Monday, 29 November 2010

Third birthday

Whose third birthday? Mine! Well, Café Chick's. Three years ago today, I set up this blog and started the journey of Café Chick. She and I have had a lot of fun both blogging and on Twitter. At the start, I had no idea where  either of us would end up. I still don't know where we're going but am loving the ride.

My 101 in 1001 project is in its final few months and I'm trying to wrap up as many activities as practical before 29 March 2011. I have completed 19 activities in 2010 and made progress with several ongoing goals. I did a bit of a roundup of progress when I reached the one year to go mark back in March and am pleased to report that it's still ticking along nicely.

Look at the state of my Clustr map! That's over 21,000 visits during the past twelve months from 145 different countries. It's been lovely to have your company. Alas, as with each birthday/anniversary, the map will archive tomorrow and all my lovely red dots will disappear. Hopefully they will be repopulated in a different combination during the upcoming year - I'll need your help with that.

Café Chick's visitors
Once again, a huge thank you to everyone in the blogosphere for joining me on my journey. I'll be around for a long time to come so hope you'll continue to pop in regularly for good coffee and fresh baking.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Gangsters Ball

Last night, we went to the ball. The Gangsters Ball, that is. The Gangsters Ball took place at the St James Theatre and was billed as a feast of burlesque, cabaret, circus, singing, dining and dancing. In 1920s style, the scene was set for gangsters and flapper fashion to come out and play. It has been a while since we went to a good costume party so we decided to go all out and see what Jesters had to offer. I wore a maroon flapper outfit complete with feather boa and a stylish feathered headband. So glamourous!

There was plenty of entertainment  of varying quality throughout the night. The evening started with a drag-style lip-synching performance, followed by an overly long 'warm up' by the very average DJ and MC, El Jaguar. Various dances and performances added to the cabaret atmosphere and there were some great costumes to go along with it.

The gambling den consisted of just one roulette and blackjack table each, which meant that you needed to be quick to find a spot at either of them. We eventually made it into blackjack, alternately winning and losing a fortune in funny money before eventually going all in at the end of the night - good times.

I got to go home with the Best Dressed Man - my sweetie took out the prize with his white pinstriped suit! The reaction from revellers at as we walked along Courtenay Place at 1 am was hilarious, with one group asking us to pose in a photo with them. It's always fun to wander around town in costume. The photos from the ball will eventually end up on this website but I think you need to log in to see anything more than thumbnails.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Friday funnies

Here are some random funnies for Friday.

I've been desperate to include this image in a presentation or workshop recently. I haven't yet found the perfect vehicle for it but, when I do, I'm sure I won't be the only one laughing.

You can't keep a prolific blogger down ...

Ever come out of a meeting feeling like this?

An oldie but a goodie. I'm sure that everyone who has ever worked in the areas of IT, professional learning or corporate training can relate to this.

I'd love to do something like this! The film quality is dreadful but the final effect is awesome.

Happy Friday, folks!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and I first got to know each other back in 1998. I was in my second year of teaching and vividly recall one of my students telling me in animated tones about a book his mother was reading to him at night. It was about a boy and his friends who went to a school specially for wizards and witches and they had all these adventures and ... I'm not exaggerating when I say that this boy determinedly never showed excitement about anything; he was one of the most 'in control' students I have ever come across, and so his manner immediately got my attention. Anything that could get him talking animatedly had to be good.

Fast forward a few months and we held a Book Week at our school, involving an exciting week with stacks of book-related activities and culminating in a big event on the Friday when staff and students all came to school dressed as book characters. We invited notable Wellingtonions and New Zealanders to read stories to our classes. I was thrilled when Sir Michael Hardie Boys (who was Governor General at the time) asked if he could read The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate by Margaret Mahy to a class! Another guest, Mark Blumsky (Wellington mayor at the time) arrived with a book he had bought at Los Angeles airport and excitedly read all the way back to Wellington. The book? Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which we were already reading together in class.

We raced through the first three novels in the series and even my most reluctant readers fell in love with the world of Hogwarts. The children (and teachers) couldn't get enough of the books and we eagerly anticipated the fourth installment in the series being released: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Unfortunately for my younger readers, the length of the novels doubled at that stage and the reading level rose considerably. The most determined continued with support. I couldn't help myself and raced ahead of my class. (There has to be some advantage to being an adult reader among a bunch of 8-year-olds.)

And then the movies started to be released. We keenly anticipated the first. Would it be any good? What would the characters look like? And Hogwarts itself? For me, the ultimate test would be the enchanted ceiling in the great dining hall. It passed, but I haven't been overly enthralled with any of the movies since then, preferring to get back to the books.

I really struggled to get through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final installment in a series I thoroughly enjoyed. After repeatedly hearing that it was the best of them all, albeit a bit slow to start, I finally finished reading it in three stages. Admittedly, this didn't help me much with continuity but I preferred to pick up where I left off rather than re-read some chapters. For me, the story just went on and on with endless chases for horcruxes and hallows, resulting in some huge battles and an extensive body count; I lose interest when things get like that. Things did manage to resolve in the last fifty or so pages, so we got there in the end. For me, none of the books was quite as 'magical' (no pun intended) as the first in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which set the scene for everything else to come.

