New Zealand trip Day Five

[Monday 31st October, 2016]

I’ve been trying to get this done for days, obviously more than a week even but my computer has started down the slow walk to death after various bad treatments over the not so long period that I’ve had it. You know, dropping it on the floor while carrying it in one hand and food in the other (I mean tough choice, which do I save?), accidentally letting it fall off the bed while it was balanced on the edge trying to connect to the wifi while I’m upstairs (the wifi connection keeps getting weaker!), lugging it in a suitcase or carry on luggage or hand bag around the city and the world, letting it fall down the stairs while carrying it one hand stacked with all kinds of things that need to go up or down the stairs; all the way down the stairs! Balancing it on the laundry sink while doing the washing and maybe it slipped in…carrying it in the washing basket maybe getting it a bit damp, tripping over the power cord and tugging it off the couch, it all comes out! Obviously I live a bit too closely with my laptop, but that’s another issue. What have you done to your laptop?! says hubby. Oh nothing, why, it’s fine! But the toll has started taking its grip with a screw falling out, then another screw, then the backing coming off (but you can put it back on!) and finally a loose wire poking out! Oops! I do regret the amount of damage that I do…it’s becomes one long line of sorries! I never mean to do it, I never plan on it, and it always comes as a surprise somehow even though in hindsight obviously it wasn’t the best plan. Am I just clumsy? Hubby thinks more like careless or thoughtless or something. Either, either…well that doesn’t work well as text, but you know what I mean. The point of this gibber gabber? My computer which was never strong on finding wifi connections right in front of its nose has now almost ceased to find them at all! I stick the wifi right under its nose, it’s right there, but it secures the connection without internet, or connect to the internet but so tenuously that as soon as you want to actually USE the internet, it all falls down and drops out! So I’ve been trying on and on to upload a photo for this blog and I can’t! Jolly annoying since all the photos are on my computer only. And of course being away from “home home” I don’t have a USB to transfer the photo to hubby’s laptop. They are still on my camera so by some lengthy process involving cables and memory cards and installing software I’ll figure it out, but now my internet isn’t even sufficient to save this draft. Blah blah blah excuses excuses. On to the actual matter at hand!

Today is the last day of our cycling tour. It has gone really fast!! So far 78 kilometres, oh my. 78 kilometres of beautiful scenery, great food and birds; oh and nice company. Today is going to be our longest day, but plenty of stops so let’s do this! We started from Havelock North at 9.30am with the plan to cycle back to Napier, then onwards to the next part of our holiday. My quads are really stiff today! Maybe due to getting very wet, then very cold then huddling inside getting warm with no stretching yesterday blah blah. So I’m feeling a bit sluggish from that, then the first 3km are a small grinding gradient uphill making my legs feel totally feeble and useless. I hate grinding gradients! Although I am not a fan of hills, I’d rather go up and down sharp hills all day then grind slowly upwards. But after that 3km the rest of the day was lovely and flat so…besides at the end of that short 3km was an absolutely gorgeous winery, Black Barn Vineyard! I mean this was the epitome of a beautiful Tuscan vineyard set on a sloping hill with olive, fig and citrus trees, a private estate for rich people at the top of the hill with ocean views then a stunning winery including outdoor dining under the vines and…gee, am I gushing? It also has a cute boutique food and gift shop. It was so nice! BUT…it was before 10 in the morning so no tastings. It’s just a bit early. Besides, we’re not exactly starving for wine, hey? Next stop: Te Mata cheese factory! Oh yeah, much more interesting; I LOVE cheese! Tastings, tastings, tastings but sadly no purchases; just too difficult to get back to Aus. But seriously: Takina Gold, Camembert, pink and white terraces named after the now-extinct landmark, sheep hard cheese Sleeping Giant, young sheep cheddar, drool, drool, drool! Aahhh, but sadly no. But instead we had a drink and snack and I discovered the amazing New Zealand creation of berry smoothie in a bottle! Delish! Now back on the bike. We could sit here all day but…gotta get back on the flood levee bike paths and follow the Tukituki river out to the coast and check out the lovely wetlands around the mouth of the river. What a lovely ride once again, so pretty and what a fine day today; fine, warm, excellent! Then through the cute little town of Haumoana and along the coast on a gravel track to the stunning Elephant Hill winery for a tasting. It’s another beautiful vineyard and a unique winery with the outer building completely made of copper, designed to look like the ocean; and it really does, sea blue with an infinity pool, very posh eating, all the drinks back lit with blue lighting, and very professional staff. Actually by the time we got there I was a bit in the zone. 3 days of riding, of socialising, of new experiences, new people, new scenery, and I am a bit washed out. Plus its our last day in the north island and I’m not at all sure that I’ve seen enough birds yet. A tasting or two in and I’m over it. Instead I’m going to wander around outside in peace and quiet and solitude and talk to the birds and get some photos until the others are ready.

