Archive for the ‘Random Extras’ Category

Christmas Eve

24 December, 2016

So it’s been a busy year, both at work and home with a lot of unplanned “stuff” that got in the way.  I love Christmas and always have – take after my Dad in that regard – and want Isaac to enjoy the magic especially while he’s young. We’ve been to a grotto, Christmas Tree Festival and Christmas parties, and most have gone down well, although this year Isaac seems to have decided Father Christmas is a bit on the scary side and we’ve had to use Mummy as a go between to get our presents!bauble-hunt-1

It’s going to be a fairly quiet Christmas Day at home though so I wanted Isaac to get excited and enjoy Christmas Eve in the company of some of his little buddies.  So deciding to play Super Mum I arranged a special gathering in our close for the kids.  I created a Bauble Hunt (basically “hid” a few baubles around the close for the kids to find), made them all up some reindeer food to sprinkle on Father Christmas runway (our shared drive), and made hot chocolate and home made Xmas Star shortbread biscuits (yay me, not just buying something!).

The evening was really cute, and I feel happy (and slightly smug at my efforts). Thinking that would wear them out so they’d happily go to bed afterwards… ha ha not so much, as Isaac still came back in and demanded ANOTHER Octonauts.  Sadly the tv was already asleep and we instead had to go to bed with just stories, ANOTHER glass of milk and ANOTHER treat from the magic reindeer advent calendar.

So Super Mum finished stuffing stockings, laying out presents and working out some kind of cooking schedule for tomorrow before crashing on the sofa to watch a cheesy Christmas film.


Pink Ribbon Walk 2011

12 June, 2011

Yesterday mum and I completed the Pink Ribbon Walk in Petworth, raising money for Breast Cancer Care.  We signed up back in January to give ourselves plenty of time to raise the minimum sponsorship of £175 each which seemed like a large target to reach.  However, we have been absolutely overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity and managed to almost double our target, raising nearly £800 including Gift Aid.

Getting ready to walkWe arrived at Petworth around 10.45 am yesterday to give ourselves time to check in and get prepared.  The weather kept changing its mind and we were threatened with a couple of rain showers.  While we had hoped it would be dry, we didn’t want it to be too hot as knew that would make the walk harder.  When I woke up in the morning there were clear blue skies so I decided to risk crop trousers with the pink t-shirt, and take along a sweater and the light easy pack poncho mum had managed to buy us both.  In the end we didn’t need either as the weather was a mix of cloud and sunshine, with only a few specs of rain that didn’t even warrant a second thought.

On arrival we went and logged ourselves in, and had a quick look around the marquees that were laid out, decked in pink balloons before settling down to wait for the start.  Dan Mills from Heart radio station was wandering around chatting to people about why they were doing the walk and generally there was a friendly atmosphere.

Andrea McLean's doggy ready to do the walkAt 11.45 we were all called over to the main stage area where Dan Mills welcomed everyone to the event and then introduced the Head of Breast Cancer Care.  She thanked everyone for taking part and explained more about the cause and where the money went.  We were also introduced to our celebrity for the walk, Andrea McLean, from Loose Women.  Andrea again welcomed everyone and told us she was doing the walk with her dog – he was nicely decked out in his own pink t-shirt like the rest of us!  Finally, Diana Moran, aka the Green Goddess, came on stage to give us a quick warm up before the kick off.

As the clock turned 12 the event started and we all surged, like a giant pink snake, up the hillside out of Petworth.  Mum and I had deliberately positioned ourselves near the front so as to get a good start.  The first part of the walk took us in a circular route towards Lodsworth.  It was reasonably easy going through woodland and down a few lanes, with most hills being fairly gradual.  Our first official rest stop was at the top of the first hill at about 3 miles where we were greeted with water and fresh cut oranges.

