Photo Hunt – Surprise

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
|

This week’s theme is ”Surprise” and we got a Surprise when we saw this sight in Napier, New Zealand last Christmas – unfortunately times are really tough, and it appears the reindeers have all been made redundant … there may be delays in gifts arriving this year! 😛

Surprise Santa

Then imagine our Surprise when we turned a corner in a Queensland Zoo and found this ‘little’ Surprise waiting for us on the footpath looking all brave! Yep, definitely a surprise when we’d only just recently been looking at one of its relatives behind wire bars!! Here’s an Iguana enjoying its day in the sun 😀

Iguana 2

Iguana 1

First finish for 2009

I now have huge bags under my eyes and bed sores after stitching my little heart out for the entire weekend, and I enjoyed every little minute of it.  I watched so many movies I lost count LOL.  Anyway, I managed to put the finishing stitches into a Prairie Schooler sampler I started on Christmas Day – I’d managed to stitch about half of the bottom village scene while I was away over Christmas, then stitched the rest of it over the weekend … a bit mental, but it feels like a great accomplishment.  Of course now there won’t be much stitching done tonight, ‘cos I’ll have to be in bed by 8pm to catch up on sleep haha.  The photos were taken at midnight last night, so not quite as rich in colour as it is in daylight.

Prairie Schooler-Good St Nick
“Good Saint Nick” by Prairie Schooler
stitched on 32ct Lambswool linen by Wichelt
with recommended DMC threads

Prairie Schooler-Good St Nick top

Prairie Schooler-Good St Nick middle

Prairie Schooler-Good St Nick bottom

As you can see from the bottom photo, I was going to post this part finished on Saturday, but decided to just keep on stitching … Next up is probably finishing off a Christmas ornament that just needs a few beads to be added, and my In the Dark needleroll which also just has the beading to be done before it’s finished, then it’s back into the rotation properly again.

Where does time fly? (photo heavy)

Here we are – Christmas is past and the New Year is almost upon us … blimey, how did that happen?!!!

I spent a wonderful few days with Brenda and Nigel over in the northwest suburbs of Sydney for Christmas.  As usual Nigel did an exceptional job of Christmas dinner and we dined on turkey breast, baked ham, new potatoes, fresh beans and peas, followed by Nigel’s famous pavlova (the best I’ve ever eaten, and that’s saying something as I’ve tried many; it was always my fave dessert growing up).  Nigel doesn’t drink, so Brenda and I made up for his allowance, and we definitely imbibed a fair bit over those few days … including a bottle of Iron Gate Sweet Shiraz that I brought back from the Hunter Valley, and now Brenda is in love with it too 🙂

Santa was very very generous to me this year – my flatmate Lisa spoilt me rotten with some yummy chocolate dessert sauces, whisk and tea-towel set, a little tub of Mango Daiquiri mix (ie just add booze and chill), a Frangipani calendar and a beautiful bottle of Chocolate Port from Flaschengeist in a Christmas tree shape … boy she has a good memory, and Brenda and I had to sample it on Christmas Day to complete our Christmas dinner festivities.  My other friend (who is about to become my new flatmate – see more below) bought me a beautiful blue and gold necklace and earring set, but I forgot to take a photo of it as I’m wearing it today!

Mum bought me a stunning greenstone (NZ Jade)  necklace (I chose it when I was in NZ), with a fish hook shape with a whale’s tale at the end … very pretty 🙂

Greenstone pendant from Mum

I also spend my Christmas money on an exquisite piece of glass sculpture – we hunted for the entire day for one with ‘just the right colourings’, and just as we’d given up we found one in downtown Auckland.  This is a “Koru”, or Silver Fern frond, and I just adore it to death.  Unfortunately the photo was taken without a light shining through it, so you can’t see the beautiful colours … I really must try to get a good photo of it.  Brenda really loved this one too.  Eventually I want to have a glass display cabinet which will house my stitching smalls, and this will sit on the top shelp with a spotlight on it to highlight the colourings 🙂

Koru in art glass

Brenda and Nigel gave me something that I will truly treasure always – Brenda does ceramic classes, and she’s done some incredible pieces … and this year she made me a Christmas keepsake that will bring years and years of happiness while it’s proudly on display.  Handmade gifts are the best, and I feel truly honoured to have one of her pieces to call my own!! 😀

Christmas gift from Brenda

Talking of exquisite hand-made gifts, I also finally remembered to take a photo of the stunning ornie that Katrina gave me for Christmas, and it’s proudly hanging on my hand-made ornie tree.  Thanks again Katrina, I really really love it!