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Next up is lunch at the Te Awanga winery up the road (literally, like 300 metres) and a tasting at the table there. Much better than standing around tasting. Another beautiful lunch and a lovely lady who brought us tastings with sea views and a gorgeous cottage garden. Actually I’m over tastings, well not the white ones but reds have gotten on my wick, I never liked red much to begin with but tried them anyway and a couple were alright in that they weren’t very red-like, but I’m done with them now, unless its a sticky dessert type thingamebob. It’s odd, with the last tour I didn’t get sick of tasting over the 5 days, but here after 2 days I’m done. Well after filling our faces, off back to Napier. After some issues with wind, it’s meant to be a tail wind all the way home! YIPPEE! And what do you know? A lot of the way home is along a wetland between the shore and the levee, YAY for me! Birds and more birds! So 47km done today bringing our grand total to 126km with the group, and another few kilometres around town. Unfortunately my grand plan of doing the 1 hour walk around the boardwalk on the estuary in town didn’t really eventuate. I mean let’s be realistic: 47km today, 134km all up and I thought I was going to do a walk? With no way to actually get there once the bike was returned? No, no. A shower, a spa to repair my legs and wait for it, the best is yet to come! Dinner at the Mission winery! Exceptional 3 course meal! Truly amazing! Crayfish bisque; superb! Absolutely divine pork belly, which nearly everyone at the table chose. And vanilla and peach schnapps creme brulee with the most amazing super thinly sliced pink lady apple flash frozen and super sweet! Fantastic! Definitely a recommendation. No sad goodbyes, just glad that we got to do the tour and on to the rest of all our holidays.

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New Zealand trip Day Four

(Sunday 30th October, 2016)

Well I’m trying to catch up on this blog bit by bit, sorry for the delays. I’m sitting in Wellington airport with brilliant wifi on Tuesday 1st November so let’s go! Okay well it’s 3rd November, but let’s get this done.

We had a really nice room at the Colonial Lodge Motel for last (Saturday 29th October) night. A lovely place with well kept gardens of roses and friendly staff. Breakfast was room service continental but if you wanted a hot breakfast you just paid the difference. It’s quite nice really, having breakfast brought to you! So eggs in bed 🙂 We planned to get going at 9.30am and today we were ready in time, not 10 minutes late like yesterday! Getting packed up everyday isn’t the most fun but its all to a good purpose. After riding for 10 minutes yesterday with rain falling on and running off my bare arms, the lovely tour guide Jenny brought me paniers for my bike so I could stow my vest and jacket for possible future use; just as well, cos we got caught in rain again! My jacket isn’t waterproof but at least it takes the worst of the rain so it isn’t landing directly on you. And I can tuck my camera into it. Theoretically. I ended up tucking it back in every few seconds! Turns out my comfort level for exposure of my camera to drizzle is a lot higher than to rain; when it’s “tipping down” as Jenny says, having it half covered isn’t really good enough so I was fidgeting with it for the last couple of kilometres! Should have stowed it in the paniers like hubby said as soon as it started spitting but spitting doesn’t always turn into raining and I’m loving taking pictures of our trip. In another life I think I’ll be a photojournalist. If anyone would actually pay me for it! The other thing Jenny brought me this morning was gloves. I never wear gloves. I dunno why, just never started. Nearly everyone else at Wheel Women wear gloves, but I’ve just got the one pair of fleece gloves in case of freezing weather, and I forget to wear them half the time! On a multi day tour the heels of your hands can get a bit sore from vibrating on the handle grips but I’ve never been bothered enough by it to do anything about it. However yesterday was different. The rain was tipping down, my arms were soaked and water was running off my arms and hands, and I lost my grip on the handle bars! They were proper rubber handles and super grippy to start with, but the water made them as slippery as anything and I was battling to hold on! So lucky that Jenny had some in lost property! And that she’s such a generous soul. So I was better prepared today, and off we go. It’s nice to just ride out from where we’re staying, and not need to be bused about.

Today was only 4km longer than yesterday, we ended up doing 41km compared to 37km but it felt longer and more difficult! For starters I was a bit stiff and sore today from yesterday. I’m wishing I stuck to that training plan now, and that riding 40kms was a bit more of a routine thing. Anyway, let bygones etc. Most of the difficulty was due to the windy conditions that we were battling through but also to the fact that we rode almost the whole distance before stopping for anything. Yesterday we had several stops: the old bridge, the estuary, Mission estate, Church Road winery etc, every few kilometres. Today we stopped for coffee after 17km, and that was only at a coffee cart, then we rode through to lunch, the full distance done. It was a bit tough ploughing through the wind but still lovely and sunny in the morning. Up on that elevated bank, originally a flood levee, and you’re just so exposed. So we were glad to get off it onto flat roads through the orchards and vineyards and heritage listed avenue of trees around Havelock North. Except that no sooner had we gotten into that bumpy patchy path than the it started spitting! But spitting doesn’t always turn to raining right? Wrong. Argh. The last couple of kilometres were going to be tough anyway for me especially with a cross wind but now rain is pelting down and unlike yesterday, it isn’t warm! It snowed overnight!! Within sight of where we stayed! You could definitely feel the chill so I’d been wearing my jacket all day, me, and now cold rain and wind to make it colder! Not a lot of fun. We’d had a shower earlier too, apparently there was hail in it but I didn’t notice. That was kind of fascinating because it was clearly a front. It came from behind, gave us a short sharp blast then with a swirl of wind it had passed through, over and done with in seconds. Not this rain, it was settling in to go all day! Thankfully we got to the winery for lunch and didn’t have to contemplate getting back on our bikes again that day! I don’t think we could have!

