Journal Entries

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  • October 2021

    Fri, 12 Nov 2021 13:13:09 GMT

    I had a particularly social month in October, meeting up with Samathy and Lex for a video game night and several skating sessions, and seeing Ems and her partner along with Matt in London. I also ended the hugging hiatus which had lasted from February 2020.


    At the start of the month Samathy, Lex, and I went to a converted shop-front pub in Attenborough where one of Lex's old colleagues was running a video game "Completeathon" competition.

    Each team grouped around one monitor that was hooked up to a central controller that started a different emulated game each round. I didn't recognise any of them except for Warioware on the Game Boy in the final round (I think that was the point) and teams were scored on how far they got in the game in a time period, along with a couple of quiz rounds.

    The micropub itself was nice enough and served nice mead, but because it was all technically table service, nobody was wearing masks and I didn't feel entirely comfortable with that, even with the door open providing ventilation. I don't think I caught anything.


    A couple of weeks later, having taken at least three LFTs in the meantime, I travelled down to Winchester on the train to stay with Ems and her mum for a few days, and finally got to meet Ems' new partner who was also staying over.

    We had a nice relaxing weekend, visiting some nice bits of countryside, including some woodland with ancient yews. I took many many photos of Emily's mum's cats. Emily was also sorting out some old clothes, so I have a pile of clothing waiting for me when I next visit and have bag space for it!


    We all went to London for a couple of days, primarily to watch Hamilton during an evening weekday showing. The theatre was crowded and barely anyone was wearing masks despite the ushers carrying around signs asking people to turn off phones and wear masks. The theatre was at least requiring vaccination certificates at the door, but I didn't feel particularly safe.

    The musical itself was good.

    While in London we also had bubble tea, saw pelicans fighting over which of them got to be on the park bench in St James Park, and had bibimbap.

    A highlight for me was the Wellcome Collection's Tranquillity exhibition. It was paired with a Joy exhibition, which I didn't think much of, but Tranquillity featured a large darkened room of huge photos of Canadian cedar forests and Yakushima rainforest (I've been there in person!), with a audio recording of those locations playing and some ambient scents too. It was quiet and relaxing, and the few people there were masked up.


    AMPDG this month had me cooking! I had to pin a dot on a map at random and then look up a representative food of that country. I ended up with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, possibly due to the fact that it is near the middle of the map! It was really interesting reading up on food culture of a place I really know very little about.

    I decided to make a vegetarian variation of Cassava leaf soup, served with fufu. I found somewhere that sold frozen cassava leaves, and substituted the meat for smoked tofu.

    Cassava leaves, defrosted.

    I was quite nervous trying the dish, since cassava can be poisonous (with cyanide, no less!) if prepared incorrectly. I'm pretty sure that process was done in preparing the goods to be sold, but also made sure I boiled the stuff for a good long time.

    Stew and fufu.

    The stew had a nice flavour, that reminded me of something I couldn't place, and the fufu was pretty bland, unsurprisingly, and was like handling slightly dried out playdough. The idea is to take a blob, make a basin in it with your thumb, and scoop up the soup (or anything else) with that. I found that gave slightly too much fufu per soup, myself.

    Hallowe'en art

    I decided to reuse a canvas that had gone wrong to make some pumpkin art rather than carving an actual pumpkin this year

    Quite pleased with how it turned out!

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  • September 2021

    Thu, 30 Sep 2021 17:41:03 GMT

    A pretty quiet month in the end, but with a few firsts and a few highlights! (Also, posting this on the last day of the month! I'm ahead of schedule!)

    AMPDG: Secret fanclub

    An AMPDG adventure/challenge that I'd submitted myself turned up in this month's draw, one that I've wanted to do since much earlier this year: dressing up in what I now know is called "closet cosplay" and seeing if anyone spots it.

    I picked Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because once long ago, someone told me I had that sort of feel about me. I'm not sure I still do, but I've also been wanting to try dyeing my hair dark brown since forever ago (I tried it once, but misread the instructions and put it on after conditioner, so it didn't take) and generally try out styles that pushed my comfort zone out a little.

    So one evening I tweeted this photo, along with the caption

    I had a slightly stronger look earlier but it was a little hot

    Posting that photo was a little uncomfortable since I don't think it's a particularly good one of me (and I'm very not used to seeing myself with lipstick on) but I wanted to get the photoshoot done before work in the morning so I had a limited amount of time. A better one was here, but it didn't show the whole outfit

    After work I cycled to my nearest park to read in the evening sun for a bit. I was going to wear the whole outfit but it was a particularly warm day, so I changed into a skirt and didn't use the arm warmers, so I can't really say I went out in the full outfit.

    I got some nice comments in response to the tweet, but nobody picked up on the cosplay, which is about what I expected! However, Samathy spotted the tweet a day later, before I revealed it was for AMPDG, saying it looked like I was aiming for BtVS aesthetic ("Faith or early-mid show Willow") which really raised my spirits.

    Overall the challenge helped me discover that: (a) I love my hair dark brown; I may get it professionally/permanently dyed at some point; (b) I can pull off a red vest quite well; (c) I can pull off bootcut jeans quite well; (d) I want to get a black denim jacket, which was my alternative idea to armwarmers.


