27 March 2013

Something to boast about

I realize my posts are getting more planty than crafty lately, but there isn't much time for crafting, while the plants tend to grow on their own, so... 
My Hokkaidos are getting pretty big and compared to one week ago they have grown their first true leaves. It's only a little gardening success, but it makes me happy : )
 
Pumpkin seedlings today, with cotyledons as well as
true leaves.
Pumpkin seedlings one week ago, with cotyledons only.
They are also starting to lay down and want to crawl around, so I will need to put them outside soon. Which brings two problems - first: I have nowhere to put them and second: it keeps snowing outside.

23 March 2013

Pumpkin talk

It is 23rd of March and the date tells of spring, but the white fluff flying outside speaks otherwise. It is still dark, still cold, and the Easter stands in the city centre sell the same mulled wine as the ones before Christmas.
However, in our flowerpots, the spring has already started and me and my man are both growing pumpkins from seeds. I think I just created a new amateur gardener and all it took was to make him a pumpkin soup once : ). I saved and planted five seeds of my Hokkaidó pumpkin ( a variety of red kuri squash), of which two sprouted and are happily growing, he made his soup at home with butternut squash and unwisely planted all seeds it had - and all of them sprouted (I think some of our friends who have gardens might be getting little green presents soon :) )
 
Seeds of the butternut squash in a sprouting jar
Hokkaídó pumpkin seed sprouting
 
 
These little plants are also a great topic of conversation, so now our very grown-up evening Skype talks and daily text messages are not only about “Our future bathroom will be pink!” and “No, our future bathroom will be blue!”, but also about “My pumpkin plants are bigger than yours” and “But mine have already started growing real leaves” and “I have more of them” and lots of interesting stuff like that.
 Life is happy with pumpkins : )
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Useful links:
Growing butternut squash from seed and How to grow butternut squash in pots or containers from the same blog (which also contains a LOT of information about growing all sorts of plants)
How to Plant Hokkaido Pumpkin Seeds (and lots of other useful questions with answers about growing pumpkins)

Pumpkin Soup

Usually, when I make something for the first time, it is only for me and it goes terribly wrong and the only person eating it is me. This time an unexpected encounter with a Hokkaido pumpkin at the supermarket sparked off the idea of making a pumpkin soup, so we made it together and it turned out really great.




Ingredients:

one Hokkaido pumpkin
1 onion (red, white, whichever kind you want)
salt
pepper
runny cream for cooking
sour cream
grated cheese





Cut the pumpkin open and put the seeds away, them cut it up (Hookkaido is great, because it doesn't need to be peeled, the peel cooks and tastes just like the flesh, so it is easy to prepare). Put in a baking dish and add coarsely chopped onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast until soft (You can also cover it so that it doesn't get very dry). It makes the most wonderful smell.

Then move it all to a pot and blend until the mixture is smooth. It will be very thick, so add some cream and a bit of water and more salt or pepper to taste.
I served mine with grated cheese and a spoonful of  sour cream on top and with toasted bread.

Nice and filling and a quick warm meal to put into your tummy after a hard day.

(And the next post will be about what we did with the seeds :)  )

14 March 2013

Lives with me

This is a new member of my invertebrate family. It is an apple snail (from the family Ampullariidae) (don't tell my landlord!).


It was an absolute impulse-buy and only cost me 25 Czech Crowns. Unfortunately, I am not sure about the exact species I have, as the ladies at the Pet Center kept reffering to it as "that ordinary snail" and looked at me with crazy wide eyes when I asked if she could write the latin name on top of the box for me (Is it just me, or does the pet store staff need to get a bit more info before they let them do the job??). Similarly, some week later I wanted to get a plant for the tank, something shade-loving, easy-growing that will be happy with ambient light only - again they did not know, but pointed out that "that one" (of course the most expensive one) would maybe be ok. So I said I will think about it politely.