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So we’re at the winery. 1.30pm on a Sunday and we come in like drenched rats! Everyone else is dressed up and out for lunch and we’re in wet runners and sports clothes! Well I’m in my cleats actually cos I’m so used to them now, even if I’m not used to the pedals on my hire bike; so far no mishaps! Even those with waterproof coats had wet hair from the helmet vents, and some had wet necks and backs, and all had wet pants. Not really fun. My hair was satched so I thought I’d use my neck scarf to cover it, but it was wet. Sitting down was kind of cold. I did change out of my wet jacket and scarf and into my dry vest but it wasn’t really cutting it so we asked the maitre d to turn on the heaters. Apparently my lips were purple! Those who know me or read this blog will know that I’m almost never cold, and certainly not this cold! But wet cold is very different to dry cold. We had an AMAZING lunch! THE best lamb I’ve ever had, just ahead of my grandma’s. 12 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder with a subtle glaze that just fell off the bone it was served on! We all absolutely LOVED the lamb and I think most of us are going home to try to replicate it. We also had a lovely antipasto platter of prosciutto, mustard, pickled veg, terrine, a couple of salami types and a gorgeous fresh salad which gave new meaning to green salad by being literally all green! Uber finely sliced cabbage, fennel, mint with barely any dressing if any and such a fresh taste. A yummy fish dish with calamari, tasty dressing, so kinds of tasty its and bits and some kind of black pappadum.

Not so many photos today, I was too busy turning one leg over the other and battling with myself, the wind and then the rain! It was beautiful scenery again, and lots to remember, just not so much recorded. Is that okay? Probably its all I could physically manage at the time, but I do love having my photos to remind me as my memories rapidly fade!! “Home” to Havelock North to crank up the heater and warm up and dry out our clothes for packing. It’s free night tonight, no group activity, so we head to the recommended Mamasita Mexican and love it! Delicious tacos and Mexican drinks, ahh ready for bed!

Canberra Day Forty One

[Friday 21st October, 2016]

Late night last night, late morning this morning. I had alarms set for 7am, 8am, 9am and when I had exhausted those by snoozing three times each I slept right on through!! But when I got up I was firing and got a few jobs knocked off that I’ve been shifting through my calendar for…well we won’t dwell on that! Got my physical to-do list organised in time for lunchtime and headed back up the highway to Gold Creek to check out the reptile zoo. And a few vintage cars parked around the place; I think they’re here for the caravan and touring and home and garden show!! Long enough name? Once I finally got someone to come to the front counter at the zoo (I could hear them laughing and chatting at the back!) I had a great time. They have a great range of lizards, snakes, crocodiles, frogs and everything in between! Quite fascinating, and the staff were accommodating offering pats of different lizards and snakes; not too near the snakes! A lot of information around about different animals, could be more but better than certain other places I’ve been lately. I was pretty impressed really, quite a big range and well kept. I wasn’t in a mood to take in a lot of information but I had fun with my camera taking different shots. Good times.

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Had a rather annoying afternoon with Australia Post in their shop after that, as though a phone call to them this morning hadn’t been enough! They’ve stuffed up our mail redirection and its still going to our family even though the sticker shows that that redirection expired a week ago! And nothing is coming here, although it should have been for a week! And now, because our new accommodation gave us their office unit number not our actual unit number to us before we moved in, I’ve had to cancel and restart our second redirection and pay for it again. Yes, I’ve paid twice for a service that I’m not getting. Can you feel my temperature rising? The humidity isn’t helping either. Grrrrr. Also I sent my knives off to be sharpened a month ago which was supposed to take 2 weeks, and they still aren’t back. Although with the current mail bungle they could be in Melbourne for all I know!! Argh! Home for a nap. I’m drained! I was planning on a lovely bike ride that I mapped out on Google maps last night, and I’ve packed my bike and helmet in the car and everything, but I just can’t. Now I just have to hope that the rain doesn’t start too early or too heavily tomorrow. This is why you do your ride first thing, I hear hubby saying in my mind, then it doesn’t matter what happens; you’re all good. But he didn’t say that. He empathised, and understood and that was just the best! Awesome guy!

Stay tuned for tomorrow; it’s a special day. Til then, and I’m off to bed at a reasonable hour! Success!

Canberra Day Ten

There’s something about “having” to get going in the morning to take hubby to work that really keeps me going and it’s working well. Actually, until his new workplace provide him with an ID and access to the change rooms (I mean its only been 7 workdays!), he’s been given authority to charge a cab to and from work. But I asked if I could still take him in of a morning, because it’s really working for me. And why tamper with a willing system?

