Cucumber sandwiches and a chicken in a tree

I spent this afternoon with Harvestbird and the mini-Harvestbirds at a garden party hosted by Dorothy’s pop-up tearooms (i.e. my friend Jan, who catered my graduation party).  After cold and wet weather earlier in the week, it was a lovely afternoon sitting under the trees eating scones and cucumber sandwiches and an array of incredible cakes.  I taught the mini-Harvestbirds (plus an additional small child from a neighbouring picnic blanket) how to play petanque, but was called away from the grand championship game by Jan, to tell me I’d won a prize in the raffle: a seriously cool pair of teapot and measuring tape earrings (quilts and tea – it’s like they were made for me. Just add some cats and books, and they’d be perfect :-) )

I think the highlight for the mini-Harvestbirds was the chicken they spotted perched high in a tree (the venue was out in the semi-countryside on the edge of town). Much excited shouting of “there’s a chicken in the tree” later, they had quite a crowd of adults gathered to see the phenomenon (mutter, mutter, city people, mutter, mutter…)

The elder mini-Harvestbird was moved to compose a song about the chicken, which younger mini-Harvestbird accompanied with interpretive dance.

Hmm, I really should have videoed it, shouldn’t I?  But as you can probably tell, it was a very impassioned performance.

A very pleasant way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Talking of cucumbers, my little cucumber plants are struggling on, despite the cooler weather.  The leaves seem to be starting to die off, but despite that the plants keep valiantly producing flowers, and the actual cucumbers have more than doubled in size.  This would be more impressive if they hadn’t started out microscopic – the largest is now about 2 cm long.

Any bets on the chances of it reaching edible size before winter? Nah, thought not.

Even more incredibly, the watermelon has suddenly taken off. I realised yesterday that suddenly it wasn’t just the couple of leaves it’s been all summer – it’s grown a longish vine which is using the neighbouring mint plants for support. A vine with little buds on the end of it:

And when I got home this afternoon, those little buds had turned into watermelon flowers!

Definitely not holding my breath for actual fruit though.

As I was taking the photo of the watermelon, Parsnips really really wanted me to pay attention to her. This mostly took the form of meowing loudly and flopping dramatically on the step in front of me. Except she totally misjudged how close she was to the wall, so only her front half managed to flop, and the back was left slightly propped against the wall:

Most cats would have moved to a more comfortable position, but once Parsnips commits to a flop, she really commits.  She stayed in that position for as long as I was out there, twisting her head into maximum “aren’t I cute, now pay attention!” position while her back legs stayed standing on the lower step

Strange cat.

My finger is famous

Damp day again – I think January swapped its weather with December, so instead of the heatwave we’d normally be getting now, we’re getting rain and general “are you sure it’s summer?” weather. Oh well, at least it’s damped down the fire risk (literally), and I’m sure the farmers are happy.  It would be nice if we could find a happy medium between “stinking hot” and “cold and miserable” though…

Went back to work on Monday, and had hardly finished clearing my emails when a colleague dropped into the office to tell me that a TV news crew would be visiting the university to look at the Canterbury Roll (because we’ve got a scientific team visiting from the UK to do image analysis on it), and they might want to interview me about the digital edition.  Which meant I had to quickly dash home and get changed, because every day is casual Friday in the Lab over the summer, when we don’t have any students in, so I was wearing my usual jeans and a t-shirt, and thought I should probably try and be a bit more professional looking if I was going to be representing the Lab on TV.

I made it back to campus just in time to meet the UK team and help set up the room they’ve been working in so that it would look suitably “sciencey” for the cameras (and ever so subtly make sure that the banners advertising the various departments involved would be seen in the background :-) ).  When the reporter and camera operator arrived, we were all introduced, and it was pretty obvious that the reporter was only interested in the Game of Thrones angle that most of the newspapers have picked up on (the connection is pretty tenuous – the Roll was written during the War of the Roses, and Game of Thrones is loosely based on the War of the Roses – but of course the media love talking about it.  The Daily Mail even somehow twisted it into meaning that our Roll directly inspired Game of Thrones (and that’s not the biggest thing they got wrong in that article…)), and had absolutely no interest in the digital edition.  But I still had to hang around just in case, so I spent the next couple of hours standing around and occasionally being an extra body the camera person could instruct to point at things on the Roll while he was filming.  It meant I did end up in the background of a lot of the shots they used in the news item (not on purpose, I swear – it just seemed like wherever in the room I stood, the camera would end up pointed in my direction!) and my finger featured prominently in the teaser they used for the segment, but I didn’t get to actually talk about the important part of the story from the Lab’s point of view, how the digital edition is opening up a previously hidden document to the entire world, and using technology that’s never before been applied to historical documents.