I can't help but wonder if the characters of the novel evolved more into the actors who played them in the movies, rather than the other way around. For example, Hermione. She was initially portrayed as being a girlie-swot mudblood, born of Muggle parents who were dentists. This led to her ironcally having huge front teeth. However, once the movies got going and Hermione assumed a glamour-puss look à la Emma Watson, all mention of her oversized teeth disappeared.

And so, here we are at the end of a twelve-year relationship. I'm a little sad but ready to say goodbye. 101 in 1001 activity #67 - Read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was about far more than reading a single book; it was finding closure with a literary tale that started in the early days of my career and followed me ever since. Love or hate the books, there's no doubting that J K Rowling's greatest achievement has been inspiring a generation of children to love reading - I've seen it first hand and will always admire her for that. Potter fever is once again about to sweep the movie world. I'll probably see the final two movies in time, but it's the series of books that will hold my memories and loyalty.

Friday, 12 November 2010

It's Friday

It's Friday! It has been a long week but filled with lots of little things that are good. Here's a quick roundup:
  • Today was cheese scone day at work. Yay!
  • The sun is shining and it was a glorious almost-summer's day today.
  • A mother duck and her family of five baby duckies came for a wander around work yesterday.
  • Tomorrow, I am going to go costume hunting for the Gangsters' Ball next weekend. I'm looking for a flapper dress.
  • It just might be a hammock weekend - the first for this summer.
  • I have stocked up on coffee for the weekend. Coffee Creation in Petone is an awesome place to buy fresh coffee beans.
  • I baked a yummy banana loaf last night and there's still some left.
  • My cough is finally dying down and I'm slowly getting my energy back.
  • I'm feeling a little bit smug about having just bought
  • I have a voucher for chocolate truffles to spend at Butlers - this could be the weekend that I spend them.
  • I'm making progress with finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Just 100ish pages to go!
  • I'm in the mood to bake (again) this weekend.
What's good for you as we head into the weekend?

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Scarecrows' big day out

This afternoon we drove over to the Wairarapa to check out the roadside scarecrows, part of the Scarecrows' Big Day Out happening yesterday. This 101 in 1001 activity only comes around once a year, so I was glad we had a sunny day and some time spare in order to complete #49 - Go to the Scarecrow Festival in Gladstone. Although we'd missed the Gladstone School fair and scarecrow scamper yesterday, we had lots of fun driving around the area to see the roadside scarecrows at people's gates.

The design for the roadside scarecrows are left to the imagination of each household. They are a combination of funny, clever and creative and we enjoyed driving along the country roads, slowing down as we neared another driveway, then jumping out of the car to take photos of the folk we encountered. Even the local pub got into the act with a very unfortunate incident involving Santa Claus and too much of the sponsors' product!

Here are some photo highlights from our day:
Chilled out

Shearer's quarters

Taking a breather

Too much beer in the sun for Santa!


Not fast enough

Thursday, 4 November 2010

An abbreviated post

I've been sick at home for three days now with a chest infection and a nasty cough to match. Tomorrow looks like it will be my fourth day off work. (Let's hope they'll advance me some sick leave, or my next pay packet will be looking just as ill as me!) You would think that with all this 'spare' time on my hands that I'd be able to achieve something, anything, but my energy levels haven't come to the party, so here's an abbreviated blog post about what's going on for me at the moment.
  • Tomorrow is Guy Fawkes Day. There is going to be a great fireworks display in Wellington. We'll have to find a great viewpoint and hope that the weather plays nicely so we get to appreciate all the pretty fireworks.
  • Tomorrow is also my dad's birthday. When I was little, we would always have a birthday dinner at home, light some firecrackers in the back yard, then go and watch the fire at the empty section at the end of the street. Back in the days when skyrockets could be legally let off from anywhere, this was a great source of annual entertainment. I used to think that all the fireworks and bonfires were for Dad's birthday - lucky him!
  • I am going to attempt to make Tim Tam truffles as a birthday present for Dad, along with ciabatta and chocolate cake. (Once I stop coughing, that is.)
  • I thought I'd make the most of my sick days at home by tackling the last 200 pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I have only made the tiniest bit of progress and can't really remember what much of the previous 430 pages were about. Doh!
  • I'm hoping to drive over to the Wairarapa on Sunday and check out the Gladstone Scarecrow Festival - something I've been meaning to go to for years.
  • A friend asked if I'd like to see Eat Pray Love with her. I (think I) politely explained that it (and especially Julia Roberts) is not my thing. I haven't heard back from her since, lol - maybe the chest infection has made me more blunt than I'd usually be.
  • I am onto my second bottle of Irish Moss. (Ok, the first one wasn't entirely full, but I'm practically drinking the second one straight!)
  • There are lots of blog posts I'd like to write, if only I could start developing my ideas into a single coherent thought.
How has your week been?