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My 2011 in photographs

It’s only natural to reflect on the year as it comes to a close. So here’s some highlights – and lowlights – of 2011.

New Cats

It’s hard to believe that Andrew has only had Pickle a year! He arrived in mid-January 2011 and was a playful and bitey kitten.

Bitey pickle

Now look at him… all grown up!

I can see you!

Then came Gesso! Much smaller than Pickle had ever been and far more sooky from day one.

His deafness has brought a few new challenges. Getting Pickle to steer clear of walksticks and wheelchairs was difficult enough. Gesso has taken ‘challenge’ to a whole new dimension; culminating on Christmas Day when he got too close to Andrew while he was standing and ended up being trod on. He sunk his teeth in to Andrew’s foot in protest. Fortunately, Gesso was unharmed and although left with a nasty bite, Andrew’s foot is healing. I’m hoping that after that experience, Gesso will learn to dodge feet, walking sticks and wheelchairs as well as Pickle does.

My girls, Licorice and Saffron, continued to be good company; for me and for each other:

Licorice and Saffron kisses

The learnt how to get food from their new three-tiered cat toy; how to get nibbles from the treat ball; plus basic targeting skills using clicker training. (Short videos hyperlinked)

New Art

There were few surprises in the artistic area. I continued my pattern of putting things in paintings and then removing them. (The daschund below first had a skateboard; later replaced by stilts.)

Daschund issues

I rediscovered an old canvas and turned it from this:

textured background

to this:

Self portrait (unfinished) 23.5.2011

Andrew started art school (of which I am more than a little jealous). I don’t have many photographs of his work… I wish I had more. Here’s just three from this year:

These two oil paintings are still in progress:

New Sewing projects

Some things never change. Saffron continued her dressmaking assistance into 2011. Her favourite habit is sitting on the fabric one is trying to sew!

Saffron doesn't want me to sew

I embarked on some heirloom work for a white cotton sateen slip:

Heirloom work

and completed a thoroughly indulgent silk slip.

Silk bias cut slip

Somehow I quickly forgot how difficult it is working with slippery and lightweight fabrics, for I moved on to this 1940 pattern:

2 dresses in one

which, as at the time of writing, remains incomplete (needs sleeves, facings and a hem!)

1940 dress in progress

New places

I explored some other parts of Sydney in 2011 and we ventured a little further afield. First to Fitzroy Falls (reasonable disabled access):

2011-02-25 Fitzroy Falls Gardens

then to Mogo Zoo: (access was a bit dodgy due to uneven and steep paths combined with recent rain!)

2011-02-26 Mogo Zoo Giraffe

Tiger eats his chop!

To Balls Point Reserve in Sydney: (inaccessible!)

View from Balls Point Reserve of Sydney

Of course, I couldn’t forget the Dubbo trip! (Dubbo Zoo is wonderfully accessible and we had such great experiences photographing countryside on the way there and back).

Between Wellington & Orange

Near Dubbo

La Perouse was not new but offered up some beautiful sunsets for us.

2011-01-29 Kite Ship and Sun

New Wheelchair

Looking back on this, I have to laugh. Below is a cake I made to celebrate receiving news that Andrew would get a new wheelchair.

Celebratory cake!

We received confirmation we would get a chair back in April. Naively, I made this cake in May thinking the chair would arrive any day! We finally took delivery in September!

For anyone wondering why the mm’s on this cake are lime green and orange… well that was the colour choice being debated. The triffid, as I like to call it, brought much needed relief in the form of a more lightweight chair. It also caused a crisis by being too wide to fit through the bathroom door.

New home

Once it became clear that the bathroom door could not be widened, after much drama, it was time to move house! Now I can only be thankful that Andrew has nowhere near as much crap in his place as I do in mine. Even so, packing was not easy. Pickle helped by packing himself in a crate.

PIckle packed himself

New family

Not content with expanding our feline family, my brother and sister-in-law, gave me a niece as well!

Io I

Lysh & Io I

New job

A minor little thing that happened this year!

New ‘disabilities’

This is one ‘new’ thing 2011 brought that my family could have done without. However, we don’t get to choose these things, so I went about learning what I could about MS and being as supportive as possible.

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Well, put like that, it was one hell of a year. Here’s to 2012.

Food separatists of the world unite

My name is the scroobious pip and I am a food separatist.

Andrew has reminded me again of this quirky habit of mine.

Andrew: ‘What would you like for breakfast woman? Do you like English muffins?’

Me: ‘Yes!’

Andrew: ‘So a poached egg on a muffin?’

Me: ‘No!’ [Frown]

Andrew: ‘I don’t get it. You like poached eggs, you like English muffins why can’t you have the two together?’