Oh well, it was interesting watching the camera operator work, anyway – as well as the normal big news camera, he was using a little Go-Pro for some of the shots, especially the panning shots along the length of the Roll.  And it was really interesting chatting to the scientists about what they’re doing, and seeing some of their preliminary results – they’re basically photographing the Roll using different wavelengths of light (from UV to infrared), and using the colour profiles that gives them to identify what materials the pigments were made from.  Some of the colours also turn out to be transparent at certain wavelengths, so they can see what’s underneath (which is really important for our Roll, where there are all sorts of erasures and additions by later scribes, depending on whether they supported the Lancastrians or the Yorkists).

Then yesterday I got an even better chance to find out what the scientists are doing, because we had a day-long symposium to discuss the next phase of the Canterbury Roll project, so all the different teams that have been working on it presented the work they’ve done so far.  And this time the Lab’s work was well represented, because I talked about how the digital edition works, one of our directors explained its theoretical importance, and a couple of students who’ve been working with me on the next phase of the mark-up explained what they’ve been doing.  Presenting to a small academic audience isn’t quite as good exposure as being on the news, of course, but it’s more important that our academic colleagues know what we’re doing anyway.

Otherwise, this week has just been settling back into work.  I haven’t managed to finish the quilting on the Birds in Flight quilt yet, but seeing as the weather is so horrible, I might settle down with a podcast and get some sewing done this afternoon….

It’s a bit damp out there

Compared to how much my throat was hurting on Tuesday, I feel almost back to normal – antibiotics are truly magical things. My throat’s still a wee bit scratchy, but at least it doesn’t feel swollen any more, and it isn’t agony to swallow.  I haven’t even felt the need for any medicinal icecream today, which has got to be a good sign.

Actually, the not feeling like icecream thing might have more to do with the weather – it’s been bucketing down with rain all day, and generally pretty miserable.  Parsnips has not been impressed.  She keeps standing by the cat flap and crying whenever I walk past – I’ve never managed to convince her that I don’t actually have any control over the weather…

The view from the window. As always, the drain across the street has blocked and flooded half the road.  I’m really glad I didn’t have to catch a bus anywhere today!

Not having any great incentive to leave the house, I spent most of the day working on my quilt, and made a lot of progress.  It’s always hard to judge exactly how far there is to go while it’s still on the machine, but I reckon I’m about three quarters of the way.  If this weather keeps up, I may well get the quilting finished by the end of the weekend!

Prospective cucumber?

Despite the mostly warm weather (it’s been back to typical December drizzle this week), my little cucumber and watermelon plants haven’t grown all that much in their pots – a couple of extra leaves each, but that’s all.  So I assumed my usual anti-gardening skill was at work as usual, and they’d come to nothing. But this morning as I was leaving the house, I spotted a surprise on one of the cucumber plants – a tiny flower!

You never know, I might end up with a cucumber after all!  (Although, are cucumbers the sort of plant where you need more than one plant to be flowering before they develop fruit?  I might be out of luck in which case.  But it’s still cool that it’s flowered at all.)

Also, I have no idea what size cucumber flowers are supposed to be.  Is this actually a tiny flower, or is it normal size for a cucumber?  I think I may be basing my expectations on vague memories of what pumpkin flowers look like.  And if it is a tiny flower, will it produce a tiny cucumber?  (I suspect that’s not how biology works, but I can’t imagine a normal-sized cucumber growing off such a small plant – it would be taller than the plant!)


Ok, so it’s been another really hot day.  So that explains why Parsnips has chosen to sleep in the open window, in the little bit of breeze that’s blowing in now that the sun is going down.

What it doesn’t explain is why she feels the need to sleep with her head jammed against the window frame.  It does not look comfortable.


Ok, now it’s officially summer.  Not because it was Brother’s birthday (and therefore the first day of summer) on Friday.  Not because it’s been stinking hot the last two days.  But because I went to the supermarket this morning, and guess what they had?

Raspberries!!! Yay!!!! They were stupidly expensive, but who cares, the first fresh raspberries of the summer. #worthit, as the cool kids say.