Setting up the tank cost me very little. Basically:
-washed gravel from the botanical garden
-pond water
-5l jar to keep it all in (from pickles from the last zoological Christmas party)
-one plant (again, I do not know the name, because it was on the price tag that they took away - grr!!)
-thermometer from BauHaus to check the temperature (generally, the advised temperature is between 18 and 28°C, but the snail was active and growing happily even at 16, when my heating was broken for some time)
-lots of help from the facebook group of apple snail breeders (mostly advice about water - thank you a LOT!!!)
-two types of fish food
-sometimes light from a desk lamp

... and the snail has already trippled in size since I bought him/her (these snails are gonochoristic = have separate genders = opposite of hermaphroditic) - I am not able to determine the gender, but I don't think I want eggs anyway (even though they look amazing).

I am thinking one day I could have a bigger tank with plants that will grow above the water on which the snails will be able to lay eggs (something like this, only smaller) and we can keep it in the biology classroom. Wouldn't that be wonderful??
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Tutorial about how to take care of apple snails

10 March 2013

Rainbows

In summer 2011, the charity that I worked for became a supporter of Prague Pride festival and walk. I did not walk, but I stood by out stand in the city centre and watched all the crowds gather and walk past me, waving (maybe a bit too enthusiastically) a little rainbow flag (apparently, I was caught on camera by some of the Czech TV stations - I did not watch the programme myself, even though it was posted on my Facebook wall by my friends repeatedly - I must seem crazy enough to the world even without waving around a piece of rainbow cloth on a stick). Anyway, I think that was the day I heard most opinions about gay people and met the nicest people of same-sex orientation and it was a great summer day. Just to say, a Mum carrying a board that says "I love my lesbian daughter" speaks for everything.


To be able to buy these friendship bracelets, have a look at their Etsy listings: striped FB, FB with squares, FB with vertical stripes

So, full of new thrill and opinions, I came home and started getting ideas and had to buy some pride-coloured threads and started weaving these. The middle one has been finished for quite some time, but I only finished the other two a few days ago. They have waited in the box for a long time, now it's their time in my Etsy shop!

And if you want to experience it yourself, this year's Prague Pride will be in August!!

03 March 2013

Newly Hatched

One event happened to shoot my heart-rate up during my happy and lazy Saturday evening - this little creature!! This is the best photo I could get so far.
This animal is a leaf insect from family Phylliidae.  Like many insects, leaf insects reproduce parthenogenetically - without males. Males do exist and look differently from females, but are very rare.
I was lucky to get three leaf insects as very early Christmas presents last year (pictured on the phots below). Two out of three reached maturity and only one survived until August 2013, when she laid 25 black eggs that resemble plant seeds. To this little insect, it took six months to hatch. During these six months, the eggs have gone dry, mould has grown on them, they were placed into a new container several times and not to mention had to survive much lower temperatres than advised when the heating in my room didn't work for about a week - so definitely not a perfect care and yet - at least one of them made it through :) The young ones are reddish-brown, but they change colour to green within the first few weeks of their life.

Can you see it? : )

The mother of my current leaf insect

Young leaf insect taking a walk on my keyboard

02 March 2013

Newly Finished

I have begun the tedious task of composing my master's thesis lately. And the number of written lines is increasing at a regular rate of one page per approximately seventeen excruciating hours of writing. Of course, with a difficult task as that, I must refuel myself by lots of encouraging cups of tea, lunch meetings and gossipping with friends, episodes of some my favourite series and some crafting. When the thesis is nowhere near its end, it is nice to sit down and FINISH some little project, like these two bracelets...
Soon to appear in my Etsy shop

And ... even though I rejoice at the thought of some poor new bachelor's degree student exclaiming joyfully over my thesis, because they just found the citation they needed, I sometimes think that maybe these little bracelets, even though they might be regarded as "crafty clutter", might actually bring people more happiness than whole of my research work. Luckily, I have an alternate carreer, to become a teacher and make people like all the "creepy-crawlies".

I have pulled out a whole box full of unfinished bracelets that I am going to work on slowly during the evenings and finish. Just to give my motivation the little boost.
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P.S.: The camera is still having some problems, so it might take a while until I list these in my shop :(
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