31 December 2013

Merry Vianoce : )


My Christmas (or Vianoce in Slovak and Vánoce in Czech) started way way back at the beginning of December, when I started thinking about Christmas baking, decorating my room and so on.


It was the first year that I really tried to bake my own traditional Christmas biscuits. Thanks to my Czech Grandmother’s recipes, I more or less succeeded. I especially enjoyed cutting out various shapes and all the decorating - sticking biscuits together by cranberry jam, covering them with melted chocolate and positioning a nut on the chocolate so that they look pretty. The special Christmas cookie box was filling up nicely.


Of course, many of the sweets have fallen to my naughty Christmas tummy and I needn’t say that there was a lot of cups of tea involved in the whole process of baking, decorating and tasting :) And of course, once I came from my Christmas shopping with a completely new set of a cup and a bowl for myself. Let’s face it, we ladies all do this! We go out to buy things for others, but there are so many nice things that we would like too! So I figured one cup and bowl are not going to hurt anyone ;-)


I ate and slept a lot (my favourite combination) and did some crafting, but times were extremely stressful at work – I must admit I have falled a bit behind with the teaching, thanks to rehearsing for the Christmas school play. My class, who normally never shuts up (and that’s not being harsh, they simply cannot spend ten minutes without exchanging information verbally) was quiet like owls and so cutely nervous… I just loved them so much at that moment. Their performance lasted something over three minutes and they were wonderful. I was incredibly happy and proud. This all just reminds me that teaching is a happy job - and so rewarding!


After this, just a few days before going to my parents’ in Slovakia, I handcrafted a few felt decorations that I was giving as a present to my Mum. This year’s presents from me were very simple and humble (my lawyer brother got her a new laptop – I felt quite bad then, because my decorations hardly cost anything but time, but Mum keeps saying that these are two totally incomparable types of presents, so I am coming to terms with the fact that I am poor, but crafty!).


Right after school finished on Friday, I ran (literally) to the train station to get to Slovakia. I was on a very tight schedule (my own fault) and just hopped into any carriage just to make sure the train doesn’t go away without me. This consequenced into me having to drag my huge suitcase through the three carriages of sleeping compartments and getting told off by a train guard, who made me and a bunch of Slovak students and some Czech guys stand in the corridor in front of the toilets for forty minutes, then get off at the next station and go find our places from the outside of the train. However, the Slovaks immediatelly pulled out bottles of Coke and rum and some toast bread, cheese and ham. For those forty minutes, my suitcase turned into a temporary buffet table and I got a little dinner for free. On the way back, I travelled in the cozy comfy sleeping compartments, which wasn’t nearly as much fun. I don’t know the names of the guys with food, but I would like to thank them for their hospitality and all the fun we had. x After nine and half hours of sitting down, I arrived at my parents’ slightly overdecorated, but lovely home.


It was a lovely few days, during which I was finishing a Tunisian (or Afghan) crochet baby blanket. In three months there will be a new baby in my man’s family and I love the thought of a tiny little human being tucked in it and pulling it with its little fingers : ) And - surprise, surprise!!!  - there was a cup of tea involved as well!


The blanket was finished before Christmas and I found a lovely snowflake ribbon to tie it into a bundle with. Can’t wait for the baby, I’m so excited!


We visited both of our Grandparents and my Czech Grandma made a lunch meal of goose, potato dumplings and cabbage for us. Then I did some very late cardwriting for my lady penfriends – this year I managed my time terribly, so I didn’t make any handmade ones like I usually do, but sent some other ones instead. I still included a little handmade thing to go with the cards. And of course, I had tea. I love tea, you probably already know that.


On the 23rd December, I revived my skiing passion (to the great surprise of everyone in the family) and headed out to the slope with my Dad, in an outfit combined of my brother’s and my mother’s equipment and clothes. It was a great hour of night-time skiing and I didn’t even fall once.


On the 24th we had a typical Slovak Christmas dinner, consisting of sauerkraut soup with mushrooms and sausage in it and a second course of a fish (traditionally carp, but we had trout this year) with some sort of potatoes or potato salad.

I had a magical Christmas time with my family and I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas as well. I got some very useful presents, but I feel like the comfort of being at home, watching Christmas stories on TV and having all that good food and fun with my family was worth much more than the presents.

