Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Still ill...and miserably so. I was meant to be working over Christmas, as my workplace doesn't ever close, but I visited the doctor again on Monday and he wrote me a note for one week off work. I thought I'd be feeling better by now. I really thought I'd be feeling better but I actually feel worse. Still, I don't have pneumonia: he told me my lungs were pretty clear. When I went to the nurse last week she didn't examine me at all. She asked me what was wrong and wrote a prescription for antibiotics. She didn't listen to my chest or take my temperature; she didn't even ask me to elaborate on my symptoms. Which by now have not changed. It feels like there's no end in sight and I'm never going to feel better.

So Christmas doesn't seem like such a big deal now either. I had a miserable coughing feverish birthday and even had to make my own birthday least I didn't have to make the cake. I had to make my own cake for my 17th birthday when I was sick with the flu too. But my worst birthday was my 21st when I didn't get any presents or cards and there wasn't even enough dinner to go around and my friend's grandmother only made me a cake at the last minute because I began crying at her house...This birthday was nothing on that one! Except now I'm getting old enough that I don't really want to think about it any more.

Trying to end on a positive note...nope, can't think of one.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I am no longer looking forward with such great anticipation to my birthday. I have an illness of some sort which seems to just be getting worse. I thought it was just a cold, and maybe it actually is, but if so it's the worst cold I've ever had. It woke me up this morning with prolonged painful coughing. I've called in sick to work today and am visiting the doctor. Only the doctor won't see me because he's booked solid so the nurse will perform the inspection. Personally, I'm not entirely confident in her diagnostics abilities, but the receptionist told me that the nurse can prescribe, so she must know something. I told Partner I think I caught TB from the airport. Only I don't really think that because TB would really suck. Still, it is my birthday tomorrow and I don't want to be sneezing and blowing my nose into the wrapping paper, nor coughing on the cake.

We went to a party last week--the first party I've been to in ages. I only wished I had a new party dress. I did have a good time and learned some things about people I work with. For instance, I had a chat about CERN with a young man of 18. He told me he wants to do an internship there, and was amazed I knew what it was (my job doesn't require a lot of intelligence). We stayed very late at this party; Partner assures me I didn't commit any indiscretions; and I wore fabulous shoes.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I think I've adjusted back into the old time zone. I'm still staying up a bit later than I'd prefer and sleeping a bit later too, but at least I'm down to the old eight hours routine. I'm also sort of caught back up in my coursework, though I kind of skipped a lot of the stuff I was behind on. I'm mostly concentrating on my next assignments and the material I need to study for them. Once they are out of the way, I can focus on learning at a less frantic pace.

While at my parents' house, I helped my youngest sister with her pre-algebra homework. Luckily enough I had just studied the exact same thing about a month and a half ago, and I remembered it well. Then my other younger sister asked for help with her precalculus which I was happy to give--once my father explained it to me. Did I remember it? Hardly. But I understood it easily enough, so I think subconsciously I do remember it from my high school days. A lot of the mathematics I'm studying now are skipping from discipline to discipline. At the moment I'm studying matrices which I seem to remember studying when I took college algebra at age 16/17. But then when I studied pre-algebra, I was 12/13. My math history started with arithmetic, then pre-algebra, algebra I, geometry, algebra II, trigonometry and college algebra, and finally calculus. This math class I'm taking now seems to jump from each branch extremely quickly. If I had not studied all this previously, I think I might find it a lot more difficult.

And my software class, which is also an introductory course into the subject, is quite difficult. I had a very brief sojourn with HTML as a teenager, and a brush with Java. The HTML was easy to pick up. I struggled with the Java. And I'm struggling with the programming basics of this course as well. We're not studying a specific programming language but it's all so new to me I really have to concentrate to understand it. It's the course I'm taking the most time with and not skipping anything. Still, I am enjoying the challenge and I enjoy learning new things.
Just for fun, here's a video Partner took during our sojourn into the Narrows. I'm briefly visible in the shot, as is my mother. My father also pops in for a moment.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Having been home for two days now, I'm still in a state of deep jet lag. The first day home I slept twelve hours, last night I slept thirteen. Now that I'm back to my regular work schedule, I can't afford to sleep for so long. I'm just So Tired.

Yesterday we got our tree from the attic and decorated it. We have a fairy for a tree-topper, but most of the hanging decorations are glass baubles. At my parents' house, my sisters, mother and I made a tiny winter village out of cardboard. It was so sweet; I'd like to make one for me. Of course, I don't actually have the time for it. I'm behind two weeks in all my coursework and I have big assignments due at the beginning of next month so I can't really drop everything to work on frivolous projects... Speaking of which, I bought two new patterns at a thrift store at my parents', both never before been used, both for fifty cents. And I want to make them. Plus I bought some cute ribbons at another thrift store and some small double-pointed knitting needles for my sock pattern. Too many projects, not enough free time. There aren't really second-hand sewing notions available here, and new ones are so expensive. Besides, the second-hand ones are always a fun surprise. I wish I had more craft/scrapbooking type things like colored paper, rubber stamps and ink, fun scissors, glitter, rick-rack...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Just a quick one to catch up. I'll be going back home at the end of the week, and until then I'll be away from the internet. In some ways it's very relaxing being beyond the net, but I prefer to keep up with some essential things, especially my schoolwork. I never got that last assignment finished before I left, but it's done now, and within the due date.