    I went to my first Pride this month, the local one in Nottingham town centre. I rather wish I could say I had a good time, but the crowds and noise got to me quite quickly, and I didn't really feel I fit in with the local group I was nominally attending with, so I bailed as soon as the parade finished and went back home. I don't think I'd really considered how being in a crowd for the first time since before the pandemic would affect me; in the end it took me out for a few days afterwards, emotionally/mentally.

    On the plus side, I didn't have to travel for it. If I attend another one, I'll make sure I go with people I already know, and also make sure I take ear plugs or something like that to mitigate the noise at least.

    Roller skating

    Samathy and Lex invited me along to a roller skating session at the local skate rink, which I would never have thought of doing myself, so that was cool! There was a beginners session on Saturday morning so I turned up for that. The skate shoes I rented fit well (note to self: size 8) and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, staying for most of the two hour session. There's a nice photo of Samathy and me on Samathy's twitter. The rink, though inside, felt open enough that it didn't trigger covid worries for me, either. I will endeavour to go again, and the idea of going for some lessons is appealing, though the next batch straddles a weekend I won't be around for, so I'm looking into 2022 at this point.

    Dragon fruit

    A year ago I planted a little pitahaya cutting in a big pot and hoped for the best. I'd say it's doing rather well!

    The main vine started branching very quickly after I took the top off last month. (Since doing this, I've learned that naturally, the vine would climb until something obstructed it or it started flopping over, which would likely cause fractures in the vine at the bend, triggering branching. Either way, I did the right thing.) At the start of the month I had six branches forming. I took the lowest one off at the bud stage, since it was below the canopy, and so far four of the others have grown on, which I'm pleased with.

    On the 4th:

    On the 18th:

    I'm weighing down the branches at the moment to train them over the canopy more neatly; partly for looks and partly so that, if they fruit, they're quite securely held to support the extra weight.

    The tip of the vine, I think, is dying in its new pot at the moment. I'm not particularly surprised; the vine had not grown very thick at that point and so I think just didn't have enough energy reserves to put down roots. I'll keep it in the pot for a bit, but the tip has started to brown.

    I think the reason the tip was a bit straggly was either because the vine had grown so high that the midday sun wasn't actually reaching it, because the top of the window wasn't high enough, or because I'd either over- or under-fed and so it wasn't happy about that. I have remedied the first part at least by lowering the pot onto the floor; it was originally on a raised platform to favour the initial cutting.


    I went for an evening walk on the day of the equinox, so as to be out of the house and looking at the sky when the exact time (20:20) happened. It aligned well with sunset and the moon rise; I had a great view of the near-horizon when the moon was rising, and it was such a beautiful sunset orange colour. A lovely walk all in all.

    I also made a hazelnut spread cake, using a recipe someone had linked to at work, and I dubbed it an equinox cake. I was quite pleased with how it turned out looks-wise, but wasn't keen on the flavour to begin with. It's grown on me since (it takes a while to eat a cake on my own!) which is just as well because I have enough leftover icing in the freezer to make another one!

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  • August 2021

    Sun, 19 Sep 2021 12:29:34 GMT

    For the first time since the start of the pandemic, I took a trip away from home purely for my own enjoyment, spending one night in Matlock before travelling back the next day.

    Much Ado About Nottingham

    Samathy and Lex invited me to join them for an outside showing of Much Ado About Nothing at Wollaton Hall, which had been on my places to check out in Nottingham more or less since I'd moved here.

    I hadn't seen Much Ado before, and this was a very traditional performance of it, so I didn't particularly follow the plot, but it was a lovely evening (if a little cold) towards the end, and I learned a great new location that was within cycling distance of me!

    Ice cream tacos

    I misheard Ems saying she was having "tacos with rice filling" as "tacos with ice cream" on a call with her and Tim, so the three of us ended up having taco ice cream night on the 13th, as you do.

    "Taco" in Norway generally refers to the tortilla wrap, so I had one wrap with vanilla ice cream, wafer, and chocolate sauce, and a taco shell with a slice of Vienetta in it, both with little ice cream foam sweets that had been hanging around since long before I moved.

    AMPDG: Movie Roulette

    For AMPDG this month I pulled "Movie Roulette: Go to the cinema at a random time and see the first film showing". I modified this for not-going-to-cinema times and used a Netflix random film generator I found on Google to pick a film for me.

    It came up with "The Sisterhood of The Travelling Pants 2" so, while waiting for my Sainsbury's order with popcorn to show up, I decided to watch the first film of the two beforehand, just to get some enjoyment out of it.

    With that name, I was expecting pretty a pretty bad film, but the first one was good enough that I was in tears by the end. (The age difference between the protag girls and their love interests was uncomforatble though.)

    By the time my Sainsbury's order had arrived, Netflix had dropped the second film, so I ended up getting that on DVD! I set up purple-orange cinema lighting in my living room, got the popcorn ready, and curled up with my phone and laptop off.

