Friday, 27 June 2008

For no reason whatsoever

My sunflowers have died. Well, all the ones that we planted on the other evening have anyway. I guess their roots where just too badly damaged in the transfer but it was very sad last night to go home and find them all shrivelled up and slumped over their pea-canes. I love sunflowers! I was really looking forward to seeing them in bloom this year. I have a few left over and at least one of them should be a monster plant. Maybe if I get some seeds out in time we can still have an aesthetically pleasing row along the fence. In the meantime here's a picture to light up your day.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Green fingers

Ah! Time for the garden update. We did loads of work on it last night though I have to say most of that work was done by me due to the husband not being able to tell the difference between grass and onions. He required instruction on nearly all of the other jobs that I gave him as well- and yes, you did read that right. I had to give him jobs to do because he couldn't work out what needed doing next by himself and I then had to explain said job and instruct him on the best way to do it. He didn't even know how to pot up some plants! I hadn't realised just how useless he was around the garden as he's always managed to cover it up by using big spades and power tools. At one point last night he got bored with the job he was doing (after about five minutes of it) and just wandered to the back of the garden and start haphazardly hacking bits off of my elderflower tree. I was so shocked that he'd chopped off about 25% of it before I managed to shout him down. For some reason he had just assumed we didn't want it. Luckily he missed all the bits with the berries on but as it was I was forced to chop another 25% off just to neaten it up as he'd left loads of sharp ends at eye level (I really mean the haphazard part). I'm still gobsmacked about it- it was just such a different tack to wander off on and without even thinking to check what it was first. The man is a monster! He did plant me a nice row of sunflowers as a kind of make up for it but even then my input was less than minimal. I swear, he has the common sense of a dead duck when it comes to gardening. I kept having to remind him not to stand on the pumpkin leaves and when I complained he said he couldn't work in that bit of the garden because his feet where just too big (!!!) and went to watch some football. Between the two of us we did manage to get the vegetable patch weeded (no mean feat), pot some plants on and gap fill with seedlings I've had in peat pots to grow on so it's looking super pimp at the mo. We also got our first mini harvest of strawberries and there are some nearly ripe blackcurrants that I got to gloat over. I managed to get rid of all my excess tomato plants at work/knitting group the other day which is good because I now have 14 garlic plants after I split the bulb up and potted them on. We have also added chillies to our selection along with some basil and tarragon. I think the only thing that I'm missing is oregano for my mixed herb group. I've got some coriander seeds to plant this weekend but I've run out of pots and places to put things now so that really has to be it! I just hope it all comes through- everything seems to be very tiny at the moment so it might just be a late harvest. Oh well, this is only our first year doing it after all so we can't expect to get it right first time can we?

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Squirrel sandwiches

Think my kittens can no longer be called kittens- they will have to have the new badge of being called cats :( Am very disappointed by this but I found what was left of a squirrel in my back garden last night so can no longer kid myself that Hoshi and Fenway are the cute little fluffy bundles of fur that they once were but have now morphed into sleek, well muscled killing machines. Not sure which one of them bought it home and it looked more like roadkill than catkill to me what with it being a bit flat round the edges but I'm pretty sure that it was Fenway who ate all the squishy bits as he exploded the cat tray last night and pretty much gassed us out of the house. I don't think he was feeling too well this morning, nor do I feel that he will be mourning the loss of his squirrel. It's a step up from playing with frogs as they bounce through our garden to next doors pond (they have played with and murdered 4 frogs this year that I know of despite my best efforts. It didn't help that the pond got rip in it at prime commuter season as it meant that the frogs didn't have anywhere to hide from my monsters) and one down from 'proud hunter' level. It does mean that I am going to have to invest some more money in effective worming treatments if they are going to be eating manky bits of dead stuff that they have found in the gutter though. Eugh. Though on an interesting anatomical aside I did notice that they had merely hollowed out the body cavity by opening up the stomach so if one had wanted too then it would have been possible to have dried the skin out and done a little skull replacement therapy and you'd have ended up with a tiny squirrel fur rug akin to the polar bear and lion ones that the Victorians favoured. It would certainly be a more appropriate fit for my hallway.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