Leaving PetworthThe route continued to the second rest stop at about 5.5 miles in Lodsworth village.  Luckily mum and I got here early ahead of many crowds so there wasn’t too long to wait for the toilets!  We were given more fruit and water, and some rather tasty Eat Natural bars for an energy boost.  We were surprised to find the third rest stop only another mile ahead, so we didn’t stop at that one. 

After the sixth mile the terrain changed and we were suddenly faced with some large and steep hills which were really hard going.  Some of the path through the trees was also quite slippy with mud.  So the seventh and eighth miles were really hard going and we soon began to feel our legs beginning to stiffen and cramp.  We were quite grateful to find some more marshalls with water at the top of one of hills.

Helena and Sue, Pink Walk 2011Mile eight to nine took us out over the top of the hill and rewarded us with some stunning views across Petworth park, and at last our final destination was in sight.  Before we could reach it though we had a steep descent which felt almost as hard on our legs and knees as the incline had.  Gradually the route flattened out and we could begin to hear the supporters on the finish line cheering everyone on.  It seemed like a long last mile, as we could see the end but had to turn the other way to go around the outside of the lake.

we finally crossed the finish line after 3 hours and 20 minues and were presented with our medals and a voucher for our free barbeque.  However, the first thing on our mind was to head over to the massage tent for a free massage to help loosen our calves, which by now were feeling rather painful! 

We both feel really proud that we took part and raised lots of money for such a good cause. 

More photographs from the day on my Flickr set.

With our medals

Coca-Cola and iPod… a winning combination!

30 January, 2011

Back in December I entered a couple of competitions on the website of my local radio station, Heart.  However, I was still surprised to hear that I actually won one of them.  I got a call on Christmas Eve to say I had won an iPod Shuffle and a year’s supply of Coca-Cola!

I was intrigued to know exactly what a year’s supply of Coca-Cola actually looked like.  I had to wait until yesterday to find out, when I got a call to say it was ready for me to go and collect from the radio station.  It turned out to be 5 crates – plenty to keep my husband happy for quite a while!

Coca Cola and iPod a winning combination


2 February, 2009

I woke up this morning to snow.  Okay, a regular occurence in Winter you’d think… but not around here.  Last time we’ve had snow that has settled like this was many years ago – the news is saying not for 18 years.  The photographer in me made sure I prepared my camera at the same time as my work bag this morning, and the big kid in me was dying to make a snow man… but instead I went for a snow cat!  Here’s a shot of my street this morning and my new friend:

My Street in the Snow
Snow Kitty

Snow Leopard Illustration

30 August, 2008

Watching youRoger Hall contacted me a couple of weeks ago asking if he could draw from my photo of a snow leopard. Here is the final result alongside the original photograph.

Roger is a scientific illustrator and I think he’s made a good job of matching the photo and capturing the personality of this cat.

I can’t think it is easy to make illustrations of animals with fur as it must be difficult to get a sense of the fur.  I saw some more stunning animal artworks recently at the Marwell International Wildlife Art Society exhibition at Marwell Zoo.  My favourite was one by Natalie Mascall of a cats face.  Both my mum and my grandma have painted some lovely pictures, but I don’t have their talents… think I’ll stick to photography!

Website Makeover

29 August, 2008

I’m going to a couple of conferences this year and so I decided to order some Moo MiniCards to hand out to people I meet with my contact details on.  I didn’t want work business cards because I wanted something I could use for non-work related contacts too.  I have put various big cat photographs on one side of them and on the text side I kept it simple and just put my name, e-mail address and website.  However, that led me to thinking it was high time I gave my website a makeover.

So I’ve changed my homepage to a much simpler page with just a few links on… and of course the obligatory big cat photo (it wouldn’t be personal to me otherwise!).  I love that macro photo of the Amur Leopard Nose and so placing it on my website seemed like the perfect idea.  And those of you who have been here before will also notice I’ve updated my blog header along a similar theme.

So here is the old site…

… and the new.

My brother got married!

26 August, 2008

Look this way!So I’ve been holding off on writing this blog post for a few days as it was all top secret, but now I can finally reveal my brother got married on Thursday 21st August.  Congratulations Jay and Lucy!

