Kogarah Bay, Carss Bush Park, playground, Sydney, family friendly,

My Sunday Photo – Kogarah Bay from Carss Bush…

My Sunday Photo for this week is of Kogarah Bay. It comes from our Friday adventure to Carrs Bush Park.

Our local library wasn’t running its usual Rhyme Time activities this week, due to school holidays, so we set out to make our own fun instead. Kogarah Bay was our destination, as the playground at Carrs Bush Park came highly reccomended and it was well worth the trip.

I snuck in a little walk along the foreshore of Kogarah Bay before we hit the swings, and Hannah was patient enough to let me take a few shots.

We had a lovely Autumn day. The sun still had plenty of warmth in it, and even in the shade of the covered playground it was still very pleasant.

Hannah, as always, didn’t pass up the oportunity to get down and dirty in the mud. She had a great time.

It’s only dirt

My Full review of Carss Bush Park can be found here.

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First step, steps, stepping, baby, toddler, legs, walking

The First Steps

Ah milestones. The bringers of great joy and anxiety.

Those of you familiar with this blog will know that I try to not take milestones too seriously. I have, more or less, held the view that things will happen with Hannah when they happen, and that I will enjoy the journey along the way.

I do, of course, encourage Hannah and I try to provide her with as much stimulation and support as possible, to build all of her skills. But what I don’t do is compare her growth to others, or stress when she isn’t the quickest to achieve a milestone. After all, Hannah has proven time and time again that she does these things on her own terms, when she is good and ready.

My resolve to ignore comparisons has only really been tested once – at a joint first birthday party for all of the babies in Emma’s Mother’s group. I was slightly taken back by all the standing and walking tiny tots, and I briefly wondered whether Hannah’s development was on track.

A quick check of the internet assured me that, as with all milestones, there is a wide window of normal development and Hannah sits well within that. Armed with the knowledge that Hannah still had several months before I needed to be in any way concerned, I got straight back into the job of enjoying each moment with my little girl.

 

The past Few Months…

My genuine belief is that Hannah has been capable of walking for a while now. She has always been keen on standing and, often when playing while standing, she had let go of furniture to pass toys between hands or reach for objects. She has demonstrated excellent balance and she is happy to walk for long distances, if she has a parent’s hands to hold on to. However, when it came to letting go intentionally, Hannah had so far been reluctant.

That all changed a few weeks ago. For the first time, Hannah pushed herself up off the floor, completely independently. The signs were there that she was nearly ready to give it a shot. Since that day, she had practised standing over and over and over again. She had even managed to turn it in to a game.

There were two things that struck me over the last couple of weeks as I watched Hannah practise – firstly, she is tenacious. Once she has an idea in her head or a goal in mind, she doesn’t give up on it easily. The second is that she does it all with a smile on her face. This little girl loves learning and I adore that about her.

Finally…

Finally, on Easter Monday, the time came for her to give this walking thing a real crack. We were sitting around and enjoying good company. Hannah was doing her thing, furniture cruising and exploring her surroundings.

As I absent-mindedly watched her, Hannah let go of the furniture and took a step before grabbing back on. Just one. It happened quickly and it was one of those moments when you question what you saw.

“Did she just take a step?” I asked Emma and the rest of the family. None of us were too sure.

I sat down on the floor, a few small steps away from Hannah.

“Will you walk to me?” I asked. I held out my hands and, with a big grin, Hannah let go of the coffee table and took a couple of wobbly steps in my direction.

I could have rushed to get the camera before that, but I didn’t. I don’t really care that I didn’t capture this moment on film, because I was fully present when it happened. There will be plenty of other opportunity to record some wobbly stepping, but in that moment, I was just there to enjoy it and share it.

Hannah has stepped several times since. She is gradually building her confidence and, like with her standing, she practises when she wants and on her terms.

One final anecdote…

The second time that Hannah walked was the next day. Emma and I were playing with Hannah on the landing between the bedrooms of our townhouse. I was in Hannah’s room and Emma and Hannah were on the landing. Hannah scooted into her room at lightning pace (she is an incredibly quick crawler) and she shut the door behind her – this is the latest evolution in our never-ending games of hide-and-seek. After shutting the door, she stood straight up.