27 December 2013

Winter Wishes


The Best Graduation "Bouquet"

On December 5th (yes, the day before Mikuláš), I finally graduated. It did not feel like a huge celebration or relief to me, mostly because I took the final step to finishing my degree in the middle of September and the graduation ceremony took place a few months later, but it was really nice to have my boyfriend and my parents here to watch me receive a diploma and finally get a masters degree in biology. I even had to take a day off work ; )


Much earlier in the year, we started talking about what present I want when I graduate and I said that a bouquet is a must... Then somehow in spring I got into all the bulb plants and my man started joking that he will "just come with a bag of bulbs". I liked the idea and he took it to perfection - he arrived with a BOX of bulbs - 150 bulbs of six different plant species.


I cannot wait to plant them - this is  "bouquet" that I will cherish, take care of and that will flower for me for many many years to come. And the best is - I can distribute it to all the places that I love - my mother's little garen behind our block, my boyfriend's parents' garden in the UK and his sister's garden and finally also our own garden once we buy a house, not to mention putting some into a flowerpot and taking them to work to make the mood like spring is coming. I can put them anywhere and even give some as presents and I will still have enough. I love this idea and this man to bits. He knows what I like, even though it is a bit crazy and a bit geeky :)

26 December 2013

Pre-Christmas Snail Feeding and Cleaning

One of my missions during the pre-Christmas cleanup was to clean the snail tank and change the soil in it.


Positioning a 130 l tank in the bath tub is not easy, but I managed to clean it. Mission two - cleaning the bath tub :)
The snails were all asleep, because I forgot to sprinkle them with water for quite some time (pre-Christmas business and other excuses too).


It gave me a change to observe the size of the snils without really disturbing them. Jedi is so huge now - he looks pretty impressive in my hand, even though, I do have tiny hands.


Here are some details of the epiphragm.


The snails woke up and had a meal of fresh lettuce and cucumber. However, most of them snacked on the epiphragms first.

❄ Lettuce or epiphragm?  

❄ Little break in the middle of all that eating 

❄ Last bits - om nom nom - and a curious expression 

May all your snails have enough lettuce and epiphragms to chew on during the Christmas time and all the way through the following year!! x

15 December 2013

Sunny Cold


I am having a super caffeinated weekend and I woke up way too early this morning, thanks to which I had enough time to clean the flat, the snail tank, do some crafts and witness a few splendid sunlit morning moments in the garden while I was taking out the compost bin. There is something beautiful about standing out there in pyjamas and sweater, stopping to just observe the garden for a minute.


09 December 2013

Getting Ready for Winter

This last two weeks were incredibly busy with work (meetings with parents, preparing for the school play) and family business (graduation - more about that later - my parents and boyfriend visiting at the same time), so I am feeling pretty tired now, as I sit at home on my bed after having made lesson plans for tomorrow while drinking a cup of delicious Lady Grey Tea.

But the last two weeks did not only bring business. Even though I worked hard and had a lot of social interacting to do (and God knows I'm bad at it when I'm not in the mood for it), I enjoyed every single little moment that I could, cups of tea, knotting bracelets, every single cute thing that my pupils told me, every snowflake that fell onto my coat, every bird that flew around my window, every single stitch that I was able to crochet. We had our first snow, although it only clung to some parts of the landscape and only for a day or so. I made more of my snowflake decorations and even a few of my Christmas-themed items from my Etsy shop sold and are on the way to their new homes now.

Like last year, I tried to make all the Christmas preparations and shopping long before December starts, so I could enjoy my cozy winter time with crafts and good food when everyone else is stressing out, but - oh! - suddenly it is past Mikuláš and I have barely done anything! It must be the job that keeps me busy and prevents me from shopping! Anyway, I mamaged to make some coconut biscuits (out of a ready made bought dough) and the weekend has rewarded me with a beam of sunshine through our kitchen window, so I could take this lovely picture.
Coconut biscuits (they are all gone now)

01 December 2013

Autumn in Pictures

It seems like the nice autumn is gone for good this year. Most trees lost their leaves and those that are still left are dull brown, everything is wet and dark, we leave home for work in the dark and we come home in the dark. My inner mammal wants to sit down with a huge cup of tea (or as my man says - a bucket of tea) and crochet something colourful to cheer me up or curl up under a warm fluffy blanket with a good book (Les Miserables at the moment).
 
