand Outlander Fans). It is now under the tree. And tonight – I join my sis and her workmates from the medical centre for the Christmas work end-of-year dinner, and it is going to be a jolly time all round. Hat is ready.

Watch this space.

Summer drought-lander

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I guess we in the southern hemisphere are lucky. As the months stretch ahead of us between the end of Downton Abbey, and the start of Season 2 of Outlander, we squeeze in a summertime and holidays. While you all in the north are huddled in front of the fire, looking hopefully at the screen for entertainment and finding, frankly, not much – we will be OUTSIDE (if you live in New Zealand). Probably doing this:

Still, we’ll be ready for Season 2 when it comes. I’m not looking forward to missing the banter and tweets we’re lucky enough to get from the Outlander stars and crew while they are filming. Once they all go after filming the next season to their well-deserved rest – and who can blame them? – it will be pretty quiet on that front as well. I guess I’ll have to fill my time with more lucrative forms of employment. After the holiday of course.

Christmas for our family is usually a bbq or cold meats and salad – eaten outside on a porch table under an umbrella. It’s an occasion we all enjoy, and after the food and presents, we all go off on our various ways and chill out somewhere. I usually end up nibbling on leftovers from the couch, watching reruns of Christmas movies on TV. Yes, we get ‘A Christmas Story’ here, as well as some version of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. A couple of times in the last five years I’ve been lucky enough to be in the UK over Christmas and had a traditional Christmas feast, such as we Kiwis can only dream about. It’s just too hot to have plum pudding and hot roast here. It felt like stepping into a Christmas card to stand outside in Bournemouth, England on a frigid evening and sing carols to candlelight with some neighbours, with mince pies and mulled wine on a table nearby.

But I’m meandering. This Christmas day will be spent outside, with ham and salads and pavlova again. Yay. And afterwards I’ll join my sister and others in the general rush to the beach/lake, where I’ll set up a tent along with everyone else in the country (or so it feels). It’s going to be a hot summer, so the coasts will be busy. And for a few weeks at least, I’ll be away from my devotion to laptop and devices, and distracted by the sound of waves and seagulls.

Just as well Outlander doesn’t start until a few months later.2014-01-07 08.30.02

Watery spaces and thinking places

I managed to get out to Piha this weekend – on Saturday night. It sounds like it was an effort, but in fact Piha is only half an hour’s drive from home on Auckland’s west coast, and ALWAYS a place I enjoy. It was just the thought of negotiating all the Christmas/weekend traffic and getting past the complicated roadworks presently impeding progress at Te Atatu motorway bridge – the only way on or off the peninsula – that stopped me.

Still, by the time I was winding my way up the Waitakere ranges to crest the hills and turn down toward the sea I knew I had made the right decision. At the top of the cliff overlooking Piha there is a viewing bay, and I took these photos there.

As you can imagine, it is a wonderful moment just standing here, staring out at the Tasman Sea, Australia well beyond view over the horizon, and just this wild coastline and Lion Rock below, looking majestically out at the breakers. This is one of New Zealand’s most well known surf beaches, and we even have a tv programme devoted to Piha Rescue (so many people drown or get caught in rips in this relatively small stretch of water). The actual beach is iron sand – black in places and too hot to walk on in barefeet on a summer day. It’s also very fine, which means it gets into everything, adding a grit to picnic lunches and being found in nooks and crannies long after return home.

I love walking along the beach here, having a coffee at either the store or the cafe, and have even set up my tent in the campground which takes up the central section of the flat space in the main township. My brother built a house here once, before going to America, and returns here whenever he comes home.

Piha is MEMORABLE. In the winter it is wild and often windy, in the summer it is a popular swimming spot, despite the ever present danger of rips and the occasional shark.

If ever I need time to think and reflect, it’s a perfect place to clear my head. There’s another beach where the family have a bach on the east coast further down the country – Waihi Beach. I’m bound to have a holiday there this summer, so I’ll save a blog about it until then. Meanwhile – take a deep breath of the salt spray breeze and hear the crashing surf of Piha, and be at peace.

