Sunday, 29 April 2012

Weather, wonders and walking...

As I'm sure you've realised, dear reader, that a lot more has happened to me in the last year or so than the last post hinted at. How right you are! Here's a little more recap...


The weather has been particularly strange in this corner of the world... When we expect it to be cold it's unseasonably warm and when we expect it to be warm (because we've had a week of t-shirt weather) it's unseasonably cold... and then there's the rain

and the sleet/hail

I'm one of those people who loves four, distinct seasons so when it's cold, I'm happy, when it's warm, I'm happy... but this recent weather very much has me pining for summer in Sweden. Warm, sunny, relaxing...


In December, I (finally?) became a British Citizen in a small ceremony at Brixton Town Hall. I think the most enjoyable part of the evening was that the woman who officiated the ceremony (The Mayor of Lambeth) is also originally from somewhere else and her accent was so thick it was often very difficult to figure out what she was saying. It was the perfect way to be welcomed into the "Bow of Lambett" and it made for several giggles on the way home afterward.

Last weekend I went to Belfast again to visit my Chickenhead. We had a wonderful time and I snapped some more photos of Belfast...

Chickenhead did give me quite a few questioning glances as I was taking some of the more arty shots, and even asked if I was trying to take a photo of what was inside the shutters in one shot. It took a little more convincing than I'm comfortable with, to be honest, to convince her that wasn't casing the joint! (It's probably simply a reflection of how well she knows me *grin*)

This week we got our grades back from our first two modules as well as the mark for our most recently submitted paper/report for Practical Skills for the Biosciences (PSB). My grade on the report before this one had been a 45. Gasp! So I wasn't very confident about the outcome of the most recent one, let alone my overall module grade. I (somehow) managed to get through that paper with a mark of 80! 80!! I'm still not entirely sure how I managed it but I'm not complaining and I will take the time to compare the two to ensure I know how to affect the differences going forward. This made my overall mark for the module (thank dog for weighted totals!) a pretty OK B+ for PSB. (I say "pretty OK" because I don't like it. It's not enough for my standards but I will accept it (somehow) because A. I have very little other choice and 2. I'm very slowly learning what "good enough" is.

For the other module, From Molecules to Ecosystems (FME), I got an A for the year. This too, is "pretty OK" because I would have loved a High A, but I realise the reasons I didn't are entirely down to me... getting back into the swing of things regarding academia, not committing as much time as I'd like studying, getting a little cocky, etc.

This week, I also started my Chemistry for the Biosciences module, which is divided into two different sections (making it two different classes?) of Organic and Biological Chemistry (OBC) and General Chemistry (GC).

Tuesdays are for GC and apart from the room being far too warm, it was a fun class.

Thursdays are for OBC and in a different part of the building so the room was a nice temperature but the lecturer has a thick Spanish accent... This caused issues for me due to several factors, but it meant that my brain wasn't able to translate what he was saying into English English and make the connections of the content. I couldn't absorb the information my brain had just translated. It was so bad at one point that I was looking at my phone, sending a message because my brain had all but given up trying to comprehend and I heard the word "dolphin". It made me chuckle, we're in a Chemistry class, after all, there's no way he said "dolphin" so my brain must really be on strike. I looked at one of my School Husbands, Ryan, to share the joke with him "Did he just say 'dolphin'?", to which he replied "Yes".

I was shocked, but sure enough, when I looked up, there was a slide on the wall, with a picture of a dolphin. It was a very surreal moment, indeed.

The whole evening was a bit like having Inigo Montoya as the lecturer and I absorbed very little of what was taught, though not as little as I feared, which is a relief.

I'm instituting a different game plan for this Thursday that includes more food and a different drug regime in the hopes that it makes a significant difference... if it doesn't; goodness knows where that will leave me!

Stay tuned, dear reader... I will certainly keep you posted on my progress with the Spaniard.


I'm doing something very important in just a few, short weeks, dear reader...

I'm walking 13 miles for charity! Whenever friends or family approach me and tell me they're skydiving for charity or cycling for charity, or getting waxed for charity; I always fully support their endeavours and donate generously with money. I can't do any of those things, so if I can help in any way, in my way; I do. I always explain that the only thing I can do, apart from donating money, is walk, and this is my firm conviction. But that means when a charity walk came up; I'd clean run out of excuses. Sigh.