“Are you going to walk?” I asked Hannah. With a big grin she stepped forward. One foot, then the other. She walked a total of five steps.

“Open the door quickly, she’s walking!” I yelled to Emma.

Emma opened the door just in time to see a standing baby drop back onto her bottom, a big grin on her face. Due to Hannah’s love of all things hide-and-seek, Emma had just missed her best walking so far.

 

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World's worst food blogger, chili salt, chili, chilli, mortar and pestle

Introducing The World’s Worst Food Blogger

What Makes Me The World’s Worst Food Blogger?

I love food. I cook regularly, and I try new things often. I would say I have reasonable skills in the kitchen and that I have a pretty broad knowledge of flavours and styles.

I also love photography. While sitting firmly in the ‘amateur’ camp, I still enjoy the hours and hours of learning that I put in to becoming a better photographer. I shoot all kinds of photos and I have some that I’m very proud of.

Yet, for some reason, I can never seem to combine the two. Almost since I started this blog, I’ve thought to myself that I should have a food section. However, every time that I knock up something half Pinterest-able (okay, I’ll admit it, I don’t understand Pinterest), I forget to take a photo of the result.

It’s most likely to do with one of us being starving by the time the food is ready. Hannah has recently taken to walking her high chair over to the table and standing there with an expectant look on her face. If she is really hungry, she’ll try and climb in to the chair, all the while giving a diatribe on why she should be fed immediately.

If it’s not her, it’s me. I like the food that I cook, so the number one priority when cooking is done is to get it to my face as quickly as possible. No time to painstakingly present the food and take photos from every conceivable angle. Just whack it on a plate and get it in my belly.

It’s usually about half-way through the meal that I remember that I wanted to take a photo. Of course, by then it’s too late. Or is it…?

Yes. Yes it is too late. But damnit, I’m going to take the photo anyway. Because the food is too good not to share. Besides, surely everyone is sick of all the over-glamorised, self-indulgent food pictures that dominate Instagram and food blogs these days. I’m keeping it real. You’re welcome.

 

World’s Worst Food Blogger Steak, Home-made Chips and Salsa

World's worst food blogger, steak and chips with salsa
So tasty, I got half way through before remembering to take this photo

Here it is, my first ever World’s Worst Food Blogger post! I was about halfway through this tasty meal when I remembered to take this snap. Perhaps it was the article on Insta Success that inspired me!

I know what you’re thinking – that steak looks well overdone. Normally I would agree with you, but having Hannah has forced some changes to the ways in which I cook. It’s very hard to perfectly sear a steak over a gas stovetop when every couple of minutes you have to chase a young child who is eager to climb the stairs. The inevitable result of that is a screaming smoke alarm and a tough, overcooked steak. Also, it is recommended that food is thoroughly cooked for babies, they’re not really supposed to sit down to a blue steak.

I recently discovered the joys of oven-cooking such cuts of meat. Low and slow is my new mantra. Don’t be fooled by the colour of that meat, it was still so juicy and tender that it could be cut with a butter knife. A couple of hours at around 100-120 C does the job (longer time for lower temperature).

The problem with this method of cooking is then the potato and sweet potato chips. No-one likes soggy chips. That was overcome in two ways – firstly by using the top element of the oven in conjunction with the fan-forced rear element, and secondly by cranking the heat at the very end, while the meat rested. The chips were soft in the middle, but still had that bit of crunch around the outside.

The final piece of this delicious puzzle was a salsa of sorts. It was the ideal way to use up some bits and pieces that needed eating – a couple of tomatoes, some red onion, red capsicum, olive oil and lemon juice. It was the perfect accompaniment to the steak.

So there you have it, the first ever meal in my World’s Worst Food Blogger series. I plan to bring you one photo each week ,from the meal that I have most enjoyed. Given my (very low) success rate with remembering to take the damned photo, this may well not happen. Only time will tell…

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Incompetonia, power cord, plug

Energy Providers in the Land of Incompetonia

Gather round, children. Let me tell you a magical tale. A tale of power, of immense incompetence and stupidity. A tale from a completely made-up place, so befuddling it couldn’t possibly be real…

 

The Tragic, Twisted Tale of The Energy Contract in the Land of Incompetonia

Long, long ago, in a mystical, faraway, totally not real land called Incompetonia there lived a woman. She was a loving woman, a family woman. All she wanted to do was provide for her family and keep electricity running to their plethora of devices.

