So ... December has been and almost gone, and with it, it takes 2010. In some ways a memorable year for nice things, but it will also be tinged with the memory of some rather difficult and challenging times. I am very grateful that there were good bits to offset the more dodgy months.
Did you have a nice Christmas? As I posted last month, I was determined to be organised this year, and am very happy to say that I managed it without any last minute realisations that something hadn't been done, or bought, or sent, or anything else. The kids woke up with me this year, which was fabulous, and we shared a lovely day with my mum and brother. I'd like to thank all those who gave me such fabulous gifts - I'm usually a bit more organised and take some photos to make a Christmas collage, but I don't seem to have got round to it this year (I think the blame for that can rest with the lurgi).
One of the presents No.1 had was an electric guitar - she's wanted one for ages. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I'm now wondering if I (and my neighbours) might live to regret the decision?! No.1, meanwhile, is a happy bunny. No.2 received lots of footie-themed gifts (just for a change) and is particularly pleased with his official Liverpool shirt and trackie bottoms.
On Christmas Eve, No.1 and I attended a party at a friend's house. Thank you to C and J for another lovely evening in the company of them, their daughter, and other friends - xx. On Boxing Day, No.1 and I went with my mum and brother to a family party over in Swindon, at my cousin D's house. I do love this tradition that we have, of all getting together on Boxing Day - it means I get to see my cousins and their families on occasions other than weddings, funerals and christenings. Thank you D (and A, A and C) for hosting such a lovely party - xx.
Whilst it didn't actually snow on Christmas Day, therefore not qualifying with the bookies as a 'real' White Christmas, we still had snow on the ground from previous snowfalls. The temperatures had been so cold, it just didn't melt, which made for pretty scenes, but lethal roads and pavements. On the way back from the party on Boxing Day, I took this picture:
The big thaw finally came on 28th December, as temperatures edged up to 5°C rather than the -5°C we'd been stuck with for what seemed like ages. Within 24 hours, the grass was green again, instead of white, and Georgie-cat was a very relieved puss as she could once again venture outside. (She absolutely hates snow!)
December saw the lurgi (a fluey one) invade the town where we live. We were all poorly at one stage or another. For a few of days, the lower junior department of No.2's school had a total of 24 children present at school - out of 90! No.1's school was similarly decimated. My cousin, who is a teacher, had only 8 children present in her class for most of one week. It's been a little while since I felt quite that poorly and am still coughing; I very much hope that's got the germs out of the way, and that they now leave us in peace for the foreseeable future!
This month saw me finally make the leap over to Google Chrome as my interweb browser instead of my beloved Mozilla Firefox. I had been with Firefox for many years, but it kept hanging, taking aaaaages to load some pages, and was generally driving me nuts. Chrome had been recommended to me by two or three people who were impressed with its speed and efficiency, so I took the plunge. A morning of frustration spent trying to import my bookmarks was all worth it, as I can now surf the web with impressive speed. It will also access a couple of sites that Firefox never did like, so I can happily recommend it to anyone out there who is thinking of using it.
At Camera Club this month they had their annual end of year competitions: Print of the Year, Digital Image of the Year, and Panorama of the Year. Those who have previously submitted either a Print or a Digital Image are asked to choose just one for entry into this particular competition. Unlike the usual competitions, the Judge doesn't mark out of 20, he just chooses first, second, third and fourth. There is no other Panoramic competition throughout the year, so anyone can submit any panorama to that particular competition. For those unfamiliar with the term, a panorama is usually of a landscape, and consists of a few images 'stitched' together (using software) to create a wider 'view' than would normally be seen. The proportions of a panoramic shot are usually at least 3 times the width to height.
In my (fairly limited) experience, men seem to like taking panoramic shots (and indeed landscape shots) more than women. I have attempted it a couple of times, but have never been entirely happy with my end result(s). I think it's because I seem to prefer to focus on 'parts' of things rather than the bigger picture. However, I am very capable of admiring the panoramic skills of other photographers.
Anyway, since I hadn't submitted a single print in any of the competitions this year (I might attempt that next year - will have to wait and see), and hadn't been pleased with any panoramas I've taken, I only entered one of the above competitions: Digital Image of the Year. I looked at the images I've submitted in various contests over this year, and had real trouble deciding which one was the right one to choose for this competition. In the end, I plumped for the one I personally liked best, which is this one:
A dewy cobweb - shot taken with my little compact camera rather than the DSLR. The Judge that evening was one I hadn't encountered before, but I was pleased when early on, he said he liked 'simple' images because that's what I like too. He judged the Print Competition first - choosing a wonderful print of a jackdaw as his winner. The Digital Image Competition was next. He asked to see all the images quickly, and then went through commenting. When he got to mine, he said he liked the diagonal emphasis (most judges like diagonals), and loved the depth of field. He liked the almost total desaturation of colour, and the composition as a whole. He asked for it (and six others) to be kept back for later consideration.