So, I'm doing it, dear reader! I'm putting my money where my legs are...?? I'm walking, with a team, the Norwood 10 Bridges Walk for a wonderful cause. Norwood operate care homes for adults with various learning and social difficulties and they have a special place in my heart for a few reasons.

I would (as would others) be ever so grateful if you were able and willing to donate a little bit of money to help us reach our sponsorship goal... we're at 70% at writing this post... but we could do with a bit more. Here's the link for making donations and every little bit helps.

Thank you, very much, for even reading about Norwood and this challenge and thank you even more if you're able to donate!

I'll be snapping lots of pictures during the walk so stay tuned for those! Here's a map of the proposed route, so there will be lots of photo ops of this beautiful city! *whispers* I'm getting pretty excited about it, actually, though dreading the sore muscles at work the next day!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

A year has passed before my eyes...

Long Pond, Clapham Common

So much of my world has changed since I last posted here and I've wanted to write to you for a while, but I got quite lost, quite overwhelmed trying to figure out where to start...

What do you, dear reader, want to know about?

I could talk about work...

This summer I got an amazing job with an amazing firm of some wonderfully mad, wacky people. There hasn't been a day yet where I've *not* wanted to go to work.

Sometimes, as seems to be my way, I stay a little too long.... get a little too involved.... but I do love it so and I'm working on delegating. I swear!

This is getting easier as I learn that I don't need to control everything (Gasp!) and having an amazing minion doesn't hurt, either.

My "Mary Poppins' London" view from my office

I could talk about school (yes, school!)...

Stained red cells from a sample of horse's blood
Bradford Assay of BSA

I've started my BSc after seven lifetimes of not knowing what to do, where to start. I've had mixed results from my first two modules... It seems I'm a lot better with learning and knowing facts, processes, systems than with writing reports.

In fact, I think it's fair to say that I totally stink at writing reports. This fact may make it tricky should I firm up an option to become a research scientist somewhere down the line.

Perhaps I'll investigate exactly what a Medical Writer does. I hear they make good money.

I think the most difficult thing about heading onto this career path will be finding an acceptable balance between doing something vaguely altruistic and accepting that starting this late in life means I can be a little selfish and worry a bit about what my salary would be.

I'm still amazed at where a random comment on an internet forum can take a person.

I could talk about our kitchen...

Not so long ago, MrB commented that we should get a new oven/cooker - ours had a blown fuse so we couldn't use the light nor the extractor fan above the cooker and the bulb was blown inside the oven, it was breaking down... essentially it was in a nasty state of disrepair. While I completely agreed with him; I don't think he expected my response of wanting to re-do the entire kitchen.

See? To me it made perfect sense; whomever installed the cooker hadn't wired it properly so the fuse was behind the oven... If we were going to get a new oven, I would want to get it rewired. Properly. This would mean taking the cupboards, the tiles off the walls and since they weren't fantastic to begin with... I didn't like the idea of putting them back. I also wanted to work out a better layout for the room. We had an entire wall taken up/wasted by a fridge-freezer and I thought we could put the space to much better use.

Once I'd actually said all of this out loud to him he wasn't so freaked, thankfully, and a strange coincidence would put us in touch with a television production company who are doing a kitchen-remodel show and before we knew it; we were signing contracts and putting down deposits to have our kitchen gutted, re-designed and installed without having to lift a finger really. Bliss.

No worrying about calling the electrician, worrying about a late plumber, wondering what colour to choose for the walls, freaking out when the cupboards aren't ready in time and will grind the entire project to a halt.

Have I mentioned it was bliss? It totally was. And the end result? Far amazinger than I could have hoped!

The stolen wall before...
And after...

I could talk about Belfast...

I've been slowly, reluctantly falling in love with the place... against my better judgement. I think little gems like these are wearing away at my resolve...

Victoria Square Shopping Centre
Belfast City Hall
Albert Memorial Clock

I'm headed back next weekend, dear readers... I'll try to remember to snap some more beauties like these.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Acceptance, Hope and the Three brothers Clem

This blog post was originally supposed to be about loss, death, the withering of beloved plants but I've now come to tell you, instead, a tale of hope, of growth, of second chances and reprieves!

