Archive for December, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy new year all! I for one am looking forward to what 2010 might bring.

Kind regards



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With thanks

Hoping that everyone has a wonderful Christmas and is looking forward to the new year!

The jolly fat fella had a few choice gifts for me this year and my favorite being my new Nintendo DS . This little gaming gem is perfect for a quick fix and thanks to the wonderful R4 cartridge allows me to replay many long time classic games via a multitude of emulators (more on this in a later post). I opted for the sexy black one like the one pictured below but boy does it love fingerprints!

At the moment, the excellent new Super Mario Bros is eating into my free time & so is the addictive (and at times immensely infuriating) Scribblenauts. I can’t seem to finish a  relatively early level where you have to pick up flowers & place them into a basket. Stopping you from getting at them is a bee, a bee’s nest and a river which contains a very angry fish that attacks you if you go into the water for more than a few seconds. The bee & nest are easily despatched by typing the word ‘gun’ which then draws a gun for you to shoot the pesky insects but I’ve tried everything to cross the river without being attacked. I’ve ‘scribbled’ a boat, a fishing rod, an axe (to cut down a tree to make a raft) but no matter what I try the fish always gets me! It’s the  endless possibilities to solve the puzzle that makes this game so much fun to play!

Whilst preparing Christmas day lunch, I was so engrossed, I completely forgot about the oven and although everything else was o.k, the ‘pigs-in-blankets’ suffered the worst 😦

Also, a couple of great books received this year. The first being Volume 3 of Scott Kelby’s excellent Digital Photography book.

I have volumes one & two of these great books and for a complete novice like myself, are a great point of reference without being heavy on theory and techie photo speak. I have many photography books & it’s this and many of Scott’s other books that I keep returning too.

Quote from the book –

If you and I were out on a shoot and you asked me, “Hey Scott, I want the light for this portrait to look really soft and flattering. How far back should I put this softbox?” I wouldn’t give you a lecture about lighting rations, or flash modifiers. In real life, I’d just turn to you and say, “Move it in close to your subject as you possibly can, without it actually showing up in the shot.’

The second is another feature packed gardening book called ‘Grow Your Own Kitchen Garden Year’ by the Royal Horticultural Society.

It starts with the basics & leads you through each month providing you with plenty of help and tips throughout the whole year. It looks to be the  perfect companion to what will be my second year at growing my own.

I can also recommend a similar book by the RHS  I recieved last Christmas which is written by BBC Gardeners World’s Carol Kline ( This really helped me a lot last year!

Another great present was a  new Radio Controlled Helicopter! It’s about 2ft long and therefore seems stable outside in the wind.

Great fun to fly..ahem…., well it was for the first three minutes. I had a bit of a ‘Frank Spencer’ moment resulting in it hitting the hedge & nose diving into the drive. The rear rota blade snapped off and is beyond repair I’m afraid. Thankfully, replacement parts where easily found on eBay so these have now been ordered. In anticipation of more accidents, I’ve actually ordered LOTS of spares  😛

Curstie has the hilarious moment caught on her phone camera which I’m sure will find its way on to YouTube or this blog one day!

I’ve also been looking at buying a very lightweight, cheap, almost disposal video camera which I’d love to affix to the underside of the helicopter. Would be great to get a bird’s eye view of the garden. Of course, I’d better learn to fly the thing first!

Speaking of cameras..well lenses anyway, I’ve received plenty of £££ from family so will be purchasing a new camera lens very soon. At the moment i just can’t decide between macro, mid range or telephoto.

These are just some of the many wonderful gifts I’ve received this year and would like to express my thanks to everyone.

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‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’

So far, we’ve only had a light dusting of snow, but today it’s coming down thick ‘n’ fast and doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon. There’s hope for a White Christmas yet!

*note to myself, a couple of crushed garlic gloves & a few sprigs of rosemary added to oil/duck fat coated potatoes = the tastiest roasties I’ve made all year!

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Snow…well almost!

Heavy snow has been predicted to hit parts of the  UK from this evening & many areas of the country are already seeing their first winter shower since February. It started here around noon & promptly finished about five minutes later. However, since then it seems to be coming and going in drifts and at present, there’s a thin dusting covering the ground. We won’t be rushing out with carrot & coal just yet though!

I recall  the last time we were blessed with picturesque snow at Christmas  was around 1979 or 1980. I was only five or six at the time & can remember visiting aunts & uncles houses for Boxing day parties clutching my newly acquired Action Man (or GI Joe) and the fear of losing it whilst be towed along on a sleigh.

But for now, one can only hope for a white christmas!

No quite a white-out on our garden chair.

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More winter cleanup

Expecting Curstie’s Christmas present to be delivered today so I didn’t want to stray away from the house for fear of missing the delivery chap.

Whilst I waited in, I thought I’d best crack on with a few jobs out in the garden during my week off work. Today was jet washing day, primarily the front paths.

The front of our house faces north so the paths do get in a bit of a state if left alone and it’s been a while since done them. Wrapped up against this chilly air I made a start on the worst area by clearing the decaying leaves first & then hitting the moss with the jet wash. Although it was very cold and constantly getting soaked  from the backwash of the jetwash, it was actually quite fun!

About 2 hours later into the job, the delivery man arrived bearing gifts so I deposited in the house until after I’d finishing outside. After I’d finished I didn’t realise actually how wet I was. Next time I’ll put on my water proofs!

By the time I’d packed away, time was cracking on & not wanting Curstie to arrive home from work with her new laptop on display, I quickly hid it so she’s not tempted to have a peek before the 25th. Of course, I had a sneaky peek but that was just to make sure it wasn’t damaged & it booted o.k. – honest!

I’ll get it set up tomorrow, wrap it & place it under the tree.

More garden cleanup planned for tomorrow….unless snow falls as the weather forecast seems to be predicting. If so, I’m off out into the Peak District with my camera.

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New camera lens?

I’m toying with the idea of getting a new camera lens for Christmas. Something that’s better  optically than my Canon kit 18-55mm lens but a smaller range than my Tamron 28-300mm. Something I can use an everyday lens when a large telephoto isn’t required.

I’ve been researching for quite a while now and may settle on either the Canon EF28-135mm IS USM or the Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS USM. Both have image stabilisation,  fast/silent USM auto focus & won’t break the bank unlike the ‘L’ series.

Canon EF-S 17-85mm F/4-5.5 IS USM

Canon EF 28-135mm F3.5/5.6 IS USM

I got chatting to a fellow photographer at work who owns the 28-135mm and kindly offered to bring it in for me to take a test drive. So, the next day, I brought my camera in, swapped over the lens & went out for a stroll at lunchtime to take a few snaps.

It’s a weighty beast & makes my 18-55mm feel like a toy from a Christmas cracker. This is the first time i’ve used a USM lens and although the noise/or no noise in the case doesn’t bother me either way, the auto focus is lightning fast. The manual focus ring also extremely precise unlike my other two lenses & is conveniently closer to the camera body rather than in the middle of the lense or in the case of my 18-55mm, at furthest end.

Here’s a few sample shots which I’d taken hand-held.

How this stacks up against the the 17-85mm, I have no idea. Decisions decisions & more research i think…and possibly a trip to Jessops!

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