Later on, as he gradually went through the seven images he'd kept back, he got to mine and said "This is my clear winner. None of the other images come close to it, so I award this one first place." I was a bit gob-smacked, but Gill, who was sitting next to me gave me a big nudge and whispered "Yay! Well done." I had to leave before the panoramic images were judged, but I've since seen the winner, so know it was a wonderful shot. During the tea break, some of the other guys who know the Judge from previous competitions told me it was very much his sort of shot - of which I'm very glad.
In January the Club has a prize giving for the previous year's winners - not sure if I'll get one of the little trophies they have, but if I do, I'll be sure to let you know!
This month one of the new(ish) friends I made at Camera Club lost his fight with the 'Big C'. Dick was 83, and had been one of the first to warmly welcome me to the Club when I joined. He was endlessly cheerful in the face of various health problems, and it was always a pleasure to sit and chat with him. He had apparently been a member of the Club for over 40 years, and I'm sure I won't be the only one to miss him. RIP Dick.
I have mentioned before my sad addiction to the game Mafia Wars at Facebook. I must admit, tackling a life of crime in down-town Bangkok got so tough (a dire lack of Baht was the problem!) that I stepped back from the game for a couple of months earlier this year. But then a friend introduced me to a Mafia Wars Helper group, and that reignited my enthusiasm as a bunch of around 50 people all helped one another out with various aspects of the game, making life more simple for us all. So this month saw me finish the fiendishly difficult Bangkok section of the game, completing the final job of Sending Captain Mok Overboard, and earning me the title 'Grand Master Assassin'. I remember the joy of winning a gold lavatory at the end of completing New York, but there was no such prize at the end of Bangkok.
I now move warily on to a life of crime in Las Vegas, where I have already completed around half of the tasks. But it's a whole lot easier now I'm a member of the Helpers group.
This month has not been an easy one on the dental front for my Wrinklets. Firstly, No.2 lost three teeth in as many days as his wobblers all began to come out. Now I don't know about you, dear Reader, but the Tooth Fairies who visit my kids (yes, they have one each) have, in the past, fallen down on the job. I think only once each, but that was more than enough. What a terribly bad parent I am to have neglected to make sure those Tooth Fairies visited when they were supposed to. I can only cite extreme tiredness and the irresistible lure of sleep, as my defence. So, I was rather proud of myself that on these three consecutive occasions, I made sure the right Tooth Fairy did the job. ;-)
No.1's problem was in total contrast. A couple of her baby teeth have decided they do NOT want to wobble out thank you very much. This would be fine if their adult counterparts hadn't decided to start growing down over the top of them. Cue a visit to the dentist to see about having the baby ones removed. The Wrinklets have the loveliest, gentlest lady dentist that ever existed, and she tried very hard to remove those baby teeth without the need for injections, etc. but it was not to be. So ... we go back again in January to have another go - cue one very anxious No.1: Wish us luck!
The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that the Bloggy Bits has undergone a bit of a facelift. I had a mooch round the new Blogger 'Design' section and decided to try and tidy up the cluttery bits. Thus there are now 'stand alone' pages which can be accessed from the 'bar' under the header. I have removed the jukebox since I'm pretty sure nobody played it, and instead I will put a YouTube video that is in some way meaningful to me, in the section 'Musical Bits' each time I post a new Bloggy Bit. The quotes have also been removed from the sidebar and have their own page - I shall add to those as and when I find quotes I like. I think I like the new design, but would welcome feedback from anyone who has an opinion on the matter.
Just as the blog has been tidied up, I fully intend to tidy up both the house and my life in general, in the early part of 2011. The big clear up in the house has begun, and the Wrinklets have been warned that stuff has to go. This house is not large, and we simply don't have enough room for the huge amounts of clutter that seem to accumulate whilst we sleep. If it hasn't been used in the couple of years since we've been here, then it can go. I am fully aware that as soon as I have dispensed with anything we shall suddenly 'need' it, but I'm prepared to cross swords with the Law of the Sod and look him squarely in the eye.
I will leave you with a photo I took this month of a snowy rosehip. I like this shot very much, but unfortunately I don't think it would do very well in photographic competition. A lot of Judges don't seem to be drawn to images which are heavily 'artistic'; as opposed to those with a more technically competent content. (I don't view myself as very technically proficient ... but am learning all the time about technicalities of cameras). I sometimes wonder whether this artistic/technical discrepancy is a male/female thing - as yet I have only encountered male judges, but I know female ones do exist (although they are in a very small minority).
Anyway, I wish everyone reading a wonderful New Year. May you find fulfilment, be blessed with good health, and enjoy some good old fashioned fun, happiness and contentment in the coming 12 months - xxx.