26 November 2012

An (extra)ordinary tree

 
There was a tree last weekend that I could not take my eyes off. A single tree, ordinary from the distance, but wonderful in a close-up, covered with mosses, lichens, even mushrooms and resting insects. I saw a lot and yet I probably only saw a fraction of what lived on it. And all of it looked even more charming in the light of afternoon autumn sun.

mosses just above the ground

higher up
 
different moss growing on a tree-trunk

resting on the tree-trunk


amazing combination of colours



where it splits into branches

the tree
 
 
 

25 November 2012

Beyond civilization

•trees, grass, mud and water

That is exactly where I spent this weekend. My friends and I have decided that the successful passing of our final uni exams needed to be celebrated, however, it took us 2-4 months to bring that celebration into reality. Eventually, this Friday, off we went to one of the most remote places that we have ever been.
Eight of us have journeyed to the big house, lost between the peat bog and the woods, surrounded by trees and muddy swampy meadow, where the floors are cold, the water in the well is not suitable for drinking and the fire has to burn at all times to keep us warm. Every urge to go to the outdoor dry toilet is followed by a series of careful thoughts and then supressed, because you'd rather be in urge than cold and if you have to go eventually, possibly accompanied by a good friend (who will possibly not talk to you about criminals hiding in the woods and not lead you into thinking horror movie thoughts like mine did) with head-torch as a necessary piece of equipment,
Nevertheless, cooking goulash on the stove, geocaching, playing board games in the light of gas lamps, sleeping in a sleeping bag near the cracking fire (unless you fail to wake up every two hours to put another log on there), talking absolute nonsense and drinking Cuba Libre until half past two in the morning was great.


•little bits of forest

23 November 2012

Pre-Christmas baking



Coconut cookies
Christmas is still one month away from now, but last week we made some Christmas-like cookies :)

First of all, because the next time that A and I will see each other will be after Christmas and second of all - because the supermarkets have already started selling pre-made cake doughs of different flavours. I know that it's the best to make your own mixture without all the additives and preservatives, but this time I decided not to gamble (my cooking skills are still nothing to boast about) and just enjoy the baking process with the good feeling that the result will not go crazy/melt/burn as soon as I put it in the oven.

First, I played with the coconut dough. As the only currently available cutters in my kitchen were a spider, a caterpillar, a fish, a seal, a shark and a snail - definitely no Christmas-related shapes, I decided to use a tiny little shot glass to cut the circles out of dough. Oh yes, I also used a mug to roll it, because you wouldn't find a rolling pin around here - students' flat, what more do I need to say... (We used to have a bottle of rum for that very purpose at the old place, but that got dumped somehow during the process of moving).


And now the best part comes - based on a magazine suggestion, I used old glasses with 3D bottoms to press shapes into the cookies. It's incredibly simple and the result is wonderful. The only thing you need to keep in your mind is that you need to work as quickly as you can and do the pressing just before putting the cookies in the oven - otherwise the shapes might be less distinct.


Some of the glasses also had the shapes on the sides, so I tried rolling them onto the dough before actually cutting out the cookies and the result was nice as well. There's nothing as old-fashioned as a cookie made with an old-fashioned glass.

 
A few days later we had a go at the gingerbread dough, this time using the aforementioned cookie cutters. It wasn't nearly as much fun, but the result was nice as well. Moreover, we had some sugar icing in a tube for decorating, so the evening turned into an on-floor cake decorating session : )
 


Yes, they do look a bit (all right then, a LOT) like they were made by a four-years old, but taste just the same and we blame it on the incredible sticiness of the icing  : -b

 
 

22 November 2012

Newbies


My invertebrate family has grown considerably last week, when a friend presented me with ten little (actually - about two centimeters big) giant African land snail babies. They will add up nicely to the other snails that I already have and to a millipede, mantises and beetles that I keep too. They will also serve as source of education - my friend has already taken them to a high school biology lesson that she taught and I hope I will be able to do the same in the near future. Yay snails!!

19 November 2012

So we went to see the "Breaking Dawn - part 2" today...

It was the first cinema date with my man ( and we've been together for over a year now! ). My man not only agreed to that ( he didn't read the book nor has he ever seen any of the Twilight saga movies or read the books - obviously!), but also managed not to fall asleep during the film (it was probably too loud). I did trick him a bit though – first I got him to agree to buying the tickets – he even used his card to pay – and only then I told him all the details from the previous three and half books. That's when he started to look scared. And to be honest, when he ran off to the loo just before the start, I thought I might find him as I will be leaving, sitting on a sofa with some food, claiming to be lost and unable to find his way back from the toilet.

The film itself was quite good, Rob Pattinson was wearing less of the white powder on his face and I have a slight feeling that his ( and her too!! ) acting has improved slightly since the "New Moon"(which is the last film of the saga that I saw), but I still pulled A's sleeve saying "He's wearing lipstic, he's wearing lipstick!" Of course, they had to add a little imaginary battle scene to make movie less of a total boredom for the male part of the audience that was involuntarily pulled in by their girlfriends (and I wonder how many of those guys will demand to get the money back from their girls or at least force them to buy them a beer to level out the incredible emotional harm they suffered and make up for the nearly two hours of wasted time).