It was a simple enough task, or so she thought. Her current contract was coming to an end, and so, with a simple phone call, she figured she could re-new the contract at her current rates of discount. After all, she had done so last year. Without too much fuss she had secured a good deal.

 

Let The Games Begin

However, little did she know that she was about to be played like a fiddle. You see, this mystical, absurd place had two major players in the electricity and gas market. But instead of being upfront and customer oriented, they were devious, nasty corporations. They sought to squeeze every last drop of blood from their customers that they could, and they schemed to ensure that direct comparisons between products were so mind-numbingly tedious that few would dare try. On top of that, they spent vast sums of money on ensuring that their customer service was so excruciatingly painful that most people in the land of Incompetonia would rather perform their own vasectomy with a rusty spoon, than try to negotiate a deal.

This truly wonderful woman, let’s call her Amme, called her current energy provider, 1st Best Energy. She expected a quick, five minute phone call. However, the villainous representative of the despicable company came back with a most unexpected reply.

 

“Sorry, we won’t give you that discount” he snivelled.

“Why not?” enquired the majestic Amme. “You gave it to me last year”.

“We won’t offer you a discount unless you leave and sign with another provider” came the response. Amme thought she could hear stifled laughter.

Amme persisted. “Okay, I’m going to leave your company, so now will you give me the deal?”

“Nup,” came the response. “You actually have to sign with the other company. Otherwise people tell us they’re going to leave, but they’re not really.”

 

Had Amme heard that correctly? Had customer service really deteriorated so far in the land of Incompetonia that companies were actually insisting that their customers leave and go to a competitor. Was that really how awful things had become?

Amme hung up and felt dejected. She told her magnificent husband, Semaj about it when he returned home from a long, hard day of antelope herding.

 

Semaj Tries to Talk Sense

Semaj decided to call the company the next day. He figured he could ask to speak to a manager and have the whole mess cleaned up in an instant. Unfortunately for him, the next day was a Saturday.

Now, you might think that in a logical society, service-based companies would have the appropriate staff available to speak with on a Saturday. After all, spending hours on the phone to a service provider between 9 and 5 Monday-Friday is not a practical reality for most people in Incompetonia (this is because most families rely on a dual-income to pay the outrageously large Incompetonia mortgages, but that’s a story for another day). But it was not to be. In the whole entire call centre of 1st Best Energy, there was (supposedly) only one manager working.

“I don’t need a herd of them, one manager will do!” Semaj fired down the phone at the operator, who’s entire training for her job appeared to involve watching Clerks on repeat.

“I’ll get him to call you back today,” she lied, blatantly.

Of course, Semaj didn’t hear back from a manager that day. Nor did he hear from them the following Monday, or even that week. 1st Best Energy appeared determined to make their customer leave, for reasons that Amme and Semaj couldn’t quite comprehend.

Turns Out The Other Lot Are Just As Bad

After an eternity of waiting, Amme decided it was time to contact the competitor – Incompetonia Energy. As she was a new customer, looking to join the company, they were very pleasant to her. Amme explained how terrible 1st Best Energy had been, and the sales person was only too happy to offer a reasonable deal. Amme had the details emailed to her, so that she could discuss them with Semaj before signing.

When she called back to agree to the deal, however, things turned a little sour.

 

“Sorry, we can only offer you that discount if you agree to direct debit” said the woman.

“What?” Exclaimed Amme. “That’s not what the last person said.”

 

After several heated exchanges, the Incompetonia Energy representative finally relented and clicked whatever button had obviously been available to her since the very start of the conversation, to make the deal go through.

Finally, everything was finished. Amme had agreed to terms with a new provider, and had only wasted about three hours of her life in doing so.

It’s Never That Simple

But of course, Life isn’t that simple in the land of Incompetonia. The evil energy companies had only just begun to play their games. They still had a few tricks up their sleeves. Not long after Amme signed with Incompetonia Energy, she received a call from 1st Best Energy.

 

“We’d like to offer you a better deal” said the man.