I took my bike AGAIN today, two days in a row, and did the same combination of central loop/eastern loop of the Lake Burley Griffin bike path. I love that lake every time I see it: it’s so scenic, and rich with birds, and history. Not to be caught out with my camera twice, I slung it over my shoulder and headed off. Not the best set up but it worked well enough. It was pretty chilly but I had my camera and my bike and I was excited! Anticipation is so powerful. I guess it’s like hope, in a way. And hope is probably the most powerful counter balance to mental illness.

I got my photos of the NINE ducklings. YAY! Hope fulfilled. Plus unexpectedly another family of ELEVEN ducklings!! And TWO Masked Lapwing (previously Plover) chicks!!! And a baby rabbit! And a baby Golden Whistler that was playfully flitting around the tree above my head. This paragraph hardly does justice to the joy, the bliss, and excitement, and happiness that all of this brings to me! It was a beautiful morning. Not only that but I recorded MORE species of birds this morning; FORTY FOUR up from THIRTY EIGHT yesterday, including a Double Barred Finch which was a LIFER for me; a bird that I’ve never come across before. That’s because it doesn’t occur naturally in Victoria – truly a bird for above the border.

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I had another fun jaunt at Floriade checking out the shopping stalls, trying one some clothes, tasting the honey donuts which were a terrific recommendation from a friend, and checking out the flowers. I can already see some tulips starting to fall apart, and others popping up and starting to unfold. I can see how a week can make for a total change in the gardens. I still haven’t tried the ferris wheel, but I will.

You must check out my website for Spring Babies!

And for some photos of the beautiful Lake Burley Griffin check out Bike Ride and Baby Shower and Morning Lake Burley Griffin Drive.

Magical Monday

New bird alert! New bird alert! Excitement, excitement!

And what a relief it is on a day like this, a week like this, to feel excitement!

I haven’t been having a very fun time of it, to be honest. Everything is a bit or a lot hard, tedious, effortful, difficult, troublesome, not worth it. Getting up is a drag, showering is a hideous ordeal, eating is just tiring, deciding to do anything is impossible! I’ve been sleeping a lot, avoiding thinking about my to-do list a lot, and just skimming through the days til bedtime.

It’s not fun!

But here is an effort, however tiny and minuscule, yet enormous and huge, to get out. Just for a little bit. Just to have done something other than be at home; unproductively, unsuccessfully, un-impressively at home.

It’s all in my new direction from the psychiatrist – getting outside, enjoying the sunshine. I’m trying to do my bit since he has turned my life around. I owe him that much.

I realise I also owe that much, or more, to my husband as well so here it comes Beautiful: I promise to try your caring suggestions and get a bit motivated and interested if I can!

Ah, IF. The stories you could tell…

So in the late afternoon on Monday I gathered myself up, stuffed myself into some clothes (hopefully matching!), got the car out and took myself down to my old favourite birding spot; Blackburn Lake Sanctuary.

I can’t believe how long it has been since I was down here last! I’m definitely going to make more of an effort to get here more often because let’s face it, in suburbia anywhere it’s a great privilege to have some green spaces nearby for an escape/retreat/sanctuary/reset.

And every time it rewards me so greatly. This time I didn’t even get past the car park for the first hour!

I heard some lorikeets, assumed they were Rainbows but then caught a glimpse and they had shorter tails and red on their head! New bird!!!!

They were truly beautiful, and fun, and acrobatic, and shrieky, and a challenge to get still enough for a decent focused photo!

Honestly I felt as much satisfaction from changing the settings to get a better picture as I did in finding a never-before-seen-or-photographed-bird!

I changed to shutter mode to still their actions after using the programmable mode gave me a too-slow shutter speed and was too slow to focus, and was too dark and too grainy! Then I had to keep adjusting the ISO and exposure as I followed the birds around depending on whether I was shooting up at the outside of the tree in full sun, shooting under the canopy up into the dark shadow or straight across at a neighbouring tree…etc.

I was pretty proud of some of the photos I got. I always recognise that chance and luck have quite a bit to do with the photos, but having purposely set the variables, I do take pride in the fact that the photo was taken by chance and the settings were perfect for that chance!

So here’s a few of my favourites! Hope you can enjoy looking at them as much as I did taking them!

We start in some gorgeous wattle trees where there’s some pretty fierce competition from cranky Red Wattlebirds and Noisy Miners, plus some quiet guests in the lovely Galahs.

New bird! The gorgeous Musk Lorikeet - vibrant red forehead, cheek and tip of beak, wattle

New bird! The gorgeous Musk Lorikeet – vibrant red forehead, cheek and tip of beak

Musk Lorikeets are apparently notoriously hard to find because like other lorikeets the only time they’re quiet is when they’re eating! Add to this their preference for eating on top of the canopy where they not only blend in with their green underbelly but are hidden by layers of branches and leaves! So I feel pretty lucky that they choose these low growing trees to feed from.

Pretty pretty pretty! I love the yellow patches just above the wing and the blue head!