This is what I thought I'd be showing you, and we do have a lot of that, but, more importantly, we have things like these...

And I have no idea what these will turn out to be but I'm hopeful and proud and leaving them alone until they make their identity known to me. (Do you know what they are?!)


As part of our ongoing Beautifying our Backyard-/Garden-Space Project I'm eagerly searching for the best deals on garden furniture so we're ready to roll when Spring is finally sprung upon us here in London.

I've encountered a problem, however, and I need to rectify it quickly.

At the back of the garden we have a gorgeous Clematis (this is a picture of it in its heyday... it's the giant plant that rests across the top of the fence at the back of the garden)

and it's a source of pure joy each year when it blooms. (Of all the pictures I've ever taken; this continues to be a firm favourite.)

Clem was in the way when we were having our outback renovations done and he'd been trimmed back drastically to allow the landscaper to get into the area to work and then add the extended trellis on the back wall.

Now, several months later, it seemed to be that Clem had been over pruned and wasn't going to recover from the ordeal. I'd come to believe that Mr Clematis's time had come. His end had drawn near. He'd moved on to That Little Garden in the Sky where he could run around and play with other happy Clematises...

This is Clem...

So sad *sob*

I simply can't have just dry, withered Clematis vines at the back of my Please-Let-This-Be-Beautiful-and-Functional Space so drastic action was taken.

Allow me to introduce;

Three brothers Clem. (There are three of them. They are brothers. They are all named "Clem".)* Please excuse their varying states of undress.

Aren't they handsome?

I've unpacked them completely, fed and watered them well and am now waiting patiently for weather that is consistently 10 °C for longer than two hours a day so I can introduce them to their new home. I'm pretty excited.

For posterity (and this post) I went outside, intent on capturing pictures of the current state of death so I could show you just how bad it had become out there. (We saved, in pots, a rose and a fuchsia plant in the hopes that they could be replanted and placed around the garden as life, decoration.)

What's this?!

I'm not certain that this is Clem (as opposed to another plant that's wound around in the same viney mess) but I'm hopeful that it is. (Can you tell? Is it a clematis? If not; what is it?!)

And this is our sad, little rose...

But wait!...

A sign of life! Hope for our rose!

And our Fuchsia... Long-coveted by our neighbour...

Because our neighbour longed for this plant; when it was removed I tried to save some cuttings of it and get them to sprout so that I could surprise her with it. So far; my attempts have failed *sigh* I'm quite disappointed by it.... -ish...

There's hope! If I'm correct, those new shoots are coming from a section that had been sharply pruned back to move it out of the way of our satellite dish some time back and we'll have a fuchsia plant again! (Is it a fuchsia?!)

*When I have to explain it; some of the literary mystique is lost. Try to keep up.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Lots of love and a personal challenge for 2011

MrB and I don't celebrate St Valentine's Day in any formal, traditional way. (Several years ago I told MrB that if he were to send me flowers at my office that year he'd then be off the hook for the rest of our Valentine's Days together. He sent gorgeous balloons instead, one even being a giant frog, and he was very definitely off the hook.) Instead we celebrate the anniversary of a special day in our shared history on the 13th of February each year and treat the 14th as any other day of the year, specifically trying to avoid the commercialism that surrounds it 'nowadays.

Today, though, I thought I'd share a recipe I created last month and hey! I made it heart-shaped!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Almond Cookie-Press Cookies

1 cup dairy-free margarine at room temperature (plus some for buttering baking trays)
1/2 cup vegan cream cheese
1 cup granulated/castor sugar
3 cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Fully combine margarine and cream cheese in a medium bowl. Add sugar and cream together.

Add salt, baking powder, vanilla and almond and blend well.

"Butter" (read: coat with a thin layer of dairy-free margarine) several baking trays (this recipe makes a LOT of cookies and I forgot to count how many but I'd comfortably guess it's more than 40!) before you start pressing your cookies. I was making cookie-press cookies based on recipes/videos I'd found online and when they recommended buttering your trays before you start; I though I'd be fine to just use baking paper. Boy, was that a silly move! The cookies won't stick to the baking paper which means they won't pull away from the cookie-press which means you're pressing cookies for no good reason. Please, people, learn from my mistakes! *grin*

Using a flexible spatula, fill cookie-press with dough and choose your shape disc. I chose the disc for making heart shapes (largely because I couldn't figure out which discs made which shapes) and away I went. My cookie-press has two cookie-thickness settings so I chose to use the thinner cookie setting and I pressed once for each cookie as I wanted them to be little morsels rather than "cookies", if that makes sense.