I can put up with the heat, and the nor’westers, and the dust, and the allergies, as long as summer means fresh raspberries (just hope they get a bit cheaper as the season progresses!).

Possibly not for the faint of heart

The conference went really well – our talk seemed to be well-received (my boss was in the audience, along with at least three other people I know as experts in digital archiving, and all were nodding at the right places, so I don’t think I said anything too stupid :-) ), and (once the stress of having to present was over with, so I could actually just relax and enjoy the rest of the conference) I met all sorts of interesting people, and learnt all sorts of interesting things.

Here’s our presentation, if you’re interested:

[Ok, so apparently I can’t embed a YouTube video here (weird, I thought I’d done it before, but maybe not) – oh well, you’ll just have to cope with a link instead (Later: I finally figured it out, so I can actually embed the video)]

I was seriously exhausted (and totally peopled-out) by the time I got back to Christchurch though. Three days of conference is way too much pretending to be an extrovert for me!

I was also exhausted because my sore tooth, although never seriously painful, had been low-level achy for long enough that I was getting pretty run down (which is mostly why I haven’t been posting much – I haven’t had a lot of mental energy for anything for the last couple of weeks).  I’ve never been looking forward to a dentist appointment as much as I was by Wednesday!

I don’t remember much about the surgery itself, because they gave me intravenous sedation, so I spent the whole time in an only semi-awake state.  Every so often something would be particularly sore, or the noise would get particularly gruesome, and I’d half wake up, groan a bit, feel them stick some more local into my jaw, and I’d drift off again.  Having sedation definitely makes the time go faster, but on the down side, I reckon they’re not as gentle with you when you’re not fully concious, because I was feeling very bruised and battered the next day!

Harvestbird came to pick me up after the surgery was finished, and (after an entertaining walk to her car, with lots of staggering around on my part because I couldn’t walk in a straight line) took me home.  She settled me onto the couch, where (after dribbling blood all over myself when I attempted to take a sip of water with a numb mouth…) I promptly fell asleep for the rest of the afternoon.  Harvestbird told me later that she’d had a very productive afternoon getting a load of work done on her laptop while I slept, which made me feel a lot less guilty about her having to take the afternoon off to babysit me (because of the sedation, she was under instructions from the dentist not to leave me alone for at least 4 hours until the effects wore off).

Along with the usual envelope full of dressings, and prescription for antibiotics and painkillers, the dentist handed over another envelope as we left, which on later inspection turned out to contain my wisdom teeth.  I have absolutely no idea why he would give me them – I would have assumed they’d just go straight into medical waste.  I wonder if he asked me, in my drugged state, if I wanted them, to which I’m sure my inner 10 year old would have enthusiastically responded “Cool, yes please!”.

My outer not-10 year old is equal parts fascinated and repulsed by them (warning, seriously gross picture ahead (although, by the time you’ve scrolled down to read this bit, you’ve probably already seen what’s coming… sorry!))

To refresh your mental palates after that, here’s a pretty picture of the flowers Harvestbird bought me to cheer me in my recovery:

Not enough? Look, more pretty!

With three large holes in the back of my mouth, I’m still in a bit of pain, but it’s definitely improving. And after I get the stitches out next week (and the really painful bit, paying the bill!), hopefully that will be the end of my dental adventures (and being in pain) for a while!

In other news, my little cucumber and watermelon plants are still struggling along. I repotted them into real pots (which I’m sure are nowhere near big enough, but they’ll just have to cope, because it’s all I’ve got), and they’re sitting outside on the front step now, along with the mint jungle, and last year’s fennel and spring onion which somehow came back to life this year. I almost feel like a real gardener (nah, not really – those 5 little pots are pretty much the limit of my patience for gardening!).

Talking of not gardening, it is a gorgeous sunny day today (according to the met service it’s already 29°), so I think it’s time to abandon the computer and go and find a nice cool spot under a tree somewhere to read a book.

A tiny sign of things to come

It’s been miserable weather here (across the whole country actually – there’s been floods all over the place), and I’ve got a cold, and I’m totally over winter.  But today the sun came out, and I spotted a tiny patch of violets (I think?  Are they still violets if they’re white and not actually violet?) growing under the tree on the front lawn.  Spring is still a very long way off, but it’s nice to have the reassurance it will arrive eventually.

Snow… sort of

Winter has definitely arrived.  There was even a dusting of snow on the ground this morning (impressive, considering it rained most of the night, so the ground was pretty wet).