Here's a picture of a place we went hiking last week. It's in the Grand Escalante Staircase National Monument. The best way I can describe it is the Narrows. That little stream looks tiny now, but in the spring, it fills up the narrows with water maybe twenty feet high or higher. We could see where rocks, sand, and logs had been swept up high in the cliffs. The narrows themselves were carved out of sandstone by that little stream. It was certainly awe-inspiring. I'll see if I can upload the rest of the pictures when I get home.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I've gone into Headless Chicken Mode this week in the rush up to our transcontinental visit. I have three assignments due while I'll be away so therefore I need to submit all three before we go on Friday. However, all of them are long, involved, wordy, researchy sorts of assignments, one for each class, and I'm not even due to begin studying some of the material until the end of the week. So I have to rush to get it all in and get everything else ready, which I will admit, I have procrastinated. The house is not clean. The ironing is not done. The dog is not walked. The dahlias are not dug up. And I wanted to finish a few projects in order to bring them with me.

The worst thing is, I've had an absolutely killer toothache which has kept me up for the last four nights. Attempting to study with a throbbing mouth (and jaw, ear, and neck) not to mention the five-hour-sleep shakes, well, let's just say it's difficult. I went to the dentist today and got some antibiotics and some different painkillers; I think my other ones were making me fall over. Or maybe it was the lack of sleep. Or maybe my infection affected my inner ear.

I don't have any new pictures really to show, but I just took a snapshot of a little bit of artwork I did last week for a friend. I have a built-in webcam in my new laptop and it takes itty bitty photos. My medium is crayon. I have a big box of 120 crayons with all sorts of neat-o colors like robin's egg blue and mauvelous and outer space. I like to draw and then color in my drawing. This friend and I have been working on a big picture and now it's almost done. This is my last addition to it, and it only needs one more addition from her. I hope I haven't spoiled her surprise with this posting...

Monday, November 03, 2008

In an ongoing epic struggle between the forces of motivation and sloth, one woman stands alone. Tirelessly, day in and day out, she fights for what she believes in, what she knows will make the world a better place. She is The Occupational Juggler. By morning, a dedicated housewife with a feather duster in her hand; by day, a hardworking employee in a busy restaurant; by night, a student with an insatiable thirst for homework. Can the Occupational Juggler save the planet, write a report about it, and still have time to make her husband a souffle?

Last time, on The Occupational Juggler, our fearless heroine was dangling from the precipice of Insane Overtime Gulch.

"I should have known this wasn't a good place to have a picnic," she exclaimed. With the remains of her lunch lost to the raging river below and her blood sugar in dangerously low levels, any other would have given up in despair. But not so the Occupational Juggler. In her trusty back pocket compartment, beneath her driving license and food-testing thermometer, lay her grappling hook and crossbow. In an astounding feat, she one handedly loaded, cocked, and fired this indispensible implement and in no time, climbed up the rope that had imbedded into a signpost. Brushing off her hands and smoothing back her hair, she read: "Warning: precipice ahead."

If only she had paid attention in the first place to the warning signs. "Next time I'll think ahead," she intoned, and whipped out a bean burrito from her emergency rations kit in her trusty back pocket compartment.

On her way back to finish up her dishes, she nearly stumbled over a pile of unpaired socks. Out of it jumped a vicious trigonometry-geometry mutant. With ears like the square root of 1/2 and a gaping mouth lined with acute-angled teeth, it had her cornered in an instant, with only three unmatched socks for protection.

Can our heroine remember the formula for solving quadratic equations? Will the Law of Sines distract the mutant long enough for her to make her escape? And will she make it back in time to save dinner? Find out next time on

The Occupational Juggler

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Partner and I did a bit of gardening today, as it was not overly cold and miserable. We had a viburnum overgrowing its intended space so we dug it up. It had layered itself into a few new little shrublets so two of them got transplanted and the parent bush got consigned to the compost bin. I prefer big shrubs to be at the back of the border, and this one was big, yet badly placed at the front by a previous owner many years ago. I usually gave it a generous haircut every spring, but it just kept getting bigger and bushier. Compare the following photos: the first from spring 2007, and the second from this afternoon. I will use the new free space for flowers next year; it's a premium spot getting full sun in the summer.

One of the babies was transplanted to a different part of the garden and the other got stuck in a pot next to the house for safekeeping. If it gets stronger and bushier I may find a spot for it next spring. It's a nice bush, which flowers in the dead of winter when everything else is asleep. So I didn't want to just get rid of it. The black pot holds the baby viburnum; other pots have what's left of the carrots and beets. I've also optimistically planted spring cabbage, sweet peas, and broad beans this week, for next year's crop. I've never grown cabbage or broad beans (or even eaten that kind of bean), but they are both meant to be harvested in May, so if they're successful, we'll be eating produce about two months earlier than usual.