I've been published

Oh how exciting. Someone found one of my pictures on flickr and used it in a news story about eating insects. Not that it was the greatest article in the world, or indeed the greatest picture ever either. But that's not the point! Someone actually looked at my photographs- this is much more exciting. It was particularly gratifying this morning as I downloaded a whole bunch of photos of the models that I have been making at work. It took an hour to photograph, label and then get onto flickr which in the grand scheme of things is damn quick really but it meant that I had to spend ages hunched up in front of the computer and my shoulders were already sore. By the time I had finished I was feeling mega grumbly and wondering what on earth the whole point of it all was if I was the only person who was ever going to look at them but then I discovered the message in my inbox and felt a bit better about things. I guess its the same with this really- I often wonder whether anyone ever reads my blog but after having given it many hours of hard thought I figure that I don't really care. I write this as much for me as I do for anyone else plus it always gives me that wonderful bargaining chip of saying 'but I wrote about it on my blog' to you all. Teehee.
Anyway- so check out my flickr account as I have put a ton of new photos on there. Most of them are of the new displays and the models that I have been making but I did put on one or two knitting ones as well for those of you that are into that sort of thing. I've done a couple of one skein wonders recently (not that they are all that wonderful I have to say) that I put on. I haven't been able to do too much knitting recently because of my shoulders and my RSI reappearing in my left arm. My skull scarf has floundered as a consequence as I find that hard to knit at the best of times because there are only just enough stitches to fit the circular needle which means I have to constantly push and pull stitches around. Sore arms = no skulls for me but I've had a bit of a break recently so am hoping to get back on it this week. Will keep y'all updated!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Painted cats

Cool or cruel? I really don't know not having much knowledge about the process involved. It is all a bit silly really but when you see pictures like these how can you not be impressed? I think Fenway would look awesome with a skeleton painted on him and we could paint Hoshi with full on tiger stripes as she loves hiding in the grass but stands out a bit too much for it to be really effective. Oh if only I had a large disposable income that I could happily fritter away on this kind of nonsense!

Ginger Nuts

Not sure if I mentioned this already but I was in work for the day last Saturday so that some researchers and a volunteer could come in and use the department. It was a lovely day with many a fun conversation, one of which revolved around the best kind of biscuit for dunking in tea. In my current opinion (please note that this is liable to change with the seasons) ginger nuts are best and have been a long standing favourite of mine. They have a nice tangy flavour, hold their shape well when dunked with none of those annoying gooey bits that drop off into your tea and are not so sweet that it ruins your tea for you. Plus they have the added bonus of having ginger in them which everyone knows is really really good for you so therefore ginger nuts are too. See?- good logic!
Anyway, I had noticed over the last couple of days that a couple of packets of ginger nuts had turned up in the coffee room in our department. There was one on the side where the biscuits live and another on top of one of the printers which I just assumed had been put there out of the way for a special occasion. I had thought it odd however but not nearly as odd as the ones I found in the microwave at half seven this morning! This was utterly confusing for my sleep deprived brain but it did occur to me that maybe my visitors had planted them. I found two more packets after searching the office- one wedged between some box files (I nearly missed this one as it was stood upright with the label outwards so looked like a book on the shelf) and another in the back of the fridge! This made five packets of ginger nuts in total, one of which being a double pack. So many biscuits..... It did make me laugh like a hyena every time I found one and I've been giggling about it all day since then. Seems like a good payment for a days work as far as I'm concerned!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

I'm covered in bees!