Thankfully, he doesn’t argue.

Andrew: ‘Ok, an English muffin it is you weird little creature.’

Yet the morning’s enlightenment didn’t end there. This morning I learnt that all my life my mother has been doing it wrong. Yes mum – are you listening – wrong! Did you know that you can simply prize apart an English muffin? You know what happens when you do this? The muffin is SMOOTH. All these years, my mother has retrieved the muffins from the freezer and used a breadknife to separate them. This results in little ‘lint balls’ of muffin on the surface. These burn faster in toaster and so you end up with a muffin of uneven carbon pigmentation. This morning – thanks to 4 – my muffin was perfectly smooth. He still burnt it though. Smoothly burnt.

4 also burnt his toast last night. Well, that’s my interpretation of what happened. I sniffed that distinct flavour in the air and said to him – ‘Andrew have you burnt the toast?’

Reply: ‘No I just cooked it a bit longer.’

It does not surprise me that small appliance companies spend so much time promoting how their product will get you the perfect piece of toast. I think a perfectly toasted piece of bread is like a mirage… yet we continue to desire it, hanker after it, and screw up our noses when that burnt smell is near. Sometimes I think the toaster manufacturers are laughing at us all. A particularly intriguing toaster was one I encountered in a motel in Dubbo. Each guest would go up and stare for a moment at the toaster. It was more like a castle on stilts with the drawbridge half down. Tentatively, people would pick up a piece of toast and place it on the tilted drawbridge. Some pieces would slide straight in… others needing some nudging. Either way, the castle’s mouth swallowed the toast and it proceeded to slowly trudge through the castle’s belly. Here’s where the stilts come in. When it got to the rear of the castle, the piece of toast made an unceremonious ‘SPLAT’ onto the table below. Bemused, people rescued their toast only to discover it was like an Englishman trying to obtain a tan. They turned the said bread, and gave him another pass through the castle’s throat hoping to get something looking vaguely like toast at the end.

Yet a blog piece on toast would not be complete without a final tribute to my mother’s love affair with the worst toaster in the world. I’m not sure who manufactured this monstrosity of a toaster. Kambrook? Breville? Sunbeam? I’m sure if it were any of them, they would all deny responsibility. It was not a pop up toaster. They were for fancy yuppies. It was not one of those bread cage devices. It was like a book with the spine on the table. The ‘heat’ came from the pages in the middle. You took the front cover and lowered it down to table level and popped in your toast and then let it go back up to the pages. The exercise was repeated for the back of the book.

What an appalling design this was. To start with, the little handles on the sides for the toast were made of metal. That was fine when you first put the toast in. Yet when it was time to rescue your toast from the clutches of this evil toaster, everyone would perform the ‘shaky fingers’ dance from the heat… flicking them in the air after each touch of the toaster’s wings. And of course, these flaps were spring loaded. So a quick touch with your finger wasn’t usually enough to have the wing down long enough to rescue your piece of bread. This was design fault number 1.

Design fault number 2. No timing device. Hmmm… what’s the saying? A watched pot never boils. Well a watched toaster doesn’t toast properly either. You start out diligently. Watching. Waiting. Checking (and burning your fingers again on design fault number 1 in the process). Of course, it looks lily livid. So you return the arms to the upright position and proceed with the toaster’s flight of death. You may think I’m being melodramatic but had you been witness to the crispy carcasses removed from this device and the speed with which the kitchen filled with that ‘I cooked it a bit longer’ type smell, you would back me 100%. If you were vigilant and with practice perhaps you could get your toast exactly as you wanted it… were it not for design fault number 3.

That’s right, not one, two, but 3 design faults! (Remember readers, my mother had a love affair with this toaster so we HAD to keep it). The third fault was wing associated. The metal drawers over time, heat, and people banging them repeatedly back against the central spine had warped in shape. The bread never sat flat. This meant an uneven toasting. While one corner of the bread went black, another remained white! Add to this that my mother often stored bread in the freezer. It would warp into whatever shape mum needed to make it fit in the overstuffed freezer. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Retrieved freezer bread that looks more like a spiky starfish than a square piece of food. This added to the uneven cooking and the chances of having a perfect piece of toast were as likely as a cat choosing to sit on the dirty washing when there’s a pile of clean available.

Kambrook, Sunbeam, Breville – are you paying attention??? Whichever of you made this toaster… you caused me serious psychiatric damage as a child… just to get a piece of toast!

Do you think mum would part with this toaster – the WORST toaster in the world? Not on your life. The day it died, she was geniunely put out. In searching for a new toaster, mum discovered they didn’t make this style anymore (gee… I can’t think why not?). So she had to buy one of those pop up toasters only yuppies used. To this day, mum will tell you that she’s never had a toaster as good as this one. Her love affair with it will be only understood by her.