 

Now, at this point Semaj would have told the man where he could shove his deal, in an angry, expletive-filled rage. But Amme was smarter than Semaj. She listened to what the man had to offer, then she told him that she would have to think about it. She told him that the Incompetonia Energy deal was still a better one. The man provided Amme with his direct contact details, something that would prove to be invaluable later in the ordeal.

Over a week went by after agreeing to terms with Incompetonia Energy. But no welcome package was received in the mail. Amme called the company and was told that there was a problem with the account. Apparently her birthday had been entered incorrectly and they had been unable to proceed with the switch-over because of it.

To add further fuel to the furnace of frustration, Amme was told that she needed to provide three forms of identification to regain access to the account, as they couldn’t verify her identity due to the incorrect birth date.

Amme (far too politely for Semaj’s liking) told  Incompetonia Energy what she thought of that. She hung up and called back her new best friend at 1st Best Energy.

Amme explained that she had considered the offer and that she would like to stay with 1st Best Energy. The man set it up in his system, then he did the most bamboozling thing – he transferred Amme back to the competition. That’s right, he actually sent Amme back to Incompetonia Energy once again, to cancel the contract with them.

Much to Amme’s great surprise, she was transferred to an operator with a shred of competence. The operator told Amme that she could fix the birth date issue with a click of a button, then offered her a better deal, as well as some cash back to sign with Incompetonia! Amme agreed and was relieved to hear that Incompetonia Energy could sort out the whole thing from their end, without needing to be transferred back to 1st Best Energy.

 

Well, there you have it. A convoluted tale, no doubt. Incompetonia sure must be a frustrating place to live. Thank goodness we live in the real world, with customer service standards and general levels of respect for each-other’s time. Something like this couldn’t possibly happen here… could it?

 

Any likeness to real-world energy companies is entirely coincidental. This is totally, absolutely a fictional story. Completely. If any energy companies take offence to this story, perhaps they need to have a long, hard look at themselves and how they conduct their business. Seriously.

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Staring At The Sun, South Cronulla, sunrise, woman, beach, Sydney

My Sunday Photo – Staring At The Sun

This week’s My Sunday Photo is a memorable pre-dawn experience. It is called Staring At The Sun.

 

I decided to take a sunrise photo at one of our favourite beachside spots, to present to Emma as a birthday present. I woke up (extremely) early, tiptoed out of the house and made the drive to South Cronulla.

When I arrived, it was still very much pre-dawn. I set the camera on the tripod and went about taking some long-exposure shots of the iconic beach and some surrounding buildings. As it came closer to sunrise, I walked across the beach and over to the rocks and man-made pool. The light was constantly changing and I was very much enjoying myself.

I searched around for the perfect spot to stand and I took some practise shots. The sun was just about on the horizon and it was looking like it would be a good show to watch. Thrilled that I was about to capture the perfect moment to have blown up and placed on our dining room wall, I set myself.

Then, out of nowhere a person appeared. She had obviously been out enjoying her early morning walk and, inspired by the incredible scene unfolding before her, she decided to take a photo. However, there were two problems with this: She made the mistake that many of us do, which is to pull out the mobile, point it straight at the amazing sunrise and snap away. The second problem was that in trying to get as ‘close’ to the sunrise as possible, she had inadvertently entered the shot that I had patiently planned.

I can pretty well guarantee that she wouldn’t remember that sunrise (see below) after a while. The moment would be long forgotten for her and the photo on the phone relegated to some backup folder, or lost entirely. Yet there I was, fuming about the spoilt photo that I had worked so hard to achieve.

Staring at the sun, friday photo, Shooting the sun, sunrise
‘Shooting The Sun’ or ‘Nuclear Explosion’. It makes for a forgettable photo.

Thankfully, the woman was on her way soon enough and the show had still only really just begun. I snapped away as the light changed every few seconds and I ended up able to present my wife with a brilliant seascape sunrise that captures my eye every time I look at it.

When I went to process my photos. My attitude towards this particular moment changed entirely (possibly because I had been able to take the photo I wanted to). I realised that I had actually captured a great photo. This woman had added something really valuable to the shot. In her failed attempt to capture a moment, she had wound up the star of this shot. I really wish I had the opportunity to pass this photo on to that woman – to give her the permanent memory of this fleeting moment in time. Perhaps one day she will see it, who knows?

Photalife
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