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Talking about Costumes

My foray into dressing myself up to photoshop myself into Outlander scenes began slowly and long after I had taken an interest in Steampunk. My sister and I made our steampunk outfits to attend the weekend extravaganza down in the South Island at Oamaru – Steampunk capital of the Universe. When I saw the potential hilarity in putting myself into some settings in the Outlander series, I cobbled together the parts of the steampunk costume that at least gave me an air of belonging if you didn’t look too closely. I take the photos on a self-timer, and then photoshop.

I had so much fun doing it, and then received enough of a warm response, that I kept making these and finally set up a FB page called OutrageousOutlander. The costume developed over time, and I ended up with such a library of poses, I haven’t needed to squeeze into the corset for a while.

I have a friend I met through Outlander in New Zealand – Rhonnie Brinsdon – who is a clever and very generous designer, living in Wanganui. To my amazement, she offered to make me a proper shift and corset to wear when I went to Scotland earlier in the year. Naturally, I was delighted, and it features on the Scottish Herald article I was interviewed for.

And then along came the filming for Season Two.

As if she hadn’t done enough, Rhonnie then took it upon herself to make the much more elaborate costumes I would want for my memes in the French Court. I am still gob-smacked. I traveled down to Wanganui to get a body mould made, so that Rhonnie could continue to create her fabric wonders on my own accurate shape. We had fun doing that:

So far all I’ve seen of these have been the pictures she has taken and posted, but I, like so many others, have been astounded by the detail and craftsmanship involved. I can’t wait to put them on and insinuate myself into some Outlander new season shots. Rhonnie has made not just an elaborate ball dress, but a skirt, shift, and reversible jacket for day wear. I don’t know if I will want to remove them once I put them on:

To say I’m lucky is a major understatement, but I will be dressing and posing in these for many months to come, and hope that Rhonnie receives the reward she so richly deserves. Watch this space.

An extra skip in my step

Heading out on my early morning walk today, I checked the mail box and found an envelope from Amazon in there. Greedily ripping it open, I almost lost the folded contents to the brisk wind. . . it was a ROYALTY CHEQUE for the kindle version of my Scottish adventure ‘Following Claire’. Not a whopping amount, but enough to perk me up considerably and the excitement well in excess of the event. This money means so much more to me than larger sums paid for temp work recently. The fact that I can write something that anyone wants to pay to read, is a thrill I only get out of selling my art – and I’ve only just started doing that again. There just something about doing something you enjoy, with your own hands, and getting money for doing it, that cannot be replicated in the usual treadmill of administration and clerical work I have done.

So, with that extra spring in my step, I headed off on the ‘hill walk’ up toward the big pylon at the city end of the Peninsula. It’s a change from the usual scenery, and is all meadow and pony club, with the odd rabbit thrown in. The flax flowers are all coming out, and all the bushes that were white are being superceded by the vivid red of Pohutukawa and flax. The tuis must be going wild on the flax nectar right now.

My Christmas this year is going to be humble and simple: presents are homemade or baked. Last night I sat and cobbled together what I thought would be possums, but as I sewed they changed to foxes, and finally became mice. Still, I think they’re fairly successful. I hope no one receiving one, is reading this now.

Hopping and Climbing

I’m not managing to get up as early as I used to – must be the laziness preceding Christmas – but I did manage my walk along the inner harbour again, which is a great way to wake up and start the day. These Morning Glory flowers are crawling over everything at the moment, and – like me – they don’t wake up early, but as soon as the sun hits them they unfold their sweet faces. Love how they twist up at the end of the day and sleep. My mother had these growing in her garden, but they were the exquisite blue/mauve ones, which I prefer.

Because the sun is already well up when I walk these days, I miss the lovely sunrises that must happen at around 6.30. One day you might see one of those again. What I DO see occasionally on the walk are these:

Yes, that’s a bold wee rabbit leaping off the path ahead of me into the undergrowth. None of the animals I see are native to NZ – these rabbits and all other critters were imports. But the rabbits really like the country and can be a real pest to farmers. I ploughed to the top of the rise and saw the path ahead heading on  a gentle downhill slope toward the tunnel of trees and bridge you have seen earlier. It’s nice to be outside so much these days, with no rain, but my heart goes out to Northern England and the terrible flooding I’ve seen in Cumbria and southern Scotland. I drove through Carlisle on my way out, so I have some memories of the place, and they didn’t involve a lot of water. Here’s hoping normal life can be restored to that area soon.