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  • June 2021

    Fri, 09 Jul 2021 20:17:49 GMT

    Two bits of astronomy this month, as I watched the partial solar eclipse and, later, got up early to observe a sunrise solstice.

    Partial Solar Eclipse

    I had my eclipse glasses and camera with long lens all set up and ready, hoping for a glimpse of the eclipse on a morning that was increasingly being forecast as cloudy.

    Fortunately around the time of max eclipse, the cloud was thin enough to see the sun through for a few minutes!



    At one point it even cleared enough that I got to see the eclipse through a gap in the clouds with the eclipse glasses, so I was very happy with that.


    Solstice Sunrise

    Eleven days later, I set my alarm for 04:00 and walked up to my nearest hill for sunrise. The sunrise would be behind trees, but it was overcast anyway and besides, the exact time of the solstice was a few minutes before that anyway.

    I had to run up the final part of the hill to get to the top in time for the solstice, and got there with under a minute to spare.



    Despite being overcast, the sunrise lit up the clouds beautifully, and was well worth the early morning.


    Dragon fruit update

    The dragon fruit started growing aerial roots! This is apparently fairly normal, but I've given the cactus a good amount of water now because the soil was dry and i wondered if it was after more.



    It has been growing fast as always and had nearly reached the top of the growing pole by the end of the month.

    On the 5th


    On the 26th


    i was expecting the single branch to have finished by now, ready for another segment to grown from the top, but that hasn't happened yet! It just keeps getting longer!




    Art (and AMPDG)

    I've just got a couple of art this month, both made primarily on the same day, though the first one had an undercoat put down one week, and the AMPDG addition a week later.

    This was my first "dutch pour", still wet, where very liquid paint is blown with a hairdryer or a straw (or just the mouth)


    This was a little coast-size dutch pour, which I think is my favourite piece to date! The black and orange were mixed with floetrol from a previous bit of art, while the blue and white were just water.


    My AMPDG this month was to paint an octopus! The dutch pour was intended to go with it; I was aiming for something that looked watery, and ended up thinking it looked like a coral reef from above, so adapted the octopus accordingly. I love how it came out!



    I still need to varnish both pieces (I still need to order varnish, even…) but I'm planning to hang this one in the bathroom.


    Sunset Rainbow

    I saw a rare sunset rainbow! I don't think I've seen one before!



    Here's the view looking the opposite direction




    Garden

    My garden veg has not been a success story this year, but I don't seem to be alone in this at least!

    I managed to harvest three cauliflowers, one of which had the tiniest head, and used the leaves from those and the three weedy spinach plants in a tofu korma, which was tasty! I ended up adding more frozen spinach, though.

    The sunflowers continued to grow, at least; more on those next month.

    Fruit-wise, the golden raspberry bushes are producing well (I suspect they actually liked the cold wet spring) and the strawberry plants are doing okay too.

    Finally, I harvested the beans. There was less of an aphid/ant problem than last year and I didn't have to throw away much. I got just under 500g of pods, which turned into 134g of shelled beans. That was enough to make one serving of broad bean pilaf, which was delicious as always!




    Sonic & Knuckles Badge

    I've started listening to Sonic the Comic the Podcast, a look back at the Sega comic that ran from 1993, and while I'm now going through the back-catalogue, I started at episode 50, which was covering the end of the Sonic 3 & Knuckles storyline. They were talking about a S3&K logo denim jacket the comic was giving away and musing that they could make their own one with an embroidered badge.

    At the same time I have had a black satchel I haven't been sure what to do with. It's been tucked away in the spare room since I got it, but I needed it to cart my laptop to a repair shop to have its screen replaced, and happened to lamenting that it wasn't more interesting.

    One search of eBay later, and:



    Well, I make it sound easy. This is actually the first bit of hand sewing I've done, and I ended up trawling through youtube videos and then calling Emily in a panic when the thread broke part-way around before actually getting it sewn on, but I'm very pleased with the final result!



    Being able to do this has opened up the possibility of sewing the badges I got in Hawaii's national parks onto something, but I'm not sure what yet! (This bag is a possibility, though I like the idea of it having solely the Sonc 'n' Kunks logo.)


    Short story

    Since moving my 04-in-04 short stories private in the hope of having them around as possibilities for submitting to a publisher, and the first short story publisher I'm aware of that has opened for submissions since is Fireside Magazine. None of my shorts this year were a fit for the themes they were after this time, so I decided to write another one during evenings using the techniques I've learned from 04-in-04.