However, I am glad that this autumn was so beautiful, as you could already see from my autumn break post. I enjoyed sitting under the tree, marking some tests from biology, drinking tea and walking Jedi. I played with colours this year, too. It was my Dad's 60th birthday at the end of October, so I made him a handmade birthday card with pictures of the leaves from our garden, a little bit of Nils Udo style.
 
 
 
I am thankful for this lovely season, I learned a lot and the time spent outdoors in nature was magical. I am very happy that I can live in the wild, with blackbirds and cats and crows and hares running around our street. And last night, as I walked home from a coffee meeting with a friend, I met a wild friend that I haven't seen for almost a year. He was walking by the pond, too slow and too round for a rat, so I ran down the hill to have a look. The hedgehog was way too scared to walk around with me there, so I snapped a picture and left him to his evening walk.
 

30 November 2013

3936 Meters of Colour

 
Even though it is weekend, today was full of work - this time not teaching, but crafting! Our school organizes a day of various workshops every year and I chose to do a friendship bracelet workshop. My surprise was huge, when I learned that seventy kids signed up for it. Oh wow. Each of them paid a little fee (about 80p), so we had quite a lot of money and I went slightly nuts with yarn shopping - and here they are - thirty-two balls of 100% cotton yarn in twenty-one different colours. I had four busiest crafty hours of my life (and I thought crafting was relaxing!!!), but it was definitely worth it. However, I do look forward to doing some very calm and slow crafting over a cup of hot tea, followed by spontaneous and long nap somewhere at home :))

22 November 2013

Jedi's Unsurprising Reproductive Failure and Surprisingly Good Video

My darling Archachatina marginata suturalis has laid a HUGE egg a few months ago, it was almost one and half centimetre long (0.6 inch) and yellow in colour. I read somewhere that these snails lay a few "testing" and usually unfertilised eggs before they lay a proper fertilised batch that they bury in the soil. This single egg was on the surface of the substrate. I took care of it, kept it in a special box, maintained humidity and took care that no harm happened to it, waited one week, two, a month, month and a half... And after two months a hole appeared in the egg and the insides were all liquid and smelly. It is not very surprising since Jedi is the only A. m. suturalis that I keep, since his/her partner died as a little one, but maybe I was just hoping for some miraculous self-fertilisation...

Anyway, here's the picture of an egg and a snail, both on my hands, picture taken by my dear man.

 
However, in spite of this reproductive unsuccess (if we don't wat to use the harsh f-word from the title), he is still as charming as always and even starred in one of my youtube videos, made during his autumn walk outside. You can view it here. Let me know what you think!!
 

21 November 2013

Beetle Pupa


Yesterday, I found out that one of my Zophobas morio larvae has pupated, which was a great opportunity to show my pupils some examples of life cycles and life stages of various animals. 

We already worked with the larvae, so most of the students have had them in their hand and were not scared of them any more (they even named the biggest larva). 

They also saw the adult beetles, as I demonstrated their ways of defending themselves by secreting a smelling substance when disturbed (although it is not very easy to make them feel disturbed or threatened, I had to work very hard on that). 

The only stage that I did not see were the eggs. The tiny larvae just seem to suddenly appear in the tank with adults, so I willbe happy if someone could give me some advice on how to look for them or what they look like.

When I was working on my thesis for teaching certificate, I got critisized by som people for picking this beetle, because of its smell and so on.However, they do have a very positive response in students and are a great source of various information - about life cycle, defence mechanisms, even can be shown as an example of potential food source (I am planning on trying to cook some at the end of the schoolyear and am getting a lot of inspiration from the Girl Meets Bug blog). They are relatively long lived and you can keep them very comfortably in a plastic box and feed them whatever food or veggie leftovers you have. And you can observe the larvae, pupae and adults at the same time.

I definitely need to get some more larvae :)

19 November 2013

Mini Harvest

It has already been over a month since I received this cute photo in an e-mail from my boyfriend, saying that this is all that he grew this year and that if groceries were up to him, we would starve... He also mentioned that he wanted to take a picture of his hand holding it, but it looked "far too sad".