They decided they wanted a quiet family ceremony so had kept the wedding a complete secret from everyone other than very immediate family.  (Okay, so I was excited and couldn’t resist telling a few of my friends who didn’t know them!)  Then the big plan was to announce the wedding at a party they were having on Sunday evening, when their friends thought they were coming to celebrate both their birthdays, and to wish them well on moving to Canada.  I don’t know if I could have kept it that much of a secret had I been Lucy!

LucyOn Wednesday night Jay and Lucy were spending a last night with their families.  So Mum, Dad, Jay, Stef and I went out to the Old Tollgate in Bramber.  It is a posh carvery restaurant, where you can keep going back for as much food as you can eat!  Mum and Dad had taken me and Jay to it a couple of times on special occasions growing up, so it seemed a nice choice for the evening before the wedding.  The food was, as always, lovely.  There was a huge starter selection of salads, cold meat, fruit, soup and hot ribs.  Then a  turkey, ham, beef and pork for the carvery, plus a selection of other hot dishes – all of which you could choose more than one of.  Then to finish a lovely selection of hot and cold desserts.  There are definitely cheaper carvery restaurants around, but you definitely get your money’s worth at the Old Tollgate and the atmosphere is nicer for a special occasion.

So on Thursday morning Mum, Dad, Stef and I headed down to the registry office and met up with Jay, Lucy, Jonathan (Lucy’s brother), Lucy’s Mum, Dad and Nana.  The ceremony was quite short but it was lovely to see how happy they were.  Jonathan and I were their witnesses for the register, which was really nice.

The familyAfter some photographs outside we headed to Bosham and the Millstream Hotel and Restaurant for lunch.  On arrival we sat in the lounge, and Lucy and Jay opened a few cards and discovered where they were going away for their honeymoon –  a present from her parents.  They’ve just come back from living in New Zealand and went travelling quite a lot on the way home, and are soon to emigrate to Canada, so they just wanted a nice quiet time away together in England and went off to Cambridgeshire.

For lunch I had the Chateaubriand steak which was served with potatoes and green vegetables, followed by a raspberry and lemon dessert – both were absolutely gorgeous.  Again, another restaurant I’d highly recommend for a special occasion.

Nice car decorations!After lunch we sat in the gardens for coffee until it was time to see Jay and Lucy off.  Sneakily when they weren’t looking her brother and dad had decorated their car with tin cans and banners.  It was quite a surprise and didn’t half make a racket as they drove off up the road!

During the day they’d asked me to take some photographs.  I’d taken along my posh new camera and lens, tripod and I certainly looked the part!  When I got home though I was a little disappointed with the results which was a shame.  Nice to learn some things… but choosing your brother’s wedding to do so was maybe not the best time to do it!  Firstly I discovered that I had failed to get a decent formal type photo of them both looking at my camera.  It was only a small family occasion, and yet we had 5 camera’s between us, and so it appeared no-one was looking at the same camera.  So lesson one… wait for everyone else to ‘have their turn’ and then get the couple to focus on the main camera for some shots. 

JaySecondly, the day turned out to be quite sunny.  So a lot of the photographs I took outside were ‘blown’ and their faces came out bright.  I managed to do some adjustments on some of the photographs as I had taken some in a RAW format, but overall where there was no detail because of the light, there wasn’t anything to correct.  I also found that the bright light meant that the autofocus on my lens found it hard to focus and so photographs that looked okay on the camera’s display screen looked a little fuzzy when blown up on the computer later.  So lessons two, three and four… find some nice shady spots for photographs, think about which way people are facing and double check the focus.  After you have taken a few photographs take a moment to use the zoom feature on playback so you can see what they look like and have time to adjust and take some more!

And finally, I learnt after the event that when using my tripod I should have turned off the IS – Image Stabilisation – feature of my lens.  Apparently, because the camera is already still the IS can try to overcompensate and actually cause camera shake!  So lesson five… take time to learn more about your camera settings before you go.