And the photo of the Very Large Mushroom, with my shoe as a size reference to prove my dainty feet are so small I could wear a mushroom as a shoe.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

While driving home from Ikea the other week I took a picture of a rainbow over the road. It looks like we were about to drive right under it, but the road curved off one way and the rainbow curved off the other way. I've always wondered if it's possible to pass under a rainbow and view it at the same time. I've never done it.

Partner and I both have a week off work and I'm using the time to A) study for my courses, and B) recover from excessive work hours. For nearly two months I've worked extreme hours because all of my coworkers have had time off one right after another and I have been the only one to work the entire time, covering my own as well as other people's shifts. It has been very very hard. But after this week off I will be working four days a week instead of five and I know for a fact that they cannot squeeze 48 hours out of me in just four days. On Monday I started work at 11AM and signed out at 10.30PM. I have been working like that since August.

I may even finish my sewing projects this week. I thought I'd have to put them away until summer break in June, but I think I could finish them if I applied myself. I would love to have my jacket ready and wearable for this winter. I told Partner I'd make him a nice pair of wool trousers, but he'd have to wait till summer break. He told me he'd expect them in summer break in four years time. Which is also when I'm allowed to buy any new video games or indeed start anything new. In four years I'll have a brand new degree and only one full-time occupation.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Partner and I went blackberrying yesterday. It was an absolutely beautiful day and I fear it may be the last of the sunshine we get for a while. Seeing as it is now past equinox and this is after all a very soggy island in general, I don't expect to see the sun again until about April. I think we picked about a liter of berries which are now in the fridge. I wanted to make jam but I don't know if it will happen. Partner thinks we ought to freeze them. I remember picking some with my gramma several years ago. I made about six quarts of jam. There are tons more blackberries where she lives than where I live. Actually I should say they are tons bigger there than here.

Have I mentioned I'm studying towards a bachelor's degree in IT and mathematics? My first three courses start at the end of this month and the beginning of the next. I'm slightly worried I've gone a bit overboard as I'm keeping my full-time job (though cutting back a little on hours). I've been working on the math revision for a few weeks now. I learned all this back in high school but this was a long time ago. Some of it I remember. Some of it I need a little reminding. Some of it I completely have no clue.

I took the above self portrait of me in my office having a study break today. See how long my hair has grown. My mother-in-law made my cardigan and I love it. And behind me is the arch of Sacajawea (my yellow phaelanopsis orchid)'s flower stalk in the window, above a map of the world. My study break is only lasting as long as it takes to write this post. Alas, it is now over.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This is me going for a walk with the dog at the old colliery.

It is definitely fall. I had some blackberries but didn't eat the bright red berries.

This is the dog rolling in something extremely smelly and right into the pond while I try to take a picture of a water lily.

The water lily.

Was it worth taking the dog home and giving her a bath, just to get that picture? Well, it was worth it to get the one of her falling straight into the pond with her legs up in the air.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Partner and I went to the dog races the other night. A group from his work met there and we had dinner and watched the greyhounds run. It was seedy and morally questionable, but a lot of fun, to tell the truth. I gambled £15 and came away with about £18. Partner also started with £15 but I think he ended up with about £3.50. I would like to adopt a greyhound. We've seen a few at the local dog home, and I've always been tempted. They are such nice doggies.

Our local hedgehog made an appearance tonight. Partner says he saw it a few weeks ago, but tonight I witnessed it myself. Beauty got a little frisky in playing with it and it gave her a complimentary lip piercing. Silly dog ought to know better. I haven't seen it all summer long; I thought it'd moved on to dog-free pastures. I hope it sticks around. I've been stepping on lots of snails lately and Partner's been squishing the slugs. I'd rather the hedgehog ate them.

We've been eating tons of runner beans from the garden, and the cherry tomatoes are producing modestly. I might make zucchini bread tomorrow. Our zucchinis are pretty good. They are kind of a staple vegetable, going into pretty much anything we cook. The carrots and beets have had a pretty good run. There are still some left, though I admit they are small and probably won't get much bigger. I will probably plant more of them next year. And I found A Huge Mushroom growing in the lawn the other day. I took a picture but I left the camera downstairs and am too lazy to go get it right now. I didn't eat the mushroom as that sort of behavior can kill you. But I admired it from a distance.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The caterpillars in the garden have literally eaten all the nasturtiums we have. There is nothing left but a lot of forlorn empty stalks. These pictures were taken about two weeks ago when there were still bits of leaves left. I don't think that orange one is the butterfly that comes from that caterpillar, though. I think it's a cabbage white caterpillar. Partner and I witnessed one such white butterfly laying eggs on some of the leaves. Now however, the caterpillars are searching for suitable accommodation for cocoons/chrysalises/whatever it is they metamorphose inside.