Christmas ornie from Katrina

Today I went shopping after dropping my mobile phone off to be sent off for repair, and unexpectedly picked up a new Christmas tree with 75% off at Myer, which means this year is the final time I will have a teeny tiny wee tree … next year I will have a big 2m tall tree overpowering the lounge space … and I can’t wait!! haha.  Next year that should mean I can combine my bauble ornies with my hand-stitched ornies 😀

I did take a couple of photos of the various Christmas displays in my wee lounge to show Mum, including my set of 3 tables that the removalists tried to demolish (they broke 3 entire legs off of the largest one) – Nigel managed to glue them back together for me over Christmas, bless him, so I’m thrilled to have my tables back on display again yippee 🙂

Set of tables

Mum, this is the centrepiece display I was telling you about on the phone … I really love it!

Christmas coffee table

Christmas corner

Christmas lounge

Christmas trunk

And I finally “finished” another piece and put the ribbon around my flat-fold that I made quite some time ago (probably 2 years ago now!) – I love the bright red of the ribbon.

Snowman pinkeep

While I was shopping today I also scored a couple of cans of English Heinz Tomato Soup … ah, I’m in heaven!  The Aussie version of Heinz soup isn’t quite the same, so I had a wee splurge. Not in the photo is also a bag of lemon sherbet bon-bons and box of Black Knight licorice 😉

Heinz soup

I also picked up a couple of other treats … including a “fish on a stick” … this is also a photo for Mum’s benefit! I made a decision after visiting a shop with a marine/ocean/beach theme months ago that I really want to have that sort of theme for my lounge, and have been buying a couple of pieces every now and then (I think Susan set the seed with all of her dream home decor photos months and months ago, and it must have been sitting at the back of my brain all this time!) … first of all I bought some starfish for my coffee table when I had my girlie weekend away with Brenda and friends, and I’m now thinking of stitching some small shells along the edge of my sheer curtains … but now I have my own blue fish on a stick too! I also bought a wee tub of coral and shells to place in a plain glass bowl, but didn’t take a photo.

fish on a stick

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On a different note, last night I had a right royal treat – Tannia and her OH came to visit and stay the night. Even though it was a whirlwind visit, it was so lovely to see them both again – I miss them here in Sydney! I actually felt a bit flat after they left, and ended up taking the day off work to make up for a day I worked while in Auckland during my annual leave. Hence the reason I spent the day shopping, I think! I did feel really bad, though, ‘cos Tannia was her ever-thoughtful self and brought me some luscious gifts, and I had nothing to give in return … I’m such a bad friend! 😦

Friendship gift from Tannia

Thanks so much again Tannia, I love everything, and I miss you loads! {hugs}

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The final news that I intimated about earlier, is that my flatmate Lisa is heading back to Melbourne at the end of January.  Her secondment is up then and she’s not interested in renewing it for different reasons … some job-related and some personal reasons.  I’m going to miss having her around the place, as we’d become quite close over the last couple of months especially.  All is not lost, however, as Katie is going to be moving in instead – her own living situation isn’t great (her flatmate is a druggie and, although quite good fun, is quite strange!).  At least I won’t have to find someone else that I don’t know, and don’t have to struggle to make the rent on my own, which is great!  Fingers crossed it’ll all work out, and we find living together OK.

Rightio, I think that’s just about all the news for now … I’m a bit scatter-brained at the moment, so I’ve probably forgotten something! I thought I’d better hurry up and make a post, though, as New Year will be here in 2 nights, and it’s unlikely I’ll be back online until we’re already into 2009!