As for us, we even shared a little romantic moment by the end of it (me and my man, not me and Edward!), but after we got out, I made the terrible mistake of asking him what he thought of it. Right afterwards, he made a terrible mistake of saying it was „too much fantasy stuff put together that couldn’t happen in real life” – it was about vampires, it was about freakin‘ VAMPIRES !!!! So I’m sorry, so deeply sorry that it wasn’t as realistic as Spiderman, Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, because apparently all of those things are as close to our everyday reality as you can get. But mulled wine made up for that emotional harm and we got home safely, happily and thanks to my low tolerance for alcohol also in kind of a blur. 

17 November 2012

Almost Winter

I felt the blog needed a change. It was too jolly and happy and optimistic and green and lively for the dull, dark and cold weather that is currently making itself at home outside. Instead, I chose this photo - it is a picture from Christmas 2007 taken in a forest above Košice (Slovakia). It was a year when we didn't get much snow, but every single thing - trees, cars, leaves of grass - got covered in hard frost overnight. If I take a more cheerful one this winter, I will replace this one, but so far this one reflects my mood perfectly.


Christmas in Košice, 2007

I don't know whether it's my fault or the weather's or whose fault it is (yet am trying very hard to blame it on someone), but these days are so incredibly unproductive - I start doing one thing, then get distracted and never get back to it... It's all about blankets, snuggles, hot cups of tea and overeating by sweets here. Many people think that as we do not really go out that much during the colder months, we get a lot of work done at home. Sure, in theory, but am I a person strong enough to suppress my inner mammal craving hibernation? Baking cookies during the following week might wake my inner mammal up for a while... but only for a block of time long enough to produce and consume. It seems that Mr. Pianorebuilder will have to do the dishes.

15 November 2012

One evening in Košice

Once last week, I managed to get out and wandered through my city freely, just by myself. I shopped, I walked and I visited a place I haven't set foot in for nearly six years. It smelt and looked just the same as in my high-school times, it brought lots of memories and evoked a feeling of reflection and re-evaluation of life decisions until eventually all felt good and in the right place.
 
 




14 November 2012

November Trip to the Countryside

Last Thursday I took a nine hours long overnight bus ride to my parents’ home in Slovakia. They haven’t seen me for a while, Grandparents were eager to meet me again and it was my high school reunion as well. Unexcited about the tiring travel as I was, I journeyed straight into the arms of not-so-desired yet inevitable overload of social interactions and future carreer talks occuring at the rate of at least two per day. My desire and being used to solitude is misidentified as weirdness and longing for privacy is often misunderstood as rudeness. Surely, every time I’m here, there are moments when things get so impossible that my only option is to climb into the bath tub with a lot of cake and read Twilight all over again. However, I managed to let go at the 305th page and participate in a trip to my father’s cottage in the countryside, where I walked around the garden and picked the wet fallen walnuts covered by leaves (future Christmas cake ingredients) that the older people missed during the past few weeks.

❋ the field adjacent to our garden  ❋ the view of the house from the back garden ❋ mushrooms growing in the lawns❋
❋ wellies on and picking walnuts ❋ sunset ❋ grapes still out in November - very sweet

09 November 2012

❇❆ Ready for Christmas ❆ ❇

 
Christmas will be here in something over a month and I have been busy. Not with making stuff, that was already done in August, but with taking photographs and listing - that's the harder part of the work.
All of these can be currently seen in the "Christmas" section of my Etsy shop.
Little sets of two or three decorations can be divided and stars can be sold individually, it is all up to you and I will be happy to create custom listing for you (even a mix from different sets, if you wish!).

❇ ❈ ❅ ❄ ❆❇ ❈ ❅ ❄ ❆❇ ❈ ❅ ❄ ❆❇ ❈ ❅ ❄ ❆❇ ❈ ❅ ❄ ❆❇ ❈ ❅ ❄ ❆❇ ❈ ❅ ❄ ❆❇ ❈ ❅ ❄ ❆❇ ❈ ❅ ❄

You may have noticed that I am gone at the moment, however, I am still taking orders and your packages will be sent on Thursday 15th November - still arriving a long time before Christmas! :)


03 November 2012

Something like school

(or what it takes to become a youth camp organizer - lesson number one)

In the middle of September, I have passed all of my uni final exams. That meant no more lectures or exams for me, just finishig my work and writing and defending my thesis. I always knew that I will miss going to lectures and hearing about new interesting stuff (mind you – hearing, not actually learning or studying it), writing notes, and nerding around asking the super clever lecturing people lots of totally out-of-the-way questions adnd giving them stupid smiles and admiring looks, but if you told me that it will only take me twenty-two days to enrol to a course of night classes, I would have told you "Hahaha, very funny, no way, I am not crazy, I am going to enjoy my time off for now." But apparently - crazy I am, because ...