I have been thinking about putting in personalized labels in my handmade clothing. Embroidered, of course. I've been itching to get out the embroidery thread. The last time I embroidered was ages and ages ago: a little gold fire lizard on a background of pink flowers. I made it into a tiny bag which now holds my collection of buttons. Meager collection, I should say. I need more buttons. But then I suppose if I got more I'd need a bigger bag. That would give me an excuse to embroider something else. Maybe I'll do something like this passionflower below. It has lovely colors. Our archway is dripping with them and they've grown so far down we have to play limbo in order to reach the back garden.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Partner found some piano scores online and printed them off for me. I love them. It's always fun to get new music. I wish I didn't have so many other commitments and could concentrate more on my personal interests. Some of these interests are things I often blog about: gardening, piano playing, sewing, and painting. Oh, and computer and video gaming. Love the games. And while I don't hate work, it certainly takes up most of my time; time I'd rather spend doing stuff I really enjoy. Given the choice, I think anyone would choose Really Enjoy over Don't Hate. Still, as a realist, I know that work pays for my pleasure. I couldn't afford broadband, watercolor paper, packets of seeds, and so on, without earning money first. Though it's a little disheartening to see how much money I earn versus how much money I need to pay the bills; there's not a lot of surplus. I guess I'm lucky my pleasures are so cheap.

I cut up one of Partner's old shirts and sewed myself a camisole of it. He'd torn through a few of the buttonholes and it couldn't really be fixed, but I didn't like to throw it out. The fabric is soft and 100% cotton. So I tried a little experiment with the help of my friendly Venus de Duct Tape. I got the stripes almost even. At least, they're even in the back. You can see my tan lines a little in the second picture. Last month in London I got a mighty sunburn. I don't want to be tan and I abhor tan lines; I was hoping it would peel, leaving my skin unmarred. This was not to be. At least I had sunscreen in my facial moisturizer and my face was unscathed. Some people say I'm white, or pallid even. I like to say ivory.

I think I'll fix myself up next time I model a fashion creation. I kind of look like I just rolled out of bed without combing my hair. Which is true.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I spent yesterday mostly sewing. I don't understand it, but doing so simply eats away at the time. I thought I'd been working for maybe half an hour and was stunned to see three hours had passed, and half a shirt is what I have to show for it. It's a cute white and red flower print with a Mandarin collar, red piping, and will soon have off-center little red butterfly closures. I used the same blouse pattern I used for the last shirt I made, just removed the sleeves and changed the collar. We went to Ikea the other week and I bought about two meters each of two cute fabrics. And I got Partner to take a picture of me wearing my new clothing. Ok, so it's nothing special. But I made it all by myself and that means a lot to me.

Monday, August 04, 2008

I actually went out in the garden and pulled some weeds today. This is unlike me. I haven't done much gardening for the past month. Summer is, however, more about maintenance than actual work: this is my excuse for not doing any. I deadhead my flowers and that's enough for me. They have gotten big enough so that they mostly suppress the weeds anyway. However, my new asparagus bed was overflowing with volunteer poppies, drowning the poor baby asparagus and I bit the bullet and got it razed. While out there, I picked a variety of bouquets, then took a few snaps for your viewing pleasure.

I'm quite happy with my lilies; they were a new acquisition this spring. I hope they keep coming back. And of course my old favorites, the orange dahlias; what would I do without them? Probably have very sparse flower arrangements. The one you see before you is the pretty much my first dahlia of the season. Oh, and my collection of doilies come from my mother's and grandmother's respective stashes. I love a nice doily.

When I got home from work yesterday I was astonished to see the sofa cushion covers washed, the lawn mowed, and the computer room slightly tidied. For Partner, this is a very big deal. He doesn't normally have this kind of initiative. When I got a full-time job, he promised he would take over half the housework from me (during my part-time years I did most of the household chores). I think he forgot that he ever made such a promise. Or maybe (charitably speaking) he doesn't realize just how much housework there actually is. He does dishes and occasionally sparks up the vacuum cleaner. He used to brush out the toilet once in a while but I think he's stopped doing that. If I ask him to do stuff, he's pretty good about doing it. But it sucks to keep having to ask. It feels like he's doing me a favor when he does it because I ask. It doesn't feel like equal division of labor. So maybe this is the start of a new trend.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

This morning while hunting as a pack (aka taking the dog for a walk), Partner and I saw thirteen tiny ducklings, only just hatched. Most of the ducklings on the pond are now burly adolescents who've left home already. These ducklings had two mommies who shouted at the dog every time she tried to get a closer look. So cute.

I've nearly finished the blue starred skirt I had in mind. Well, when I say nearly finished, I mean I need to put on the waistband, the sash, and hem the bugger. But I drafted a very successful pattern when fits me exceptionally well. I made liberal use of the tape measure and straight edge. I plan on finishing it today and I may have enough material left over to make a top. The only downside to making my own patterns is sewing projects take a lot of time. I have to make the pattern first, then figure out how it's supposed to all fit together. I think I've worked out the skirt though; maybe I should write myself directions on the pattern for next time. I've been using newspaper sheets glued together to cut out patterns. It seems to work quite well. Back when I was a teenager I used brown paper bags. You don't get them in this country, though.


A few runner beans next to a flowerbed, taken this morning. All the latest garden photos are at:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I finished the white blouse earlier today and I'm happy to say it fits perfectly and is super cute. I will try and get a proper photo of me in it. This last weekend Partner and I went shopping and I bought three yards each of blue star print and white and red polka dot cotton fabric. I have visions of a light polka dot dress and possibly a blue skirt. However, I'm not entirely decided and what I want the most for my wardrobe at the moment are cute tops. So I'll just have to see. Shopping was great fun, though, and I saw all kinds of prints I would have loved to have bought, if only they were 100% cotton. I didn't want any polyester.