I think that - for a beginner - he did quite nicely. We will definitely try to grow some more next summer and maybe with a bit of supervision, he can become a really awesome gardener :)

By the way, I am thinking about growing lentils (not sure whether in out mid-European climate or on some adopted piece of garden on the British Isles yet), so if anyone has any advice, ideas or useful links about lentils, please do let me know, I will be very thankful.

13 November 2013

I Made Snow!

 
You see, I was at home for too long - nine days - and I got SO lazy!!! Out of boredom, I started making snow!!
 
 
I planned to do some lesson plans and read extensively on the subject of teaching and dealing with problems in class while I am ill and all I did was, well, some lesson planning, lots of reading of my Czech copy of Les Miserables, baking biscuits and watching about bazillion Family Guy episodes and similar amount of Ellen show. And yesterday, out of boredom, I started on a snowflake decoration that I wanted to do for ages, but thought it to be too difficult to make. And yet here we have it, and not only one. Three are for sale now in my Etsy shop.


I am really proud of me for making these - I did not use any pattern, I made them as I imagined the snowflakes when I was a kid and they look extremely old-fashioned to me. It is possible that someone somewhere made one that is very similar to this, or even that I saw something like that and unconsciously started thinking this is what a snowflake should look like, or that someone will see this photo and will make ones that look exactly like these, but for now, I am enjoying the thrill of having made something unique and one of a kind.

12 November 2013

I Decorated

 
I probably didn't mention that I moved about a week ago. It wasn't a big move, only to a different room in the apartment, so it was all done comfortably in slippers and with a cup of tea. The room is smaller, but brighter. It gets more sunshine and will definitely benefit the plants and my winter mood. Yesterday, I felt the need to decorate, so I scavenged some business-themed newspaper from our "recycling" box of paper and cut out hearts of different sizes. Then I put them on a string and hung on the wall. It didn't cost me anything and it looks pretty.
 

And because Christmas will be here in a month and a bit, I also decorated. While the old room was facing west (and offering nice sunny evenings in summer), this one faces south-east, thanks to which I get to enjoy pink morning skies daily.

Have you already done some winter-themed decorating? Do not hesitate and let me know in a comment. Blog links are welcome!

06 November 2013

Repotting Elephant's Feet

Three years ago, I bought a pack of Beaucarnea recurvata seeds, also known as ponytail palm or elephant's foot. The seeds nicely sprouted and grew and grew. Out of about eight seeds, I got five plants. One went to my friend and the remaining four were growing happily on my windowsil.
 

Now that I am ill, there's not much I can do at home, so I started repotting the plants that need it. Here they are:

 
The smallest and most irregularly shaped one has four buds on its stem and I can't wait to see them grow and see how the shape of the plant will change in the following years.
 
 
 

There's also one plant that isn't mine. I got it from a friend, when I was looking for plants to put in the classroom. It looks poorly, it is somehow shrunk, in a really hard soil and barely has any roots. I repotted it as well and hope to make it look and grow a bit better.

 

05 November 2013

Voicelessness

After my lovely autumn break, I woke up to find out that my voice is kind of funny... Over the weekend, it got better and then suddenly I could only whisper. On Monday, I had to be very creative during my lessons, so I brought some signs and my pupils worked individually a lot, so that I didn't have to speak.
 

I have tried everything - inhaling steam, drinking lots of warm drinks and water, no caffeine, gargling salty water... Nothing really helped. It seemed that this is more than just "new teachers' November vocal crisis". Eventually, because my boss told me so, I went to see a doctor. Result? Vocal chords infection, antibiotics and rest of the week at home.

I really didn't expect this, especially when I always got praised for my strong voice during my teacher's training and those who know me also know that I am very loud and talkative at all times. So now I am at home - making lesson plans, cooking, tidying up and daydreaming about keeping chickens, eating mealworms and other girly stuff ;-)

02 November 2013

Snailwalking

As the weather was so nice last week during my autumn break, I couldn't resist the idea of seeing my snail on all those lovely yellow leaves. I took Jedi out for a "walk" and now I am the weird lady who walks snails, but it's all right, because I always enjoyed being a bit geeky.  And the pictures that came out that day are just wonderful. Jedi is a star. : )

Jedi is exploring the garden on a warm autumn day.

Sun snail and leaves, yellow and brown ...
 
Everybody likes tea! Even the snail was interested in it.
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