I happened to go round to my old dorm, there was a notice board, I wanted a cinema programme and there was this leaflet and one thing let to another and now it seems like I am going to attend a course to become a qualified organizer of events for children and youth...
I have never been to a youth camp myself, so I couldn’t wait, it would be fun and I’d get to meet some new people. I thought it couldn’t be more cool. It couldn’t.
So then on Tuesday I got there, lost and late as always. First, they let us fill in a very silly form, then divided us into groups of three and sent us out into the streets. Within the first hour of the course, I had a whole leg bandaged and had to hop around the street directly adjacent to the Wenceslas square (the very heart of Prague and of course at the time when everybody leaves work and the streets are packed with people), I had to hold a tray while my teammate demonstrated her cooking skills on a bread roll and jam to a guy dressed like cook in the corner of the street that smelled of urine, I cheated in a game where we had to make a tower out of wooden cubes using just three bamboo sticks and as I was the tallest and thinest of the three of us, it was also my privilege to climb through a children’s playing tunnel that was looked after a man dressed in a wetsuit and mask and snorchel standing next to an empty fountain (but that I did not mind because I do like guys in wetsuits). So – this is probably what a youth camp looks like and what I will be able to organize by the end of April. Oh – my – goodness !!!
Also one thing strikes me – while we were doing this, nobody looked at us even slightly weirdly. As if people were used to  seeing this kind of a thing regularly. I blame it all on the UK blokes coming round to have their stag nights dressed as idiots, getting drunk in the pink sweatpants showing their bum cleavages.

01 November 2012

Farewell to the ZOO

Earlier this week, I had to say goodbye to my work at the zoo. I was leaving voluntarily, because I have a lot of other more urgent activities to perform (such as finally finishing uni etc.) and I desire to have a cozy and warm indoor winter rather than freezing my body parts somewhere out there, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of sadness off me. I had one great summer over there and I finished as I started- in temperatures under ten degrees, on an ugly dark day, wrapped up in about ten layers of sweaters, jackets, scarves and hats.
I took photos all the time that I worked there and I feel that right now is the right time to share. Hopefully I will be seen there again next year. If they will want me ;-)
 Pink flamingos and their not-so-colourful babies.
Ducks. Abundant and everpresent. They are not kept at the ZOO, but fly in and out from the river as they please. There are more males than females and they form bachelor raping groups and will not leave the Mums alone even when they already have babies. Females make nests in the exhibits and then walk around with their ducklings and happily swim in the water barriers.
 
 
 Goats. Oh, how much trouble and fun I had with these!!



Guinea pigs of all colours. Pear-shaped mothers who can hardly get into the guinea pig house with their big bellies give birth to much admired little piggies.

 
A happy hippo family that very rarely showed me their fronts, resting in their old exhibit. The baby hippo boy celebrated his first birthday in summer and all of them are now happily moved and getting used to their new home in the upper part of the zoo.
Pigeons. Rooftop-walking and fence-sitting are their favourite activities.
An old sloth lady. She enjoys sleeping and when she moves around and eats, she makes people say "awww". She also enjoys sunbathing under a light bulb and doesn't mind serving as a very slow taxi for tamarins.
 
One thing that the "Madagascar" movie was good for is that every child, even the smallest one, knows that lemurs are from Madagascar, even though they will not be able to tell you where it is if you ask. One thing the movie was NOT good for is "king Julian" and "I like to move it move it". Mentioned four hundred times a day, it wears off even the roughest personalities.

During all this time that I worked at the zoo, I have met many people and seen many attitudes towards animals and I came to a conclusion that most people who come to the zoo are not animal lovers. They come to have a look at how “funny” the animals are and to take some cool photos for their Facebook profile. Most people also still have a problem to see zoos as educational institutions and a places to learn. Sure, there were a few people who told their kids to behave nicely when contact between the humans and animals is allowed, to approach it from the front, not to feed it because the sign says so, not pull its tail and so on…
But I have also witnessed cases when people fed the goats with fries, then accused me of forbidding them to do so because we want to earn money on the goat food from vending machine, then purchasing the goat food and putting it into a transparent plastic bag and after being warned that those are not allowed because the goats might accidentaly eat them and even die, saying that if they are so stupid that they would actually eat them, they deserve to die. I also feel that a true animal lover will never hit a goat into the head because it punched him with its horns and so “it needs to know what it feels like”, will not try to put his/her four years old child onto the goat’s back to ride it, will not argue about taking a dog where dogs are not allowed and will not lock their dog in the car at the car park after realising that the dog admission fee has gone up. Also blowing a massive flash out of your camera in the dark part of the “Indonesian jungle” directly into the face of a nocturnal slow loris doesn’t seem like a bad idea to many people, just because “well, if you are so clever, tell me how am I supposed to get a good picture from here without a flash?!” I also understand that kids do not read the signs, but a parent must be totally ignorant to allow his child to throw rocks at animals, because "they are boring when they don't move" and then look surprised or yell at you when you tell them that this is not how you should treat animals.
Being in touch with people is hard work for both employees and animals. I swear, I could see the animals be fed up with people as the evening approached. Many people think that animals at the zoos are poor because they are “caged up”. Trust me, they are well taken care of. If they are poor, it’s only because they experience a bunch of STUPID people coming in day after day after day, workdays and holidays, all year long.
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