Well, the staircase at work was anyway- thankfully it wasn't me being covered in bees seeing as how I reacted to that wasp sting but I couldn't miss out on the chance to quote the glorious Eddie Izzard now could I?
So this is how the story goes. I arrived at work yesterday morning, all bright and chipper at 7:30 (blurgh) to find that the south staircase was covered in bees. Honey bees to be precise, that had escaped from the beehive that we have about half way up the stairs. Someone, and by someone I mean some complete idiot that can only be labelled as 'a member of the public' as no one saw them doing it, removed the bluetac (yes, very technical I know, but it just so happens to be perfect for the job) that covers a wee hole in the tunnel leading from the beehive through the glass of the window and into the outside world. All this does is confuse the bees as as they are crawling through the tunnel they see bright light above them and go up instead of through. They then find themselves on the wrong side of the glass and flying about the museum- eek! There are two problems with this. Firstly the obvious one being that a member of the public or staff could get stung. We get told off quite a lot if this happens as I'm sure you can imagine- though how we are supposed to prevent a bee from stinging someone I don't know. Maybe I just haven't been conducted far enough into the entomologists circle to get to know the secret bee wrangling language. Anyway, secondly this leaves us with a lot of bees that are zipping up the inside of a twenty foot high window and it is next to impossible to get them down again. If you flap around too much they get spooked and release a defence chemical that alerts the others and you get even more coming out of the hive AND they start attacking you because they think that the hive is under threat. Big problemo.
On this occassion someone must have let the bees out quite late in the day as it hadn't been noticed by a member of staff in the museum. Thankfully only about 70 bees came through the hole this time- presumably because they didn't get spooked and discovered that there was no food to be had they were a bit more chilled out about the whole thing. What was really sad however was that most of them died over night as they would have spent the evening battering themselves against the glass in an attempt to reach the outside world again which uses up their little stock of bee juice (energy). Bees need to refuel all the time as they only have a short battery life. So there was a little drift of crunchy dead bees on the stairs. About 20 of them were just alive so I collected them up and gave them some breakfast of sugar water in an attempt to revive them. A few made it through I think. The rest I had to sweep up and bin though I kept some of the little bodies for my new displays so that their deaths would not be a total waste. It's just so annoying! I can't understand what it is that motivates people to do these kind of things. For some reason another favourite seems to be peeling the labels off of the insect tanks on the gallery. They last all of about a month before they get trashed no matter how much sticky tape and glue I use. Who comes to a museum to do these things???

Monday, 16 June 2008

A new addiction

Okay, so everyone knows that I like my computer games despite my best efforts at hiding this. I always try and play it down whenever I can as it's nice to feel as though you have a dirty little secret but its better to have one of the comforting kind (it doesn't really matter if people find out what a nerd I am or how much of my life I waste fighting bad guys after all).
Well, I've gone and got me a new game to be addicted to. My brother got it for me for my birthday but I only received said gift when I went down to Devon to visit the family. I'd managed to ignore it for a week or so before I caved in and sat down to play it. It's essentially a puzzle game with a land-overrun-by-zombies-orcs-and-evil-monsters kind of plot to it. I get to be a hero- pick from the four usual categories of Druid, Warrior, Wizard or Ninja (actually I've forgotten what the fourth category is but you get my point)- and I fight monsters in a matching three of a kind or more coloured blobs type style. The coloured blobs represent mana that lets me cast kick-ass spells. I can also build my own fortress, capture monsters and learn spells from them or train them as mounts, I can forge magical items and lay siege to other kingdoms whilst at the same time following some kind of tenuous story that strings this all together. It's kind of like a slightly more complicated version of connect four where instead of two colours you have four colours of mana, gold, experience points and explosive skulls (that inflict damage on your enemy) to line up. I really like the exploding skulls bit.
I manged to 'waste' most of my day yesterday playing this game though the thing that I feel most guilty about is getting the husband addicted to it as well. There in a multi player function where you can battle an opponent that may cause some friction in the household over the coming week. What would have been really cool though was if you could do all of the quest in some kind of interactive fashion in a similar manner to Gauntlet. The husband and I have spent many happy hours playing Gauntlet together with only minor arguments over who is getting most of the gold. With this in mind I have now seriously started saving up for the Wii version of House of the Dead. I will be buying to two of the hand held pistol adaptors for the Wiimotes and the husband and I can go on a romantic killing spree.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Change of settings

Hmmm, have been toying with the idea of going public for a little while yet but still can't make my mind up whether it's a good idea or not. In the meantime I have changed some of the other 'lesser' settings so now anybody can leave comments and don't have to do any ridiculous signing in or anything. The other thing that I found I can do is to add a little button that lets you e-mail the posts to other people should you ever think that I write anything interesting enough to want to do that!