On that note, I’d like to wish you all a prosperous and wonderful 2009!! 😀

Merry Christmas everyone!

Just a really quick drive-by as a head off to work …

I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Here’s hoping that 2009 brings you peace, joy and happiness, and everything your hearts desire. 

Thank you for your continued friendship and support throughout 2008, even though I don’t post/comment as often as I used to. 

I look forward to catching up with you all in the New Year.

Anne-Xmas-2008

Love,

Candles/Carols in the Domain Sydney-style

We had a lovely time at the carols last night – while we couldn’t see the stage clearly from where we were sitting, we could just see the large screen to follow who was on stage.  They had a good line-up of local singing stars including Delta Goodrem, Guy Sebastian, Shannon Noll, Paulini, and Brian McFadden plus others.  We had a star of our own, though, as we found ourselves joined by a certain ‘Gladiator’ along with his family, bodyguard and nanny … definitely a highlight of the night for me!  You can see him in the sunglasses just behind us (I felt uncomfortable taking more photos as he was enjoying a family night out, and I thought that would be too intrusive) 🙂

Candles in the Park SYD Dec08

Mr Russell Crowe and friends enjoying Candles in the Park Dec08

The great thing about the Sydney event is that you can buy a “Candle Bag” for charity, which has 4 candles with cup-holders to sit them in – it looks so pretty looking out over the event when darkness falls to see all of the candles lit up around the crowds.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get a good photo to share though.

Candles in the Park SYD Dec08 1

There was a short firework display at the start of the show, and another final short fireworks display at the end.

Fireworks at Candles in the Park SYD Dec08 1

Fireworks at Candles in the Park SYD Dec08 3

Fireworks at Candles in the Park SYD Dec08 2

All-in-all it was a fun night – although my head was suffering overnight due to the consumption of too much wine and the excitement of sharing the night with Mr C 😉

Today will be spent finishing the Christmas decorations off, I think, then doing a spot of housework … I bought a new attachement for my vacuum cleaner making it semi-bagless, so I’ll have to trial it to see if it works well … nothing but glamorous stuff for me today – serves me right, I’ve been having waaaay too much fun lately! LOL 😛

Napier/Hastings … final part (photo heavy again)

Alas, Tuesday came far too quickly, and it was time to pack up again for the return drive home.  We had a leisurely start to the day and didn’t leave the motel until 10am – we started of by driving to the Silky Oak Chocolate factory and museum, where we unexpectedly ended up spending a full two hours! Not only do they have a cafe serving great food (we ended up having brunch there), but they have a really interesting Museum all about the history of chocolate – it was fascinating, and definitely worth the visit! 😀

Eggs Benedict at Silky Oak Chocolate Napier
Eggs Benedict with Bacon

Raspberry and Pear muffin at Silky Oak Chocolate Napier
Raspberry & Pear Muffin

Silky Oak chocolates

Afterwards we drove into Napier township for a visit to the information centre and a wee walk around the waterfront and streets to take some photos of some of the Art Deco buildings – we enjoyed ourselves so much that we didn’t end up leaving Napier itself until 3pm … oops! 😉

Napier fountain

Pania of the Reef Napier
One of my fave sculptures – “Pania of the Reef

Pohutukawas in bloom Napier gardens
Napier waterfront gardens, with Pohutukawa trees in bloom

If any of you are interested in Art Deco building styles, here is a selection for you.  For those of you who aren’t aware, Napier CBD was flattened by a devastating earthquake in 1931, and all of the buildings were rebuilt during the same era, giving Napier the reputation of being the capital of Art Deco architecture due to having so many buildings of that style in such a small area.