We went to the indoor market at Leeds and I took photos as promised. My father-in-law kindly donated his old phone to Partner who in turn bequeathed it to me; it takes much better photos than my old phone. I wanted to take a picture of a halibut at the fish market, but the best I could do was turbot. Still, as a flatfish, it's pretty darn cool. Since it swims on the bottom of the ocean, its eyes are on the top of its head, but unlike a normal fish with a dorsal fin on top and arms on either side, it evolved so that it actually swims on its side with an arm on top and bottom and the dorsal fin on one side. It's so freakish and utterly neat.

Red snapper on the left, and those little bundles are razorfish (actually a type of shellfish)


This is the turbot. You kind kinda make out its asymmetric eyes. Cool, huh?

Various fish in bins

More random fishies

Friday, July 18, 2008

Here is the nearly finished first sewing project. I only need to add buttons and buttonholes--everything else is completely done. I'm really happy with the design of it, and I will definitely use the pattern again, though I may modify the sleeves and collar, and possibly make it more fitted around the waist. There are some slight flaws to the attachment of the lining which you totally cannot see from the outside, but I will have to work on it next time. I couldn't work out how to attach the sleeves and the sleeve lining smoothly, so unfortunately there is a raw edge on the inside there. And I need to figure out how to do the hem attached to the lining as well. Still, all in all I'm very pleased, especially since I not only sewed it myself, but designed and drafted the pattern myself. Oh, and it's being modeled not by the Venus de Milo but by my aforementioned duct tape dressmaker's form. I found some very helpful pattern-making resources online for making the sleeves and collar, and for help in utilizing the blind hem stitch option on my sewing machine, including:

I have a few other projects in mind for some bits of material I have hanging about the place. I have about two or so yards of some red satiny material and about a yard of some gray woolly stuff (it may have once been a blanket). I might put them together to make a gray jacket with red lining, or I might do them separately as a red dress and a gray skirt. I also want to make a trip to the fabric store and pick up any bargains I can find. My only prerequisite is that the material be made of a natural fiber such as cotton or linen. I looked through a few shops while in London but most of the material looked like it ought to be a curtain or possibly a pair of disco pants.

I am an avid follower of several blogs, and am always interested in other people's pictures, so I will try and break out my camera more often and post more photos. As one blogger put it, what fun is a blog without pictures?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Partner wrapped me up in two rolls of duct tape last week to make a dressmaker's form. It was incredibly uncomfortable, but once I was cut out of it and stuffed it, the thing is a pretty near double of my shape and size. I've already begun making a pattern on it for a shirt. I can foresee that making patterns will be much much easier. Before, I basically had to work things out on myself in front of a mirror. Now I can pin and tuck and cut efficiently.

I spent the last week in London with a cousin, mostly trying to find great landmarks and getting lost in the process. We saw a West End musical, a Leicester Square film, several museums, and all sorts of comings and goings. I actually think my favorite place was the street we went shopping in East London with all the charity shops and cheap clothing stores. I bought a new pair of shoes (bit of a shock--I haven't bought shoes in years), a couple books, and some hand-embroidered doilies. I love nice handmade doilies and tablecloths and the like, especially embroidered. I like old jugs and bowls and vases for flower arrangements, though I didn't find any this time. I also adore rhinestone brooches and I always have a look for them (once I found a gorgeous silver dragonfly). I used to just look at clothing in charity shops, but now it's more household items.

The cousin is now (hopefully) back home, as am I. It's good to be back--I hadn't seen Partner in a week, though now we're home he's downstairs on the edge of his seat watching a car race. The house is only slightly untidy. And he cooked himself dinner every night while I was gone, he claims. I'm impressed. Clever man.

Monday, June 09, 2008

These daisies grow abundantly everywhere in my garden. Partner assures me they didn't come from a wildflower seed packet, but actually are weeds. I think they're great, looking equally fabulous indoors or out. And if they creep into already occupied beds, they're easy enough to pull out.

I've spent the last hour or so tidying up in my house, but there doesn't seem to be any noticeable difference. I did, however, find a few old letters I sent to Partner before we got married, one of which was on homemade stationary. I remember the events happening which I describe in the letter, but I don't remember making the stationary at all. I recognize my own drawing style, so I do know it's mine, but what a surprise to see it. Actually, while I'll often remember things I wrote down years ago, more than once I've found old drawings I don't recall at all.

All June garden photos are here:

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Back from a whirlwind trip to Belgium, I'm completely exhausted. We tried Belgian waffles, beer, and chocolates. To tell the truth, of those three I liked the beer the best, and I'm not even a beer drinker. We went to an art museum in Bruges, had a look around a fruit and flower market, and nearly got run over by several bicycles over the course of four days; there were a Lot of Bicycles. We found out at the end of our trip that you can borrow a bicycle for free at the town where we stayed. If we ever go back I'll want to try it. I took some pictures but only got one picture taken of me. As we were walking along a residential area in Bruges, I took notice of some of the doors that we passed and took a few pictures to show my mother; I thought she might like to see the handle in the center of the door. It was only by chance that I happened to see this particular one with the door above. I have no idea why there is a door above. It was obviously not built with a balcony, and both doors are much smaller and more old-fashioned than the one next to them. I also took several photos of the churches we visited. I'm not sure why, but a lot of my pictures turned out a bit blurry. I think that since the resolution was so high it was extremely motion sensitive. I got some decent photos, regardless.