    The second film was good, a pretty standard sequel. I'd recommend both to anyone who's a fan of The Fault in Our Stars and that sort of genre.

    Dragonfruit and Ginger

    The dragon fruit was getting mighty tall at the start of the month, and I was expecting it to start branching out. After watching a few youtube videos, I realised I needed to crop the top of it before it would likely do so, and the top was getting quite thin anyway, so it was an easy decision.

    I decided to pot up the cutting to see if it would root, though I think it was a little weedy. (At the time of writing, it hasn't done anything conclusive).

    The weediness was either because the top of the parent plant wasn't getting any sun when the sun was high (the window would need to be much taller to avoid that) and/or because I hadn't actually fed the plant since potting it up. As such, I got some liquid feed, gave it a good watering with that, and lowered the pot onto the floor, which had been my original plan but wasn't its starting point because the base of it wouldn't get any sun there.

    One of those two things worked because while it took the original parent cutting a half year to spring into action, the vine put out six branch buds within twenty days!

    I had to tighted the vine to the central pole to get the bottom two above the canopy, and accidentally cut into the flesh with the string, but it seems to have healed okay. The lowermost branch bud was still just below the canopy, so I brushed that one off; I only "need" 3-5 branches according to the dragon fruit vids anyway.

    Meanwhile, two ginger roots I had from my Sainsbury's order had started budding, which I've never seen before! I used one for cooking and decided to just see what happens if you plant a ginger - I might get a nice plant! Having seen wild ginger growing in Hawaii, it would definitely be impressive if it thrived.

    Matlock Overnight

    In a litmus test of how I might handle a longer trip, I booked a hotel in Matlock at the edge of the Peak District, and caught the train there after work on a Friday. On Saturday I planned to walk the scenic route to Matlock Bath, get the cable car to the odd attraction of the Heights of Abraham, and get the train back home.

    The walk took me along the River Derwent for a bit, through the public park in Matlock, then up and along a cliff-edge along the East of the river. The views were some of the best I've seen in a fair while.

    A section of the path was called Giddy Edge, and it lived up to its name, being a narrow path with a handrail running around an outcrop of rock that was otherwise a sheer drop.

    I nearly turned around and went for a safer-looking route, but went for it in the end and I'm glad I did!

    At the other end of the path was a No Entry sign, indicating a one-way system for Giddy Edge, which at least answered my question on what I would do if I encountered someone else coming the other way.

    After that, I had some fun exploring some crevices in the rocks that definitely didn't have "No Access" signs in front of them, though some of the deeper nooks had been properly gated up, the spoilsports.

    Yeah okay sign sure.

    Shortly after this I got to Matlock Bath, emerging near the railway station and the entrance to the cable car ride to the top of the opposite hill. I had a ticket booked on this, but not for a couple of hours, so in the meantime I explored the town, a weird place that had three fish and chip shops in a row, and plenty more nearby, despite being one of the furthest places in England from the sea. I bought some fudge from a fudge shop. There was also a beautiful walk up through the forested hillside above the otherwise uninspiring Lovers' Walk, where I had my sandwiches.

    I walked back to queue up for the cable car to the Heights of Abraham, a self-described "country park" on the hill across the river. I think "country park" is a bit of a stretch; there wasn't really any park land; just a small web of pathways with a restaurant, picnic area, ice cream shop, playground, and, anachronistically, a Punch and Judy show that actually seemed to be a draw.

    The cable car ride itself was nice (even though it was mandatory to take in order to get to the park; the walking route being closed "due to covid" which is a pretty flimsy excuse to push more people through the paid route, I felt) and, in fairness, not overly expensive compared to, say, the London dangleway.

    The park had caught my attention for the two cave tours they run. The first one was very good, with some narrow and low parts, a decent walk, and a nice large cavern at the lowest part. The second one was barely more than a crevice; the bits I've explored myself on the way here were more impressive!

    It started raining so, as is traditional, I bought an ice cream (salted caramel), and sat and ate that in my raincoat. Afterwards I took the cable car back down to Matlock station, where I waited for a train home.

    Overall I didn't find the trip too anxiety-inducing or overwhelming, though the train back from Derby was A Lot, as I unfortunately chanced into chuck-out time for a football game where Derby had been playing. On the back of that, I decided I reckon I'd be up to certain bits of travel again.

    Wild blackberry jam

    I spent an afternoon one weekend collecting a punnet of blackberries, and the jam I made with them turned out pretty well!


    I made three more coaster-sized dutch pours to go with the one I made previously, in different colours

    Upon drying, I discovered that some paints dry very transparent, so I'll have to bear that in mind next time!


    It was the Perseids meteor shower this month, so I decided to go to my local fairly dark open space after dark to see if I could spot any.

    Saw a very bright meteor on the way to the dark park near me, then at least two more in the next 40 minutes, and finally one on the way back home. Pretty happy with that!

    Also got checked in on by a group of teens who weren't sure I was okay, bless them. I guess I was lying motionless on the grass in the dark... oops? I'd mostly been ignoring people who walked past on the nearby footpath, but this lot managed to accidentally spot me with their flashlight. I think I gave them a bit of a jump.

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