Pretty pretty pretty! I love the yellow patches just above the wing and the blue head!

I always appreciate it when my birds kindly move to the dead trees and branches – it’s very convenient to me! Thanks for the photo op!

The perfect camoflage - despite the colourful patches, when the lorikeet turns its back it becomes invisible!

The perfect camouflage – despite the colourful patches, when the lorikeet turns its back it becomes invisible!

This is a photo that makes me really proud of what I have achieved! To shoot past all of the sticks and leaves to get a clear focus on the bird is a very tricky thing, and something I wouldn’t have been able to do before my photography course – kudos to Master Your Camera’s Wendy!

This is a photo that makes me really proud of what I have achieved! To shoot past all of the sticks and leaves to get a clear focus on the bird is a very tricky thing, and something I wouldn't have been able to do before my photography course

The dangling upside down antics of these Musk Lorikeets are so delightful! In this shot you can make out the brownish yellow patch on its back

This photo is typical of my excitement when I find a new bird. At first I just snap away furiously to get a shot, any shot. Then I realise they’re not going anywhere and slow down and start adjusting the settings. Then I can take a breath, stop and actually look at composing a shot for the best photos of the day – this is just about it!

This photo is typical of my excitement when I find a new bird. At first I just snap away furiously to get a shot, any shot. Then I realise they're not going anywhere and slow down and start adjusting the settings. Then I can take a breath, stop and actually look at composing a shot for the best photos of the day

Always dangling for the best bite to eat! Love all of the different colours.

One downside of shooting through the exterior is that you can get foggy patches in your photos!

I love this photo for the underbelly of the bird, something that isn't always photographed but I find it fascinating!

I love this photo for the underbelly of the bird, something that isn’t always photographed but I find it fascinating!

Then the Red Wattlebirds and Noisy Miners got too overpowering and my new friends all flew off squawking and squarking! Luckily they didn’t go too far and settled in a nearby eucalyptus and a different wattle tree. This was perfect as they were in the clear path of the afternoon sun which always makes everything look beautiful and good as new!

And towards the end I get this shot! Love it, this shows so much character of this bird!, gum tree, eucalypt

And towards the end I get this shot! Love it, this shows so much character of this bird!

Wild flower

[Edit, 14th August 2015: in order to keep this blog going and to keep showing you my photos, I’ve had to make room otherwise I’ll be all full up and writing you essays every time! Thanks for your understanding, as I delete all of these flower photos!]

Okay so you know how I’m just like a teensy tiny eeny weeny little bit obsessed with birds? With hearing them, finding them, seeing them, photographing etc?

Well nothing about that has changed but I’m adding a bit of variety into the mix.

For nearly four years, since hubby and I took a trip to Perth and southern Western Australia over the New Year break in 2010/1, I have wanted to go back there during the wild flower season which is famous world wide. I even booked it into my hard copy calendar on the wall for the following year, but before the dates came around we moved house and the calendar was abandoned to a box in the shed and the idea was forgotten.

Until this year. We received a Save The Date card in August for a family wedding just outside of Perth in Swan Valley for the end of October! Eeek! Right at the tail end of the wildflower season!! YAY!!!

So I jumped right into research mode: what species of flowers would be flowering, in what areas, at what time in the season, where would be best to see them, who operated tours in the right areas. Typical over-organisation, but it’s fun so where’s the harm, right?

As well as my own research, I took the topic to my last photography class and quizzed my teacher (Wendy Clark – Empathy Photographics, Master Your Camera) on photographing miniature flowers, seeing as she is an expert in photographing wild native orchids: lighting, sun and shade, getting up close, use of zoom, getting the colour right, time of day etc.

So excitingly, the right place for sighting and photographing wildflowers at the end of October is right in Perth and southern Western Australia, exactly where we’ll be! As well as hanging out with my husband’s family in Perth I have a lot of family to visit down south as far as Bunbury so I feel like the stars have aligned for wildflower hunting and photography! Awesome!

I’ve looked up all the tours, but Kings Park in the centre of Perth has an amazing display of wildflowers apparently, and some of my family have paddocks of wildflowers next to their properties so I’m going to get my fill there and if I still need some more flowers then I’ll book once I’m there.

So why am I writing all this blah blah? Because I’m about to throw a bazillion practice photos at you *evil smile* I’ve been practicing in the gardens of my neighbours, in the park, at the awesome holiday house my mum and dad (and me and hubby some of the time) just stayed in for a week courtesy of the Otis Foundation at Wattle Point, on Raymond Island, in the Blond Bay game reserve, on the silt jetties outside of Paynesville, Bluff lookout…essentially anytime I find a flower that might be native, or any flower really, and have my camera nearby.

I’m trying to focus on native flowers, but as it happens, I don’t really know which flowers are native and which have been imported. I mean some are obvious, like I know gum flowers and heath and wild orchids are Australian, and willow trees and camelias and holly are from England, but that’s about the whole of my knowledge! So I’m in the market for a field guide, some more experience and maybe a tiny version of a tripod for getting those awkward shots.