ArtDeco 1

ArtDeco 2

ArtDeco 3

ArtDeco 4

We finished off our trip to Napier by stopping at a couple of fruit sellers stalls to stock up on beautiful fresh produce.  That’s one thing I really love about NZ, there are plenty of local growers selling their fresh produce – and their quality and flavour is far superior to anything you can buy in the supermarkets.  My special treats over the couple of days away (as we bought some other fruit the previous day) were fresh strawberries (to die for!), apricots (one of my all-time fave fresh fruits), boysenberries (can’t remember the last time I saw them fresh since moving to Oz), blueberries, and black cherries … oh boy, I’m drooling again just remembering them!!!  Sheer heaven – I ADORE summer fruits 😀

Napier boysenberries

Napier blueberries

Napier cherries

We finished off our gourmet couple of days with dinner in Taupo, at the Waterside Restaurant & Bar – here the food was blissful and the service great … yet again, here are the gourmet delights we troughed through:

Taupo Dinner 1
Chicken Salad for Mum

Taupo Dinner 2
Lamb Fillet with asparagus, with Greek Tsatziki & balsamic jus for me – drool

Looking back, one of the other things that brought a smile to my face and a lump to my throat was to see all the Pohutukawa trees in bloom – these are affectionately known as the “New Zealand Christmas tree”, and their red bloom is a real delight to behold.  Tales say that if the trees bloom before Christmas, we will be in for a long hot summer … personally I just love to see their blooms colouring the skyline.

2008 12 15_1244

2008 12 15_1245

Pohutukawa blossom with bee

Other things that I loved being in NZ, was that you can buy L&P everywhere you turn your head … even at the humble pie cart in an outdoor market – ah bliss 😉

Pie Cart blackboard

It was great to see the Auckland icon, the Auckland Sky Tower, with its impressive bulk shadowing over the CBD.

Auckland Sky Tower

And not to mention the vast lush “green-ness” of the countryside – unfortunately I didn’t get a great photo of it as it started to cloud over on the way home from Napier, and then rained off and on the entire way home to Auckland 😦

Rolling green hills of Hawkes Bay

But one of my biggest treats was to spend a week in the warmth of Mum’s Christmas tree – her tree has brought delight to my soul for as long as I can remember, and I made sure my final night in Auckland was spent huddled in the lounge with the warm glow of the Christmas lights … and a rare night of familial bliss as we all sat and watched the Christmas in the Park show on TV, followed by an hour of Aussie and Kiwi stand-up comics … what a great way to finish off a great holiday! 😀

Mums Xmas tree 2008

I have come home with many beautiful gifts – but no photos yet as they were bought using Christmas money, so they’re wrapped up under the tree … I’ll share photos after Christmas. What I can share, though, is the wonderful treat from Mum – a set of Prairie Schooler Santa ornies … I just adore these, and will treasure them always! Thanks so much Mum, you’re a sweetheart! 😀

Mums Prairie Schooler Santas for me

Back home again … and Christmas in the Park

Here I am sitting at my computer desk at my little flat – I got home last night, after having a really awesome time back home in NZ.  I took oodles of photos so I could document all or adventures, so I may have to spread them out over a couple of posts.

I guess I should start where I left off last time … last Friday we drove over to our closest family friends for a BBQ (including Dad).  It was really wonderful to see them again – they are the only people I “have to” see when I fly over, even if it’s just a flying visit I try hard to make sure we call round to visit.  They’re just like our family (in fact probably closer than family), and it always feels as though I’ve never been away when I see them, as there is such a level of comfort there.  It was great to see Bradley and Danial to see how much they’ve grown up, and of course always lovely to see Heather and John, Tracey and Glenn.  I always have such fond memories of our get-togethers.  Unfortunately I neglected to take photos, but Tracey took some, so I’ll have to try to get some copies down the track.