It rained a lot while we were gone and all my new plants grew about six inches in those four days. My bulb irises are all in flower, as are some of my roses, my montana clematis, and lupins. It's a good time for flower arranging. Two of my favorite bouquet fillers are simply weeds that grow everywhere: daisies and cow parsley. I did three arrangements for the house today and then Partner said, "Can I pick one too?" He filled my lovely green jug with red peonies and purple lupin. I think he used the Golden Ratio when arranging it: it looks really simple and nice. I kind of try for the Ratio in my artistic efforts (especially photos), though it doesn't seem to appear much in my flower arrangements.

I made myself a pair of pyjama pants recently with some material I had lying around. I've got a matching top to finish as well. I was thinking I might do a little embroidery on the top, though I haven't decided what. It's a plain white cotton camisole with red gingham straps and edging. The bottoms are the same white cotton with gingham patchwork panels going up the outside of each leg. I thought I might make Partner a similar pair but maybe without the patchwork. Or maybe with. He told me I ought to wear them to his Grateful Dead tribute concert next month. Maybe he secretly cherishes the notion of dressing like a hip'n'happenin'hippie. I have a block of corduroy patchwork I made back in the day when I was a trendy hippie, but even then I never wore patchwork trousies. The block is leftover from a shoulder bag.

Complete Belgium photos:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Some of those seedlings have been transplanted and are happy in the ground. The runner beans fiercely love their new bamboo canes. A dahlia and a zinnia both got torn stems and needed emergency reconstructive surgery using medical tape; both are recovering. The snails really like zinnias and cosmos, but I think most of them are ok. And somehow snails invaded the greenhouse to eat holes in my basil. I have no idea how they climbed the rungs. I did find a big snail caught between the bars of the barbecue out back. It's just a thin metal grill really--no way a snail could slime its way on. I think a bird dropped it from above. We do have snail-eating thrushes who come all the time and tap tap tap on the snails' doors. Then I find empty shells on the patio and feel all warm inside. When I catch them I just step on them. My gramma used to salt them, but I think that's unnecessarily cruel. Just get it over quickly.

Partner and I are going to Belgium next week. I don't know much about this country other than they have two languages, don't have strict laws governing the ingredients in beer, and have a yearly Formula One race. But Partner really likes it there, and I'm looking forward to seeing Hieronymus Bosch paintings.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I got myself a bit of a sunburn yesterday while gardening. All my seedlings need to go in, but my spring bulbs aren't even finished yet. So a few key beds are still unavailable and my seedlings are languishing in my greenhouse. While tidying up some beds earlier in the week, I discovered one of my shrubs had propagated itself by layer which means a branch resting on the ground grew roots. There were two of these new shrubs so I was happy to move them to an empty shady corner. I don't even know what kind of shrub it is, other than it is evergreen and has tiny pink flowers. I also found that a few delphiniums that I planted last year did not in fact drown as I had thought.

We saw A Midsummer Night's Dream, an opera by Benjamin Britten. Talk about cool. Who knew that an opera could be funny? And have appeal to children? Or that counter-tenors could have major roles? The music was really weird, the set design and costumes were really weird, the lighting was really weird. But weird as in weird and wonderful rather than weird and wrong. I've never had so much fun at an opera. We saw Don Giovanni a while back, also sung in English, but it was a bit ho-hum and the end was dreadfully anti-climactic. In Amadeus, the staged bit of Don Giovanni ends with the don being confronted with his sins and facing an eternity of torment--a suitably dark ending with him plunging into the pit. In actuality, it ends with the cast singing a sickeningly chirpy little number about sinners burning in hell. A Midsummer Night's Dream was so much better than Swan Lake, I thought, even though of course they are two different genres and even musical periods. I always considered that I preferred Romantic era music above all else, but I have decided Tchaikowsky, at least, is boring. Bring on the utter weirdness of the Twentieth Century.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm learning, albeit erratically, Rhapsody in Blue for piano. I've got sheet music and a CD sans piano (though I haven't progressed that far yet). It's a tough piece, encompassing a lot of jazzy chords at a very fast pace. And at about fifty pages or so, the length can be daunting. It's good for my sight-reading skills. I rather wish I had more time to devote to the piano. One of my friends in high school was quite regimental about her practicing and the results were excellent.

Today being the first real warm sunny day this spring, I spent a few hours in the garden, both planting, weeding, and working on a painting; in other words, I spent the day getting dirty. I ordered several plants via a catalogue this year, and nearly all of them have arrived and been planted. Two I'm excited about: asparagus and rhubarb. Both are just beginning to sprout, having been in the ground for a few weeks now. The only problem is I have to wait till next year before I can harvest them. Still, I'm very confident it'll be worth the wait.