In the meantime, here are the flowers from my holiday out East to tantalise us for the West!

Apparently this beautiful flower is called

Apparently this beautiful flower is called “Pig Face”! It’s also pink not magenta, but I couldn’t make my camera agree!

Beautiful purple flowering vine on the lemon version of

Beautiful purple flowering vine on the lemon version of “Pig Face”

Pink flowering gum blossoming out of gumnuts

Pink flowering gum blossoming out of gumnuts

We all fell in LOVE with these gorgeous blue flowers that creep as a vine into other bushes and trees

We all fell in LOVE with these gorgeous blue flowers that creep as a vine into other bushes and trees

Our pretty state emblem, the Heath bell flowers

Our pretty state emblem, the Heath bell flowers

Lovely small little yellow flowers

Lovely small little yellow flowers

Another in the trillions of white star flowers - its amazing how different each one is!

Another in the trillions of white star flowers – its amazing how different each one is!

I love how these white star flowers have little divets cut in between

I love how these white star flowers have little divets cut in between

Very Christmasy native with all the delicate scrolls and bobbles

Very Christmasy native with all the delicate scrolls and bobbles

A fabulous Christmas coloured Kangaroo Paw, definitely Australian!

A fabulous Christmas coloured Kangaroo Paw, definitely Australian!

A weird knobbly kind of flower on a green bush

A weird knobbly kind of flower on a green bush

A fascinating kind of Grevillea flower, all spikes and yellow nobbles

A fascinating kind of Grevillea flower, all spikes and yellow nobbles

A pink variation on the cotton candy bush where the flower bursts out of the nut

A pink variation on the cotton candy bush where the flower bursts out of the nut

Lovely pink Melaleuca flowers, a childhood favourite of mine - love how they cover the whole bush

Lovely pink Melaleuca flowers, a childhood favourite of mine – love how they cover the whole bush

Delightful masses of tiny pink flowers growing off spikes

Delightful masses of tiny pink flowers growing off spikes

Gorgeous pea flower growing prolifically! Fabulous colour!

Gorgeous pea flower growing prolifically! Fabulous colour!

This pretty pea flower is apparently called the egg and bacon bush! What?!

This pretty pea flower is apparently called the egg and bacon bush! What?!

More star flowers than I can count! This time they are mauve

More star flowers than I can count! This time they are mauve

Another pretty purple hibiscus flower

Another pretty purple hibiscus flower

Lovely spike of tiny pink flowers

Lovely spike of tiny pink flowers

Christmas bells! Hope they last til the festive season

Christmas bells! Hope they last til the festive season

Yellow button flowers clustering together

Yellow button flowers clustering together

Pretty pretty white star flowers with cute baubles

Pretty pretty white star flowers with cute baubles

How much do these gorgeous flowers look like butterflies?

How much do these gorgeous flowers look like butterflies?

A cute littlepurple paper mache type pom pom flower

A cute little purple paper mache type pom pom flower

fabulously intricate white flower with yellow stamens

fabulously intricate white flower with yellow stamens

If you look closely you see that there is a long thin red and yellow stem coming out of the centre of this tiny star flower

If you look closely you see that there is a long thin red and yellow stem coming out of the centre of this tiny star flower

White ringed yellow centred pink daisy - so pretty!

White ringed yellow centred pink daisy – so pretty!

A cotton wool type flowering popping out of a nut

A cotton wool type flowering popping out of a nut

Another Christmas like delight unfurling from a tight little bud

Another Christmas like delight unfurling from a tight little bud

Another spiky bobbly Christmassy flower

Another spiky bobbly Christmassy flower

All I can think of looking at these flowers is false eyelashes

All I can think of when looking at these flowers is false eyelashes

A funny bobbly seed pod: not sure if it was a flower or always a pod

A funny bobbly seed pod: not sure if it was a flower or always a pod

Chewed on yellow centred yellow daisy with creepy crawlies

Chewed on yellow centred yellow daisy with creepy crawlies

Don't know what these yellow centred star fllowers are but they're cute

Don’t know what these yellow centred star fllowers are but they’re cute

Orange dotted purple centred washed out orange daisy

Orange dotted purple centred washed out orange daisy

White sprigs of blossom, perfect for a vase

White sprigs of blossom, perfect for a vase

A gorgeous yellow sprig of star flowers on a ridiculously long and fragile stem - hard to capture blowing in the wind!

A gorgeous yellow sprig of star flowers on a ridiculously long and fragile stem – hard to capture blowing in the wind!