Blue eyeshadow

I have been experimenting with blue eyeshadow over the last few days to see if I can make my mind up about whether it suits me or not. My mum gifted me a huge palette of eyeshadow that has something like 70 colours in it, of which at least 14 are blue and it seemed a shame to not use these ones hence the trial. So far the answer has been NO but it's been a few years since I've worn it so I felt that it was something I should try again. I think that the answer is going to remain as a no after just having looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. Now I have to wear it all day at work as well. D'oh. It's not that the colours aren't nice- the one I picked this morning is wonderful electric blue- it's just that I don't suit blue. Purple looks great, green is okay and warm pinks and browns work well with all my freckles. I can go dark with black but tend to avoid white based colours as I just look startled but blue is just not for me. I shall be making a note to avoid these ones in future unless I do something funky and use a bunch of different colours for some reason.

Update time

I've been so busy over the last week that I just haven't had the chance to write anything for y'all. Ain't that just mean of me? Maybe if I explain a little I will be let off this one time.
So, last weekend I had my parents-in-law staying for four days as the husband was graduating from his PhD (finally!) which I think I may have mentioned. We had a lovely lovely weekend and it was so nice to spend some time with the family. However this left me hotfooting it and down on sleep at the start of the week and everything has snowballed from there.
First things first: I have done lots of knitting this last week, though none of it on what I should have been doing! I started a shrug on Sunday using some Noro yarn. I only had one skein of it and it had been in the basket for ages so I decided to make a one skein wonder with it as I couldn't afford to buy anymore of the stuff no matter how nice it is. I came up with my own design and pattern and set to it and I enjoyed knitting it so much that I got it finished on Wednesday evening. I spent the mornings and my lunch breaks knitting so that I could get it done. Tuesday evening as ever was devoted to its construction but the other two evenings were spent tending the garden which is needing lots of attention at the moment as the weeds are going mad. We cut the grass at the weekend and then spent an evening this week potting up all our tomatoes and the herbs that we bought recently. The garden is starting to look really, really good. We left a wildflower border in on the left side when we cut the grass which the bees love. The area that we are going to pave at the back of the garden is the only thing that really needs doing now and we have at least made a start on it. Disappointingly the in-laws couldn't really see how much work we had put into the garden to get it to the state that it is but then they are very good at noticing all the things that we haven't done!
I have also done lots of beetle work this week. I have been spending the time after work putting a few of my Erotylids away in the arranged collection every day. This way I hope to get the old material transferred into new storage sometime this month. I spent all yesterday morning doing this as well which was a great help and I managed to snag a hour of work time as well so made really good progress. As my treat for being such a good girl during the day I spent some time washing all my finished knitting last night. I also remembered to throw my square of Donagal Aran into the washing machine so that it would felt. I dug it out this morning and it looks great but will bear another spin though the machine me thinks.
And in amongst all this knitting, gardening and beetle work I have been trying to get enough sleep (which just hasn't happened) and find some time for my kittens (which has happened). Last night Fenway was being such a soppy little cat. The husband and I had sat down to watch a movie- Oh! I forgot this as I was too far into daydream land. Okay, so quick aside for you all here. We sat down to watch Blade Trinity as my parents lent me a bunch of DVDS and this just happened to be in the pile. The husband hadn't seen the first two but I gave him a quick synopsis of the plot and we went from there. The third isn't great- they bounced around too much so the good bits where tied together with some really really crap bits etc etc. Anyway, the premise for this movie is that the Vamps go off and find Dracula who is the original vampire and born perfect i.e. he can walk in the sun, in the hope that he will be able to bequeath this power on them and at the same time kick Blade's butt for them cause they are seriously crap, wimpy vampires. Drac is hardcore and when in proper vamp form is red and knobbly which annoyingly I can't find a picture of. But in 'human' form is his the very delicious Dominic Purcell, better known as Lincoln from Prison Break. I had no idea he was in this movie and about laughed myself off of the sofa when he first popped up on screen but quickly settled in for some hardcore drooling, not least because he runs around without his shirt on for most of the movie. It also meant that I didn't notice most of bad acting that was going on around him. Mmmmmm.
So yeah, Fenway. Well, we were watching our movie (or dribbling in my case) and forgot to feed the cats at eight which is when they normally get their dinner. In order to get my attention and thus get food, Fenway has developed a new tactic. He starts off by giving you little licks- just one or two, on some exposed area of your body. Feet and ankles are good for this but if you are sitting on the sofa then this gives him access to your arms, shoulders and face as well. If you continue to ignore him his increases the number and frequency of licks until he is practically bathing you. I was wearing short trousers last night so got my legs well washed. The only problem is that it really tickles and makes me go 'Ah! ain't he cute' and give him cuddles rather than food, so he is then forced to move onto phase two of the plan which involves him nibbling you with his front teeth. If he can find a fleshy bit like your hip or a bony bit such as toes or elbows then all the better as he can get a good pinch on and actually hurt you. It's at this point that I realise what he wants and stuff him full of food. Afterwards he likes to come and sit back on my lap and fall asleep. Mostly because it's lovely and warm but I think that there is also a little bit of him that is apologising for nipping me. A very small part maybe...