Partner is downstairs with his guitar students. The little girl is about nine I think, and she's a beginner, but I think the lesson is getting frustrating for her. They are just working on one thing over and over again. I think if they were my students, I'd take a break from the hard stuff to work on the fun stuff, then back to the hard stuff. Otherwise she might get too bored and annoyed with herself for not seeming to advance, and just give up altogether. I think learning a skill has more to do with the abilities of the teacher than the student. But I do think Partner is very good at guitar and he is enthusiastic about it.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

At last I got the snow I've been dreaming of, even though it came on Easter day, which spoiled my plans for an egg hunt. Then again, it's virtually impossible to dye eggs here, as they only seem to sell the brown ones at the stores. The only white eggs I've seen here were duck eggs at a market. Once. I made my snowman, threw my snowball, and had a good munch on a bit of clean snow off a shrub (never off the ground--the dog uses our back yard as a toilet). So all my snow cravings have been filled--except one: I didn't have enough snow to build a snow fort and initiate a snowball battle.

The snow lasted most of the afternoon, but by evening it had begun to melt and my snowman was the only bit of snow left over the next day. And even he was just a snowtot by then.

We went to see Swan Lake last week, Partner and I. Though the music was pretty schmaltzy, the swan, Odette, was excellent. However, I thought the story was a bit confusing. And here I thought it was about swans on a lake, but it was really about this prince and he doesn't even meet Odette or any swans until the fourth act. And the whole time I thought the black swan was Odette's mean husband which is why she kept running away from the prince (well, that and the fact he kept pointing a crossbow at her). Then at the end she throws herself into the lake--silly way for a swan to die, because everyone knows they are inherently buoyant. And I'm not even sure why she kills herself, because the prince was there to save her and she just kept running away from him. So my marks are as follows: Dancing: A, Sets and Scenery: A, Storyline: C-, Music: C. And, I might add, I enjoyed seeing those skin-tight trousers on the male dancers. It's a bit of role reversal when the women are all angular and the men are the one with the excellent curves on the back, on the legs, on the bottom...

All my Easter photos are here:

Monday, March 17, 2008

I've been in bed for the past couple days but I've found it in me to wobble out and have a go on the computer this morning. I was awakened at nine by a knocking on the door. Hoping it was a delivery of plants I'd ordered, I blearily opened the bedroom window. But it was just a man asking if I had any scrap metal. I don't know if he was shocked at my haystack hair; I didn't have my glasses on. I'm sure in his world, all reasonable people are up and awake, ready to meet callers at nine AM.

So while I've been in bed, Partner's been in charge of the housekeeping. He got really excited at the prospect of laundry, which he is normally not allowed to touch. He said, I'm going to do all the towels together. I said, don't you dare put the white towels in with the dark towels!

My trays of seedlings are excitingly full of greenery now, and the cuttings I took are still not dead yet. I had a look around my garden and some volunteer snapdragons have invited themselves in already. I didn't have any last year, even though I like them so much. They just seem to self-seed in the oddest places. I wonder if they could be increased through cuttings or something. Or maybe I should just gather them all in one place, rather than leaving them randomly dotted about. I've got one in the front that keeps coming back year after year, though it's under a hebe bush. Obviously it's been there longer than the bush, yet the hebe has been here longer than I have. I wonder if it would mind being moved to a more comfortable location?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I noticed on our walk yesterday the ducks at the pond are swimming in twos and Partner swears he saw frog eggs there the other day but to be honest I didn't look very hard. Dog rolled in something foul. I turned around to see her working her back into it with a big grin. So it was straight upstairs into the bathtub when we got home.

Making the most of the sunshine and relative warmth outside, I did some heavy-duty weeding and hoeing today (and now my hands are numb). The weeds came up easily as the soil is quite damp; even the tenth generation dandelions gave little fight. The only stubborn ones: the nettles. But I persevered and they are all at the bottom of the bin. It's a lovely day for working in the garden; I must have spent about an hour out there. The dog was bored though, and kept asking me if she could go back inside. I kind of like to keep an eye on her when I'm at home as she likes to get into mischief. No doubt she had plans to jump on all the furniture and turn on bad daytime tv very loudly while eating cookies and getting crumbs on the floor. Which is what I suspect she does when she's home alone.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A runaway bunny appeared in our yard the other morning. White and fluffy with lop ears, it obviously had owners, but as to who or where, I had no clue. To be honest, I wouldn't have minded it staying but it was nibbling my new spring growth in the garden. So I went out and introduced myself and it eventually allowed me near enough to stroke and then grab. After a very brief struggle, it stayed still in my arms and I brought it inside. The dog met us at the door with the happiest look on her face: all her dreams had just come true. "It's for me! It's for me!" she shouted for joy as she bounced up and down. It was soon apparent to her than the rabbit was actually for me, so she rushed outside happily to catch one of her own, giving me a chance to hustle the bunny upstairs into the bathroom to await an owner. I figured a little cottontail could do the least damage there as far as munching and pelleting. After a morning of asking around, someone finally turned up at the door to claim it. A mother and her two children whisked it away gratefully (the little boy kept saying, "Wasn't it nice of her to take care of him?" As if he'd expected me to be mean to a widdle wabbit) and another adventure ends well.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Yesterday a freezing fog hung thick all day in our area. Every outline, from twigs on trees, to blades of grass and forgotten cobwebs was individually outlined in pure white frost. While lovely to look at, it was bitterly cold; the heat was off in the house when I got home from work and I never recovered from the chill. Even today I still have a little residual shiver. I think maybe one of my houseplants got frostbite; the poor thing wilts listlessly today. The daffodils rolled over and played dead, but in the slightly warmer temperatures today (compared to yesterday it's practically balmy) they are frolicking again.

