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A coincidence

In these years of waning numbers of Christmas cards, both sent and received, I try to keep the cards I receive one year so that I am reminded to return the favour the following year. This year, there was one card I didn’t get around to returning, as I got caught up with overseas visitors, and then once Christmas had passed, it seemed too late. I’m sorry, Betsy and Craig!

I have had the card sitting on top of my desk, and finally, yesterday, after several weeks, I actually looked at it, and I thought, “I know that square!”
I knew exactly where it was, and went immediately to the photograph that would prove it:

Yes, in December 2016, my friend in Florida (though first met in my home town in New Zealand 37 years ago when she was an exchange student) sent me a Christmas card with a scene on it from Stockholm, a city I had already booked tickets to visit in May 2017, Then on my visit, without realising it, I photographed the same corner of the same square, in the Old Town, Gamla Stan. Although I will admit, the square looks much more appealing in December.

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January Projects

I seem to be collecting new projects this January, but not the ones I should be focusing on.

  1. I’m now a week into my year of blogging daily, using word limits each month, over here at x365 Take Two.
  2. I’ve just signed up for a photography course, as recommended by a friend. The first lesson has blown me away, and I hope the rest are as easy to understand.
  3. I’ve copied the lovely Indigo Bunting who did this last year, and I’ve started a project to declutter 2018 things from my house in 2018. So far, I’ve thrown away five things, which means I’m already 39 things behind schedule, but I figure there’s time. Do you think discarding a project would count towards the 2018 total, and would a x365 project count as 365 things?
  4. Theoretically, I’m also going to try to delete 2018 emails, but that seems futile, because they just keep coming.

… on my very first photoshoot:

  1. Check all the settings before you start, especially the ISO if you last used your camera to take a night shot!
  2. Check the white balance.
  3. Learn about white balance so I can check it.
  4. Don’t be so scared of losing focus on parts of the body that you don’t change the focal length.
  5. Even when the background is scenic, vary the focal length.
  6. Don’t rely on autofocus. (Don’t worry, I didn’t.)
  7. When teenagers are the subject of the photoshoot, don’t bring the parents or other on-lookers, ie distractions.
  8. Be bossy! With the subject(s), and especially the subject(s)’ parents.
  9. Be kind, and learn to relax the subjects so they have fun!
  10. Move around. A lot.
  11. Maybe my left knee isn’t up to doing photoshoots.
  12. Review the composition regularly. Is it seemly?
    and a bonus tip, but very important,
  13. Wear sunscreen.

Still, I’m pretty proud of the results. It helps to have photogenic subjects!

 

A new challenge

I’m starting the year with no review of last year, and no resolutions for this year, but I am taking on some new challenges, and so here I am, shamelessly promoting my first one.

It has been ten years since I began my first blog, a daily word-limited challenge. Ten years later, some of the original bloggers have joined together to do it again. Yes, madly, I am one of them. Each month there will be a different theme, and word limit. We’re starting with a tough one – to tell a story in January.

I won’t abandon A Separate Life, and I’m hoping I’ll still be able to manage Monday posts. If you’re interested though, you can find my new blog x365 Take Two here.

 

MIcroblog Mondays logo

 

Scattered families

Well, I couldn’t get organised enough to write my Microblog Mondays post in advance, so I’m writing it now on Tuesday morning in NZ, which is also known as Boxing Day.

The season this year has been special, because of the return of the Californian branch of the family, for the first time in eight years, and the first time ever for Christmas, and so I am relishing the time with them, as the girls go to college next year and who knows when we’ll see them again.

One of my nieces is a talented (and hard-working) softball player, with a scholarship to a good college, and – through her father – has NZ citizenship and has been included in the squad for the New Zealand women’s team. So it was a real pleasure for us to take a four-hour drive last week to a provincial town where the team was playing, and see her in action wearing the fern and the flag and the New Zealand black uniform.

There have been inevitable discussions about life and politics in the US and NZ, about college aspirations and travel plans, and many other topics, trying to squeeze years of casual conversation into a few days, which is the sad thing about having family living so far away.

I was  also honoured (and intimidated – I’m very much an untrained amateur) to be asked to take the twins’ senior pictures. The weather didn’t cooperate, as I’d hoped we could do it after Christmas Day when I was more relaxed, so I had to squeeze in mince pie and meringue baking with the photo shoots, and leave my husband to organise the pre-Christmas cleaning (inside and out), which he managed admirably. We got some beautiful shots in farmland, under native tree ferns, and on the beach, and I’m going to have fun going through them all and doing some editing, and will wait to see if they use my photographs or have to revert to other options back home!

Planning this time of year

It’s that time of year again, and my brain is preoccupied with questions around planning:

  1. When should I make my next batch of mince pies, so that I can give to a friend and to elderly relatives near Christmas Day, but don’t leave it too late so I am panicking?
  2. I can’t buy the ham until I clean out the refrigerator and have most of the top shelf clear, but I don’t want to leave it to the weekend when my favourite gourmet food store will be packed with all the last minute buying, so should I be clearing out the fridge now rather than blogging?
  3. Planning the vegetable/fruit components for Christmas lunch for ten people (which fortunately is a very manageable size), as this year it looks like the asparagus might be done by Christmas, and my sister told me she’s even worrying that her raspberries might be finished before the big day, due to our abnormally warm spring and early summer.
  4. I haven’t even looked at the wine requirements, perhaps because I am partially relying on the news that the Californian relatives have brought some Californian wine (albeit made by other, more distant NZ relatives), but I know I need to consider rosé and pinot noir options, as well as the non-alcoholic drinks.
  5. The perennial issue of Christmas cards is upon me, and at least this year I’ve sent some off to relatives with their gifts, and to some elderly relatives here in the city, but forever have a quandary about sending them overseas to friends because of a) the cost, b) the environmental impact, and c) most of my friends are on Facebook and so know all my news. Time usually makes the decision for me, though I will admit that I miss the long missives my friends and I used to write each other, or the philosophical debates and book/movie recommendations we’d have on email, when Fb seems to have killed that more lengthy, intimate discourse.
  6. I had my own card printed again this year – complete with original, homemade mince pies photo – with only a few cards for mostly those non-Fb people, so know that if you don’t get a card from me, it’s nothing personal.nfd
  7. I wish you all the best for the rest of the year, and for all of 2018!

 

A battle amidst the olive trees

A week ago, we packed our bags and the car, and headed over the hill – this one – to stay overnight with friends at their charming cottage amidst an olive grove.

They welcomed us with a lovely late lunch of delicious dark, seedy bread and cheese and tomatoes and asparagus and pâté and salami, and of course, being in a wine town we had to indulge in some local rosé, which is always perfect for a summery lunch and for nibbling with fresh berries from the garden.

Then came the business end of the day, as the croquet lawn was calling to us, and the game of the day was Croquet Golf – or was it Golf Croquet? My husband and I have only ever played once, some years ago, but beginner’s luck must have been upon us, as we took the first game 7-4. The second game didn’t go so well, with my husband wondering aloud, after further fortification from the rosé, just why the ball wasn’t going straight anymore! By that time it was close to 5 pm, and we figured that it must be time for some champagne – of course!

After a delicious biryani dinner and more berries from their garden, we took to the lawn for the deciding game, although by this time, our croquet brains had decided that attack was the best form of defence, and we all aimed at each others’ balls as often as we aimed at the hoops to score points. Appropriately, our hosts’ years of practice paid off and they trounced us soundly, so we retired to the campfire, and as the sun set and the almost-super moon rose, we chatted and sipped some more; a perfect end to a perfect day.