The next night (Saturday) we headed off on the train to Christmas in the Park at Auckland Domain.  We were very lucky with the weather, as the forecasted rain held off and didn’t show itself at all during the day.  I’m so glad we went (Mum and I), as it was a really super show.  Unlike Melbourne, these shows are free entry with donations made to a charity on the night by way of buying glow sticks and Santa hats etc.  They say Auckland had a record crowd this year, with approx 150,000 people there … can’t say I noticed all the people as we were in our own little bubble enjoying the atmosphere, music and gourmet delights we’d taken along in our picnic hamper (along with a delightful bottle each of red and white wines to wash it all down with!).  Following are a couple of photos from the night:

I thought some of you in the Northern Hemisphere might enjoy this one … Santa comes to visit in all his glory in the middle of summer for us – while you’re sat huddled in your jumpers (aka jerseys, sweaters, pullovers), we’re down here in our singlet tops and shorts, but still following traditions with the Santa hats and trees etc 🙂

Carols in the Park crowd 1

Crowds starting to fill up in front of Auckland’s Museum – the concert is held in the Auckland Domain, a large parkland which is usually just used for recreation and sporting activities (especially cricket)

Carols in the Park crowd 2

And here’s the stage itself as people are starting to fill up the spaces

Carols in the Park crowd 3

Lucky last, here is the Christmas tree once the lights have been switched on, and the evening finale of fireworks (which were disappointing compared to previous years, but still awesome to see – and guaranteed to bring the childlike glee from the depths of my soul).

Carols in the Park Xmas tree lights

Carols in the Park Fireworks

We didn’t get home until just before midnight, and had an early start the next morning, as Mum and I hijacked the car for 3 days and drove to Napier/Hastings for a mini-break … which was absolutely awesome!! That will be the topic of the next couple of posts 🙂

Girlie Weekend (part 1)

A couple of months ago Katie, Lisa and I decided to plan a weekend away to the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, which is a 2-hour drive out of Sydney.  Unfortunately for us thanks for a few traffic accidents along the way, our trip was a 4-hour journey, but still worth every minute.

We stayed at the Sovereign Hill Country Lodge in Talga Road, Rothbury which was lovely.  It wasn’t exactly what we’d expected, but it was still good.  The website seemed to show the room as having a kitchen and lounge area, but it turns out that our room just had a small breakfast table and beds, and there was a separate room with full kitchen and lounge that all guests shared.  The owners make the venue very hospitable with a complimentary bottle of Shiraz waiting for you, as well as all the foods to cook up a nice breakfast (eggs, bread, cereal, milk, condiments and cheese platter).  In the lounge there is a stereo, dining table, sofas, board games, and flagon of port 😀

The view from the property is stunning as it’s up on a hill overlooking the Valley.  They grow their own grapes, and the rooms overlook the vines and olive trees across the road.  It was a pleasure to see kangaroos hopping around in the faraway fields (at least I found it a pleasure anyway), and to see the many wee rabbits hopping around at dusk!  I had an added treat of the owners having two full-grown dogs there, so I was in my element when we arrived and I was covered in doggie hair within minutes of arriving LOL.

Here’s our view from the front of the property:

Sovereign Hill 5

Sovereign Hill 4

Sovereign Hill 3

As we arrived quite late, we worked out where a ‘local’ Irish pub was that served pub meals, and headed on out in the car.  I can definitely recommend the food there – my Beef and Guinness Pie was to die for, and the girls loved their Chicken and Prawn dishes.  If anyone is out in the Valley, definitely consider heading to Harrigan’s Irish Pub for a meal if you get chance (although it can get a bit crowded on a Friday night).

We’d seen a brochure that said Hunter Valley Gardens had a spectacular Christmas lights display, so we popped over for the last 1/2 hour of them being open, and it was truly magical wandering around the gardens.  They have a storybook garden that kids would absolutely adore!  Lots of sculptures around the place from children’s books, such as Humpty Dumpty, Mad Hatters Tea Party, Jack and Jill, and loads and loads more.  Unfortunately we’d all forgotten to take our cameras with us, so the mobile phone camera had to do, and the quality is dreadful.

Hunter Valley Gardens 1

Hunter Valley Gardens 2

I just had to take a photo of this character – he looks kinda spooky on the camera phone, I just love it 🙂

Hunter Valley Gardens 3

We had a special treat of seeing fireworks going off in the background behind the gardens somewhere – not sure what the occasion was, but it another great highlight of the night 🙂

After that we decided not to head back to Harrigan’s for an hour, as tempting as it was, and we headed off home, as we had a relatively early start the next day …