Partner got me some French piano music from the turn of the twentieth century: Satie and Debussy. The word I use to describe them: Weird. Ok, even Bach can be weird but at least when he's not making sense, he's still sticking to form. These late French composers don't really have forms. Satie doesn't like key signatures, time signatures, tempos, or any kind of notation at all whatsoever. It seems more like rambling impromptu stuff rather than actual music written down for other people to play. And Debussy...don't get me started. He writes using three staves; I can't decide if the music is meant to be played by two people or a three-armed megamonkey. And I'm neither.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Partner's laptop is offline for the time being and there is a marked improvement in internet loading times. I bet the rest of the computer processes are speeded up too though I haven't tried them yet. He clogs up the network with his constant downloading of very large music files. He's done it for so long, I'd forgotten how fast the connection really ought to be.

The first of my many daffodils opened today. I've had three crocuses make an appearance--I'm hoping for more. I planted them in the lawn last year. The frogs in the pond are pairing up. And I had the most peculiar feeling as I waited for my laundry to dry outside...a feeling I haven't had in many months: a sudden urge to visit the garden center. It was such a strong compulsion I couldn't resist and returned with several packets of seeds, a few bags of gladiolas, and a sack of potting compost.

A very unsightly hole marks the back of my hand where a big drop of hot grease splattered me at work. It blistered, broke, and made a near-perfect circle, but it looks like a disreputable injury. Rather like a cigarette burn or something. I was cooking about twenty steaks on the griddle during the dinner time rush and grease was flying and a particularly pernicious globule struck. I can remember shaking my hand and seeing an angry red mark, but not thinking much of it at the time. I've had plenty of time to ponder it since. Last time I burnt myself badly (a fiery hot potato exploded in the palm of my hand) I applied ice for several hours and escaped a blister.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I had the quietest haircut of my life last week. I figured it was about time I got rid of the split ends and stopped into a cheapie salon in town for a quick trim. The only words the hairdresser said to me were: "how much do you want off?" and "that's £5.50." Maybe I exaggerate slightly, but there was absolutely no small talk involved whatsoever. Personally I don't find it easy to make small talk with strangers. But really. You don't go in for a haircut, you go in for a forced chat about your personal life. I feel gypped.

I was only relieved of about two inches of hair. On the whole it is much neater and not so ragged. I think I will have to get another inch off in a few months, to annihilate the next generation of split ends before they take over. I read in the style section of the newspaper that the best way to be stylish is to have a good haircut. It didn't actually say what constitutes a good haircut. So I can't tell if I'm stylish or not.

Now at the advanced age of 27, I have ventured into the strange realm of skincare. In my past, skincare has been random and sporadic. Maybe a dab of sunscreen in the summer, a tube of face wash once in a great while, application of makeup rarely though amateurishly. But now I contemplate my age and my future. I am on the downhill slide of youth and soon I will be climbing the hill of middle age. Obviously I have a few more years of the youthy slidey bit, but I can see that hill a'coming. And so I have bought a few skincare products. One is a moisturizer which slightly intimidates me. Along with the usual "light, non-greasy" spiel, it claims to reveal younger looking skin upon use. When I bought it, I kind of just looked at the front label for a 15 SPF and it was really the first to hand. I also bought an exfoliating facial wash, which upon closer examination claims the same as the moisturizer. I can't believe I'm so old that I need beauty tonics for my face to make me look younger. I can't believe I'm so old that I need to look younger.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Partner got a laser mouse for his laptop. The kind without a roller thingie. So I type this on his laptop and try out his mouse. But it's hard to balance the computer on my lap and maneuver the mouse without a mousepad.

The dog and I went on Walkies though really today it should be termed as Swimmies. There is a reclaimed mine area a few blocks from our house which is something between a wildlife refuge and a public park. We almost always go there for our walk. The paths today were running with rainwater and the ponds were overflowing. Beauty sprinted across the football pitch (soccer field) and did a Moses impression. When we got home it was straight upstairs to the bathtub for a rinse.

I've registered for an online correspondence course for next September. I'm going to study IT and computing. I want a BSc. And then I'll be cool. I've tried my best to register for universities around here but it's stumped me. They have a cut-off date for applications and classes all start in the fall. My dad's university is much easier to register for and students can join in at the start of semesters, rather than the start of the academic year. The cut-off date here is in January. And they don't make it easy for foreign nationals to become students. They wanted me to pick what school I went to from a drop-down menu--seeing as I didn't attend school in this country I couldn't complete that part of the application, rendering the entire document void. But registering for online courses seemed easy enough and a lot cheaper and I don't have to give up my job to study.