Jonathan and his DadI’ve ended up with some nice photographs despite all that, but it certainly gave me some food for thought before next weekend when I am playing wedding photographer for another friend.  I enjoyed trying out some more candid people shots as that is not the sort of thing I normally photograph, or feel comfortable photographing if they are strangers.  Photographs from the wedding day can be found here.

My Bank Are Having a Laugh!

12 August, 2008

About a week ago I went to pay a cheque into my bank account at the bank on site where I work.  As it isn’t my own bank I need a pre-printed paying in slip, and normally I carry a book of them around for the odd occasion I get a cheque, but I discovered I had run out.  So I called my bank who said no problem they’d get one sent out to me straight away. 

Today I got home to find a parcel had arrived for me… and to my great surprise I discovered that Barclays have kindly sent me 20 paying in books, each with about 15 paying in slips!  Just how many cheques do they think I pay in!?!  My last book lasted me years – with internet banking so easy these days people rarely even use cheques anymore.  At least it made me laugh.

Paying in

Another cool cake!

12 July, 2008

My best friend made me another cool cake for my birthday this year! I keep looking back at the photo’s of all the cakes she has made me over the years and each yeah they are fantastic but they just keep getting better and better.

My Birthday Cake!


She run’s Wish Cakes based in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire if anyone else wants a cool cake!

Christmas Meme

15 December, 2007

1. Egg nog or Hot Chocolate? 

Hot Chocolate definately!

2. Coloured lights or white?

I do like seeing traditional looking trees, but I must admit mine is brightly coloured!

Xmas Tree

3. Do you hang mistletoe?

4. When do you put up your decorations?

I put my office ones up the 1st week of December, the home ones about the 2nd week.  I like to enjoy them as long as possible…but before December is WRONG! 

5. Favourite Christmas movie?

Miracle on 42nd Street

6. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

What the truth about him being real?  I’ve always known he’s real.

7. Do you open a gifts on Christmas Eve, Christmas day or Boxing Day?

Stockings on Christmas morning, main presents some time Christmas Day.  Although, if we’re away for Christmas we save the ones to and from each other for our second ‘Christmas Day’ which is once we’ve returned home. 

8. Real or fake Christmas Tree?

Real.  I love the smell of the pine!  Although I do have a small fake one in my office too.

9. Snow! Love it or dread it?

Love it while it’s looking pretty.  It doesn’t snow very often here though.

10. Can you ice skate?

Yes, but not very well.  I’ve been practising this year at Marwell’s Magical Winter.

Helena on ice

11. Do you remember your favourite gift?

I remember my dad buying me a Tenor Recorder when I was younger which I loved and was a really big surprise – he’d not even told my mum! 

12. What is your favourite Christmas tradition?  

I’m a really big kid about Christmas.  I love sitting around after a meal with family and playing lots of board games.

13. What tops your tree – angel or star?

Silver star.

14. What is your favourite Christmas song or songs?

A Winter’s Tale. 

15. Do you feel Christmas is too commercialized? Or is it still magical for you?

I don’t like it all starting in the shops so early.  However, I do still love Christmas time and it is still magical yes.

16. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

Not too early, but I like to have it done by end of November so that I can enjoy the party season without getting stuck in crowds at the shopping centre.

17. Lots of Christmas decorations or few?

Ooo I love it looking festive – I don’t go for all out bling although it’s good to have a giggle at other people’s OTT efforts!  I do put up a tree inside and Christmas lights outside…and I even have some flashing reindeer.

Skipping Reindeer

18. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas?

I do love the Christmas turkey with all the trimmings – particularly the sausages wrapped in bacon.

19. How many Christmas parties are too many?

Is there such a thing?!  I’ve been to 6 so far, and still have a few to go.  A good day’s break between hangovers is usually helpful!

20. Overall Christmas – hooray or nay?

Definately hooray.

Happy Christmas everyone!! 

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