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Birthday stash

Look at it! Is it not a thing of beauty?
My mum let me go wild at the weekend in Spin-a-Yarn, (which is in Bovey Tracey and is another store I can now tick off on my check list) the results of which can be seen above. There was just such a good selection of unusual yarns that I went for a bit of everything instead of lots of one thing. I guess much of this is just for having but I have started to have a think about what I might make out of it. Of course the striped skeins are going to make socks and I think that the bobbley stuff might go into a handbag and then the stripey pink stuff with all those wonderful electric colours in it might go into fingerless gloves- or then again I might use it as an embellishment in a top (I need to find the right wool to go with it). The yellow I bought because it is a) yellow and b) has silk in it and so is soft and shiny. It is very rare that I will buy silk because of the ethical problems associated with it (what with me being a bug lover and all) but this stuff was too hard to resist and the brand comes in so many strong colours that I love. I have no idea what I am doing with that one however. The stripey white and red stuff at the back I have four balls of because the yardage is so short and I think I might have an inkling of an idea what to do with it but it will require more brain power before I commit anything to paper.
In the meantime I shall pile it all up and snuggle down and then spend a few minutes squeezing each ball, unravelling a small length of yarn to look at the colours and rub each ball in turn against my cheek. I find it helps the little grey cells!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Long weekend in Devon

One thing that I love about going to see my parents is the fact that I have access to a really good digital camera whilst there. It's a top of the range 'happy snap camera' rather than a hardcore-costs-thousands-of-pounds-professional-camera which makes it both lighter and easier to use (it's practically idiot proof). Now I'm not going to go into the ins and outs of digital versus film as I believe that there are things to be said for both formats. For me personally, digital is the preferred format of choice at the moment but only because I can't afford to have films printed and I don't have access to a darkroom to do it myself. If these circumstances changed then I would probably feel quite different.
Moving on from that however.... I would like to present two of my favourite photos from the weekend. Not because they are particularly good quality wise but because the first, which is of Hoshi, just happens to have been timed to perfection (more fluke than skill me thinks) and the other just illustrates to perfection what being a Hungarian Puli is all about. If you haven't seen this breed of dog before then I have to say 'yes' those are dreadlocks!

Hoshi giving me 'The Squint' and Tallulah with flowers in her fur

Garden update

Just so that you all know-

Lettuces: These have now filled the mini greenhouse and are doing very well. The height gradient has evened itself out so that they are now almost all the same size, mainly due to a good application of water and miracle grow to the affected area.

Cucumbers: The ones in the greenhouse have now almost reached the roof and are looking happy and healthy. They will soon require the roof to be lifted so that they can grow up and over the sides. The ones that I re-potted perked up no end and I gave some to my mum as I then had 15 spare. Upon returning home after my weekend away the ones that I left outside are okay but looking a bit bedraggled after all the rain we had. One of them had been completely eaten by a slug who was still stuck to the remaining stump, sucking away happily. Needless to say it came to a sticky end.

Tomatoes: All doing fantastically well though the normal tomatoes are doing better than the Black Cherry ones as they got a bit water logged at the weekend. These will all soon be ready for planting out in the grow bags me thinks.

Pumpkins: Now all have huge leaves and are looking healthy. They need training over the side of the raised border however as the leaves are starting to shade out my carrots and onions.