So far it hasn’t managed to get above 3o today, with a messy mix of rain, hail, and sleet (and occasional bursts of either real snow or sunshine, each of which produces optimism in a different way). Basically it’s cold and wet and horrible out there, and I’d really like to be at home in front of the fire.  But at least the Lab’s south-facing window provides a nice exciting view of each on-coming band of nastiness as it hits :-)

And yes, if you were wondering, my hair-less head is very very cold today.  Luckily Jenny knitted me a nice warm hat, which is getting a lot of use!

Progress, and not so much progress

My plan to use spare half hours to sew failed the moment the really cold weather set in, because I’d forgotten just how cold the study can get in winter (for some reason to do with the way the hallway bends just before the door to the study, the warmth from the fire, which happily heats the rest of the house, never quite reaches the study).  So dragging myself away from my comfy chair in front of the fire into the inadequately heated by a small fan heater study was a struggle – one which the warm and comfy chair usually won.

I also haven’t been feeling all that creative anyway – we’re still attempting to recruit new staff at work (I won’t go into the details of why the process is dragging on so long, because it reflects badly on the professionalism of people in certain parts of the organisation, but let’s just say there have been some unnecessary delays), so I’m still trying to juggle the work of three people on my own – thankfully everyone else involved in the projects I’m working on has been very understanding that I can’t do everything at once (and in some cases have just had to put projects on hold for a while), but it’s still pretty stressful and exhausting keeping everything going, so I’ve been pretty much feeling like crashing when I get home (not helped by being out being social three nights out of four last week!).  I am so looking forward to getting some new staff!!!

Anyway, as a result I haven’t got very far on sewing all those nine-patches together (also, sewing them together is a very slow process, because there are SO MANY seams to match!  I really didn’t think about that when I was designing the quilt!).  But I’ve got a few rows sewn together at least:

And I have made good use of sitting in front of the fire time to put the binding on the jelly roll race quilt. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out:

My quilting is still a long way from perfect, but it’s definitely improving, and basting it on the kitchen table definitely worked, because there’s no stray tucks or pleats in the fabric on the back.

The being super-social last week was probably a bad idea, considering how tired I was, but it was fun.  On Tuesday night I was the Toastmaster (ie Chair) for our Toastmasters meeting, which not only involves a lot of work during the meeting introducing speakers and keeping the meeting running to time, but also meant I spent most of the weekend emailing back and forth with people making sure that all the speaking roles were filled, and finding replacements for last minute apologies.  The meeting went really well though, and finished almost exactly on time, so I was happy with my efforts.

Then on Wednesday night there was a quiz night for the College.  Seeing as we didn’t have enough staff to put together a team from the Lab, I joined my former colleagues from English, and despite a not great start (and the fact that the quiz was one of those franchised ones that are never as good as when the organisers just put the questions together themselves – very heavily skewed towards rugby and pop culture, and of course never any science questions, which incites me to rant about the state of society and why are people so scared of science…) we somehow ended up winning.  Despite my reservations about the quiz format, it was a lot of fun. It definitely helped that nobody was taking the quiz too seriously (first prize was a “gold” cup from the $2 shop, and some coffee vouchers for one of the campus cafes, so it wasn’t exactly high stakes :-) ), so there was much silliness going on, and attempts to bribe the judges, and much friendly rivalry going on between our table and the History department table next to us (they came second in the end).

Then on Thursday night I went to the crafting meetup group, which I probably should have skipped seeing as it was the third night in a row I was out late, but I hadn’t been able to make it for a few weeks so thought I really should go along.  It was over in Linwood, which is always a pain to get to (especially as they’d had some sort of power outage or something at the bus exchange, so the real time arrivals system was down and you just had to guess when your bus would show up and at what end of the bus exchange), but I made it over there eventually, and did actually have a nice evening.  Luckily someone offered me a lift home, so at least I didn’t have to battle the bus exchange chaos again getting home, but I think I might skip the meetups on that side of town for a while, at least until the evenings get lighter again so that I can just catch a bus that takes me in vaguely the right direction and then walk, rather than having to find the combination of buses that will take me close enough to not have to walk too far in the dark.

Anyway, talking of walking, it is actually a nice day today, so I think I will abandon my computer now and go for a nice walk and enjoy the sunshine for a while.  The way the weather had been lately, it could be weeks before I see the sun again!