I call these cotton ball flowers - no idea what they actually are

I call these cotton ball flowers – no idea what they actually are

Cutesy little rose like flower bursting out of little nuts

Cutesy little rose like flower bursting out of little nuts

Yellow centred purple daisy standing out by itself, bank, green plant

Yellow centred purple daisy standing out by itself

Purple centred peachy coloured daisy

Purple centred peachy coloured daisy

Delightful little purple flowers giving colour to a grey bush

Delightful little purple flowers giving colour to a grey bush

fabulously tiny and petite purple flowers growing on a bush

Fabulously tiny and petite purple flowers growing on a bush

Cape weed - an introduced pest but it does look spectacular in the springtime

Cape weed – an introduced pest but it does look spectacular in the springtime

Lovely yellow centred white ringed pink daisy...just a tad chomped on by rogue bunny rabbits

Lovely yellow centred white ringed pink daisy…just a tad chomped on by rogue bunny rabbits

Lovely trumpet type flower, pale pink on the outside, maroon on the inside

Lovely trumpet type flower, pale pink on the outside, maroon on the inside

Pretty white 4 sided star flower in a bunch

Pretty white 4 sided star flower in a bunch

Delightful white daisy with pink dots - the bush is amazing!

Delightful white daisy with pink dots – the bush is amazing!

Lovely double sided crinkle edged yellow flower

Lovely double sided crinkle edged yellow flower

Teensy tiny itty bitty purple flowers on a grass bush

Teensy tiny itty bitty purple flowers on a grass bush

Fabulous yellow centred yellow daisies - such a prolific flowering plant

Fabulous yellow centred yellow daisies – such a prolific flowering plant

Pretty pretty pretty - a lovely yellow centred white daisy

Pretty pretty pretty – a lovely yellow centred white daisy

Not sure what it is but love the green-red contrast and delicate flower

Not sure what it is but love the green-red contrast and delicate flower

Blue and yellow centred white daisy

Blue and yellow centred white daisy

Looks like the other pink pea flower but this is a bush, not a tree

Looks like the other pink pea flower but this is a bush, not a tree

Beautiful bunch of white star flowers

Beautiful bunch of white star flowers

Lovely purple hibiscus flower, paper thin but surprisingly lasting

Lovely purple hibiscus flower, paper thin but surprisingly lasting

Pretty little blue star growing out of a grass bush

Pretty little blue star growing out of a grass bush

Saturday and Monday

I have been having some great days lately.

At my last visit with the psychiatrist he assured me that despite having poor energy and motivation, he felt I was 75-80% of the way to recovery.

He increased my lithium dose minutely and organised to have a blood level taken after 5 days at the new dose. That was Saturday morning. I see him this Thursday and I’m feeling so excited because for the first time in a long time I feel like I’m making real, sustainable, predictable, reliable progress.

I feel like I’m getting my life back!!

This is a big statement but it’s really, truly real.

I’m not all the way there but I’m so much better than I have been for a long time.

So Saturday I had the blood test. My long disused pharmacy knowledge is begging to be used so excuse the following jibber jabber.

Lithium is a tricky medication. For a lot of medication, you start at a certain dose, then increase by certain increments and the effect of the medication increases at the same rate as the dose to a set maximum dose.

For lithium and a few other medications, you start at a certain dose, then increase at ever smaller and smaller amounts because the removal of the drug from the body is limited and once the removal process is used up, more dose increases quickly lead to toxicity. For these medications there may not be a set maximum dose for all people as it depends on an individual person’s removal processes, or metabolism.

So a blood concentration or level is used to ensure that the medication is between under dose and overdose limits. These levels are determined during development of the medication for use or during clinical trials.

The blood test has to be taken at the right time so that the result is meaningful. In the case of lithium, the range we use to determine whether the drug is working but not toxic is established as a “trough” level. This means you take the blood test just before the next dose is due when most of the medication should have been removed by the body’s metabolism. If the body’s metabolism has been used up or “saturated” then the trough level will be higher than it should be and the patient is at risk of toxic side effects like blurred vision, unsteadiness, possible vomiting, diarrhoea etc. In fact the patient may already be experiencing these so the doctor will talk to the patient about side effects that they are experiencing plus look at the blood level result to get a clearer idea of what is going on.

The other part of taking a blood test is that it has to be timed correctly to when the dose was last increased. If the dose is increased today and we take a blood test today, the effect of that increase won’t be shown. If we look at the level and increase the dose based on that, we will have acted prematurely and risk the patient getting toxic side effects. So with each medication, there is a length of time between a dose change and when the level should be taken called the steady state. Consider it to be the time it takes for the higher dose to come to equilibrium or to spread out through the body so that it is present everywhere in the body to an equal degree.

For lithium, steady state is 5 days so the blood test must be taken at least 5 days after the last dose change.

Well that’s got that out of my system!

So to have the blood test at trough state, I have to be at the blood collection centre by 8.15am on Saturday. The reason for this is that I took my medications the night before at 8.15pm. Meaning I had to wake up at 7.30am! Good plan, very hard to follow through!! But I had the additional incentive that my hubby was going mountain bike riding and had promised to take me along so that I could go bird watching. I’d wanted to head out to King Lake for bird watching for a while so I was excited for that.

So I forced myself out of bed, through the shower and into the car without breakfast. I also had to have a fasting blood test. I packed my tablets and some food in with my fleece-lined coat and camera and off we went.