All others seem to be doing well. Both the Runner Beans and the Sunflowers have shot up and now need thinning and cane support put in place. Onions, Carrots and Leeks have all started sprouting but there are plenty of weeds coming up as well which all need pulling. Sweet corn has sprouted and whilst they are a little on the small side seem to be quite happy. We have no idea what is going on with the Parsnips however as the tub is full of all sorts of plants and we (still) haven't got a clue what baby parsnips look like.

In other news I have some more plants to add in. We bought a big tub and some herbs to plant in it though Tragos only had Oregano, Rosemary and Thyme. I still need to get Basil, Chives and Coriander (though I think I will grow this from seed seeing as how it is so easy to do!). I also got myself a little lavender bush that I'm going to plant in the front garden for the bees. It will take a while to get established but should put on a good show next year with luck. Finally, my mum gave me some extra vegetables though where I shall put them I have no idea! I have three squash plants and two mystery plants that might be melons, but then again, might not. I am going to have to have a good sort through the shrubbery to find the right place to put all these things. I also got myself some Miracle Grow and Slug Killer at the weekend which will keep me busy for a few minutes this evening. I found a lily beetle on my lillies this morning which has pushed this to the top of the list as the red mist descended.

Orchid Paradise

My kitchen windowsill- for those of you who haven't seen it- has become populated by Orchids over the last year or so through what has been a growing passion for me (excuse the pun). I started off with a couple of Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis) which are the ones that you can now get in almost every supermarket and petrol station from here until Timbuktu and they did really well. I had so much pleasure from looking at the flowers that I decided I might get one or two more, especially as how I had had to nurse one of my plants back to health and had seen it go from almost dead to being in full bloom over the course of a few months which was immensely satisfying. My parents have tons of Orchids so I asked them where I might get some more from seeing as how I didn't think the ones from Tescos where going to be of the best stock.
It turns out that my fears where unfounded and that these are perfectly legitimate sources of Orchids if you are happy with the limited selection on offer. I was given the very good advice of only buying the ones that where reduced as 99% of the time the only reason that they have been reduced is that the flowers have gone over. I very quickly discovered this to be true and have manged to get three more Orchids over the last year at stupidly discounted prices. I now have four Moth Orchids and one Jewel Orchid (a quick Google search has just reveled that these are primarily grown for their foliage rather than their flower- mine has velvety dark green leaves that are shot through with red veins and a spike of small white and yellow flowers so I obv. managed to get one of the good ones without realising).
I have now officially run out of windowsill! however I may have come up with a cunning plan to help alleviate the situation which is desperately needed seeing as how I might have accidentally visited Orchid Paradise in Devon at the weekend and purchased another plant.
I realised last night that keeping my Orchids has become more than a interesting hobby for me and that I would like to find out a bit more about the technical side of looking after and classifying them. I am not going to get carried away and get any that might be hard to look after as I just don't have the resources for it but it would be nice to have a little knowledge and go to a few of the Orchid shows. Some of the plants they have at Orchid Paradise are simply stunning and completely take your breath away. I hadn't seen such variety well, ever and had no idea that Orchids could be so diverse. There where two that we really wanted (and yes, I managed to get the husband to take an interest!) and I let the husband pick as I figured that which ever one we didn't get we could pick up in the future. The one I liked was the Spider Orchid which has long thin petals around the outer edge- hence the name (see picture). The other was a Dendrobium or cane Orchid which is a massive family of Orchids and as such finding a picture for y'all has proven to be too much for me. I shall have to take a happy snap of my one at home which isn't flowering at the moment but it will show you the odd fat stems that it has which is what sold it to us.
So yes, run out of space on the windowsill I have. But it turns out that Jewel Orchids prefer low light and high humidity and so do well in bathrooms which is where mine will be heading as soon as I get into the house this evening. I also have a massive double stemmed Moth Orchid that the husband bought me for my birthday which is too big for the windowsill. I think this one would look best in my lounge though I will have to keep an eye on it to see whether it is getting enough light. This should free up more than enough space for the new one though apparently you can keep these ones outside during the summer months if it is warm enough so it might make it out of doors if the weather stays nice. I think that we will only get one more Orchid (the Spider one above) after this- at least until we get a bigger house!