Western Plains Zoo Accessibility: 4 1/2 stars from me!

Finding wheelchair accessible travel destinations is always somewhat challenging. I think the main reason for this is that so many people with a disability have different needs. Even if you narrow it to physical disabilities which impair mobility, there’s such a range. Where someone can go in an electric wheelchair may be impossible for someone in a manual chair. So embarking on a new adventure always come with a bit of anxiety.

I wasn’t surprised to read that Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo is listed as one of the Top Five Accessible Travel Destinations in Australia. My childhood memory of a trip to the zoo is only that of flat, ridiculously hot and lots of animals sleeping in the shade. As Andrew and I elected to go in Winter, we successfully eliminated the hot and ‘sleeping in the shade’ part.
Meerkat: Western Plains Zoo
Instead most of the animals opted for any part of the enclosures with sun!

Oh, except for the galapagos turtle. He was in his hut trying to get warm. Consequently, I missed him. This was probably also because by the 5km mark where the tortoise rested, I too felt like resting!

While generally flat it is markedly better than Mogo’s entrance and I dare say that nearly every Zoo in the world would be flatter than Taronga (although who can beat those views!).  For us, all of the uphill areas of Western Plains Zoo were accessible with the exception of the pathway to the Lion enclosure. It not only has a steep gradient but is covered in loose gravel.

So Andrew skipped the Lion exhibit and for this I’ve lopped off half a star.

It’s not Andrew really wanted to see the lions. It’s that we had already selected the child we intended to feed to them. What a shame.

Weekend Road Trip: the Top 10

3 days; about 700 photos. I’m not sure how I accumulate so many and why I find it difficult to cull them, but it’s a fact: I do. So Andrew has challenged me to select my top 10 photos from the weekend. He hasn’t defined ‘top’… is it the best photograph, the most interesting subject, the most avant-guarde? Who knows. It took a huge effort. I started with about 40. I got it down to 21 ok, but getting it to the final 10 was tricky…

Rust on back of truck
1: Rusty Truck
This may seem a strange choice for my top 10. I selected it for several reasons.

Firstly, it’s not clear exactly what it is (the back of the cab of a white truck in the blue mountains). I think it could easily be mistaken for the bark of a tree.

Secondly I just love the texture and colour.

Thirdly, I took it while travelling at speed. (Andrew was driving). It’s often quite a challenge to get a clear picture when in the car. This is one of my better efforts.

2: The Sandstone Bricklayer
Laying sandstone: Blue Mountains highway

Being stuck in traffic due to roadworks turned into an opportunity! These guys were laying sandstone tiles up a retaining wall for the new road through the Blue Mountains. I was quite surprised that it was being done in the manner it was… guess I assumed it would be fake sandstone sheeting or the like.

Great job being done… perhaps this guy could at least be rewarded with a hat that fits?

3: Oberon; the 115km detour dog

The 115km Oberon dog

We took the scenic route for 115km. Our reward was this little dog; his curtain and his flag.

4: A grand entrance
Bathurst Gaol entrance
I’m positive that I’m not the first person to find Bathurst Gaol’s grand sandstone entrance to be memorable.

The gaol sits high on the hill and driving up to the main gates has that intimidating effect it’s original builders probably intended.

I had very little time to compose this shot. I’m confident the circular polarizer helped to create the richness in the blue background.

5: Bell River Church Brambles
Between Wellington & Orange I’m not sure whether there is a town of Bell River or just the creek called that. It’s between Wellington and Orange and littered with many derelict buildings and overgrown areas.

Thanks to Andrew I learn how to trick my camera into focussing on the foreground.

6: Weird Wellington Sculpture

Wellington

This is just one ‘flower’ of a very large sculpture at Wellington. I’m sure there is much debate about whether it is an attraction or an eyesore.

7.Emu

Emu: Western Plains ZooOne of many photographs from Taronga Western Plains (Dubbo) Zoo.

I like the monochromatic style of this photograph.

These guys move quickly enough to present a challenge in photographing them yet they are such peculiar looking birds I wonder who could resist trying?

8: Siamang Monkey with Orange
Siamang Monkey: Western Plains Zoo

9. The Dish: Parkes

The Dish Parkes II

10. My lovable fool

My lovable fool

Convinced that one loses 70% of body temperature through the top of our head, Andrew emerged from the bathroom in the motel with what he assured me was the perfect solution. He’d located a plastic beanie which had kindly been left for us. I declined the offer of wearing it out to dinner.