I then baked the cookies at 200C/350F for about 8 minutes. Too much longer and they started to colour. I wanted them to just be set with a hint of goldenness.

Allow to cool on baking tray for at least 10 minutes, remove to rack to cool completely.

I can't wait to use my cookie-press again! This time I might have to use each shape disc just to see what each produces!


I'm on a self-induced (though inspired by futuregirl's*) craft diet this year.... A Challenge, if you will, to use what I have rather than buying more and more and making less and less.

What follows are photographic evidence of why I need to make this commitment to myself, to my bank balance, to the world (- why am I such a consumer?!) but please don't judge me too harshly... I do need to organise the whole set-up (that's on my list and it starts with filing about 45 years worth of paperwork) - and get a desk chair - but I know I've got at least a year's worth of crafting in there!

Want to know the worst part?.... That's not even any of my yarn in there! There's more *gasp* in other rooms in the house (living room, closet in the bedroom, etc)!

So, I've got a list longer than I am tall of things I want to make this year with the supplies I have so I now just need to get the motivation to actually do something other than brainstorming and dreaming and coveting!

Did you know that this is the first year in three years that I haven't been to my favourite two yarn stores in London to splurge on the Rowan Yarns sales? One of these retailers reported a drop in January sales as compared to the previous two years. *sigh* I know it's not all down to me but it brings home just how much I'd been spending on craft items and not getting many, if any, craft Finished Objects out of those items.

Have you set yourself a personal challenge for 2011?

*If you get the chance, peruse futuregirl's blog a bit... She's a Crochet Badass and totally inspirational for all "makers" out there.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

It's Oh-Ficial. I am a Geek.

There's no turning back from this point. The time has arrived that forces my Geekdom status from "Wannabe/Poser" Geek to "Full Blown/Ain't No Denying It Now!" Geek.


I've been fighting this for a looong time. Hoping against all hope (and evidence to the contrary) that I wasn't a Geek. I wasn't a Brain. I wasn't someone who was defined by their brain, their intellectual hobbies, their "quirks", if you will. I wanted to be "normal", "average", "standard" but the clues were all there... Seeking out Mensa for an in-person, not-online, actual IQ test... Using very "cerebral" methods when explaining, organising, planning, creating things... Becoming quite "geeked" in my hobbies (seeking out the new tools/methods, developing new concepts, pieces, tools, investigating every aspect of them...

One of these hobbies happens to be playing the Professor Layton games on my DS. I'm absolutely hooked. I love the animation, the cheesy "plots", the improbability of the story lines, the challenge versus simplicity of the puzzles. I even enjoyed the movie Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva and agreed with murmurs that the story was insane, improbable, ludicrous, absurd because it was all of those things. And more. All of the Professor Layton stories I've encountered thus far have been and I've loved them all!

The proverbial final nail in my Geekdom coffin happened recently. I'm nearing the end of Professor Layton and the Unwound/Lost Future and I wanted to know what was next... What was out there to feed my need for/obsession with Professor Layton... I did a little reconnaissance...

Just a few short weeks later I received a package from Japan. (I'm choosing to block out the details of the actual purchase because without them I'm still in a state of semi-denial so you'll have to do without them, too, I'm afraid.)

But what's in it, you ask? I knew. I knew what was in the box as soon as MrB brought it up the stairs and handed it to me in bed. I was almost vibrating with excitement and refused to open the package until I was dressed, downstairs and had my camera to hand...

Isn't he perfect?!

*hangs head* Yes. I know. My name is "Tanya" and I am a Geek. I blame this website. (OK, I now admit, with hindsight, that the name of that website held some sort of portend about the ultimate level of my Geekiness.) But, I bought an -action figure- based on an Anime movie that's based on a -video game-! I'm certain that that's the final step in attaining Full Geek status. *sigh*

(But I can't help but swoon at his perfect little plastic Professorness!)