I won’t show a lot of my photos from Saturday at Smith’s Gully, just the new birds. But I wanted to say that we left home at 8am and returned at 4pm and I did okay!! This is so exciting for me! I didn’t tire out, I didn’t sit in the car and wait for the boys to get back, I didn’t feel exhausted, I didn’t feel like I couldn’t do what I wanted to do!

I did have a nap when we got home, then went out again for tea with my hubby. But I had walked and walked, I took photos for hours, it was pretty freezing cold, I didn’t have any lollies or chocolates or my other usual treats, I didn’t get grumpy or tired or feel worn out.

What a great day!!

The beautiful Queenstown Cemetery housing old-time gold rush prospecters

The beautiful Queenstown Cemetery housing old-time gold rush prospecters

Gorgeous yellow bulbs growing wild and free in the bush

Gorgeous yellow bulbs growing wild and free in the bush

I loved the beautiful gum bark, looks so much like a watercolour painting, and serendipitously shot an Eastern Rosella!

I loved the beautiful gum bark, looks so much like a watercolour painting, and serendipitously shot an Eastern Rosella! See top left corner

Mother and baby Eastern Grey Kangaroo across the paddock, as soon as I pointed my camera they all looked! So observant, gum trees, grass

Mother and baby Eastern Grey Kangaroo across the paddock, as soon as I pointed my camera they all looked! So observant

Large male Eastern Grey Kangaroo bounding across the paddock, grass, trees

Large male Eastern Grey Kangaroo bounding across the paddock

Beautiful country scene in Smith's Gully, lily pond under the gum trees, grass, reeds

Beautiful country scene in Smith’s Gully, lily pond under the gum trees

One of the many beautiful scenes of the winter sun showing through the gum trees

One of the many beautiful scenes of the winter sun showing through the gum trees

Group of Eastern Grey Kangaroos bounding across the green grass, gum tree

Group of Eastern Grey Kangaroos bounding across the green grass

A tiny litting bird that I've been trying to identify with a good photo for a while! I believe it is a Striated Thornbill; alternate opinions welcomed :)

A tiny flitting bird that I’ve been trying to identify with a good photo for a while! I believe it is a Striated Thornbill; alternate opinions welcomed 🙂

Striated Thornbill with a grub, the longest one sat still all day!!, tree branch

Striated Thornbill with a grub, the longest one sat still all day!!

Male Superb Fairy Wren in the bush, not new but always stunning!, grass, trees, bushes

Male Superb Fairy Wren in the bush, not new but always stunning!

A gorgeous Treecreeper that I have never seen before, I think its the White-Throated Treecreeper, tree branch, leaves

A gorgeous Treecreeper that I have never seen before, I think its the White-Throated Treecreeper

An accidentally amazing shot of a Grey Fantail in full flight!, tree, branch

An accidentally amazing shot of a Grey Fantail in full flight!

A day of rain, cloud, and the odd gorgeous blue sky :), dam, green grass, gum trees, clouds,

A day of rain, cloud, and the odd gorgeous blue sky 🙂

Mother and Joey Eastern Grey Kangaroo, so beautiful! green grass, eucalyptus

Mother and Joey Eastern Grey Kangaroo, so beautiful!

Beautifully delicate wattle sprig - looks like Spring!

Beautifully delicate wattle sprig – looks like Spring!

Sunshine, blue sky and everything is green, green, green, gum trees, shadows, green grass

Sunshine, blue sky and everything is green, green, green

Then Monday, after a slower Sunday. I’d organised to go for a walk with my Grandma at Blackburn Lakes. A couple of new birds, and so many kookaburras!!

A Noisy Miner is a very common sight but I just love this cute shot!, pink flowering gum tree

A Noisy Miner is a very common sight but I just love this cute shot!

I find these sky shots really fetching, I have taken a few lately but this one really draws me in, gum tree

I find these sky shots really fetching, I have taken a few lately but this one really draws me in

Australian Magpie, common but still awesome

Australian Magpie, common but still awesome

Juvenile Australian Magpie singing away, gum trees

Juvenile Australian Magpie singing away

A nesting mother Dove or Pidgeon sitting on its nest

A nesting mother Dove or Pidgeon sitting on its nest

Pair of Kookaburras sitting in a tree, gum tree, euclypt

Pair of Kookaburras sitting in a tree

Common Noisy Miner again, but how pretty are those wings? Sadly mis-timed! dead tree

Common Noisy Miner again, but how pretty are those wings? Sadly mis-timed!

Gorgeous pink native flower, not sure what but its so cute

Gorgeous pink native flower, not sure what but its so cute

Beautiful serene Blackburn Lake

Beautiful serene Blackburn Lake

Pretty Blue Iris flower probably sown by birds

Pretty Blue Iris flower probably sown by birds

Some kind of fungal growth on a tree

Some kind of fungal growth on a tree

Is this our state floral anthem? Its a type of native bell flower

Is this our state floral anthem? Its a type of native bell flower

A new bird to me, the Golden Whistler, a stunning bright yellow!, gum tree

A new bird to me, the Golden Whistler, a stunning bright yellow!

Pretty little Flame Robin showing off its bright colours

Pretty little Flame Robin showing off its bright colours