    For the first time I can remember (in 04-in-04) I scrapped the first 500 words I wrote altogether, though they did help me worldbuild. Thanks to some feedback from Baz and Emily, I got the second version into a shape where I was happy to submit it on time. I'm not sure it quite has the poetic quality that the current editor of Fireside goes for, but they have a guest editor for this batch of submissions, so I have my fingers crossed they like it.

    It's a fantasy/sci-fi (who'd have just one genre?) currently titled The Way of the Mountain Witch and is around 2900 words (on the long side for Fireside, too, but anything less would have been merely a vignette I feel). I'll hear back from Fireside around August, apparently! Regardless of their response, it was a good experience.


    Sean and Aled at TanegraClifton

    Last but not least, I got to see Sean and Aled for the first time Samathy's birthday in 2019, which was lovely. They were visiting friends in Clifton so I cycled over to the South Side Of The River to join them for a socially-distanced walk along the river there. It was great to see them both!


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  • May 2021

    Wed, 02 Jun 2021 18:12:19 GMT

    In May I had my first covid-19 vaccination, at the large King's Meadow Campus centre, which felt a little like going through airport security, except with a nurse and needle instead of the x-ray machines. I had Pfizer in my left arm, all done while still standing up! The rest of the month was a mixed bag of arts, crafts, gardening, and entertainment.

    Vaccination

    The site, when I booked, offered me a choice between a local pharmacy a couple of miles away, or the larger test centre in ITV Midlands' old studio, now owned by Nottingham University. The latter had cycle parking, so I chose that, and the route to get there was quite similar to my cycle to the laser clinic, a pleasant ride along the canal for a good stretch.

    The centre was well-organised. I got there a couple of minutes after my appointment time, and so just flashed my phone to jump the queue of people who were waiting for their appointment ten minutes later. Like everyone else, I had to change my own face mask for one of the centre's disposable ones (mine fitted better…) and then there was a fairly fast moving queue into the centre, which really did look like airport security, with several lines, to the nearest of which I was directed. A member of staff took my details, asked several questions to check I was eligible and the vaccine was safe for me, and then directed me a few steps further to where I was greeted by the person who'd be administering my jab. I was asked left shoulder or right. She also confirmed some of my details. After the jab, which was one of the least uncomfortable ones I've ever had, I was directed to the far side of the ex-TV studio hall, to where a lot of socially distanced chairs were set up. After self-timing 15 minutes, I left through a separate exit, with a quick check-out with a worker at the door.

    Then a nice cycle back home!

    The vaccine itself rather knocked me out for the next week. I thought I was doing okay until the day after, a Monday, when I took a half-hour walk to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, which left me feeling quite tired out. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I was dead on my feet by lunchtime, with a low key headache that developed on Wednesday and stuck around until the end of Friday. Friday was a sofa day. I felt better on Saturday, but a 40-minute round trip to the local woods left me wobbly. On Sunday I managed a 60 minute walk but then developed a migraine that stuck around for several days!

    Still, I'm happy to have had it. I'm finding myself less panicked while I'm outside, even though I'm not at full (or even half) immunity at this point. I'm not changing my behaviour yet but it's nice that my subconsciousness seems to have taken the cue for less anxiety.


    Eurovision

    Emily, Tim, Margaret, Matt, and I watched Eurovision on simulcast, which was good fun. It was a very strong year, though I was very disappointed that Australia got eliminated in the first semi-final. My favourites songs of the finalists were Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Greece, and my least favourite was Portugal.

    I'd been rather hoping to go to the Dutch final in person, until the pandemic put paid to those plans! Perhaps sometime again soon it'll be somewhere I want to visit.


    Star Wars Day

    In the weekend before 4th May I realised Star Wars day was coming up, and so had a good excuse to both use the Star Wars fabric Emily had bought me for Christmas/birthday, and to make a skirt which I'd been wanting to do for a while.

    With Emily's help I modified a dirndl skirt pattern with a zip into one with an elasticated waistband, which seemed far preferable to me. Here's the result, I'm pretty pleased with it!




    SO COLD

    The weather only made it above 20°C for the third time in the year on the last day of the month. I am very glad the weather has broken now, because unlike last year where I was taking photos of myself in a dress outdoors in April, I've been cuddled up under a blanket for most of this May.


    Art

    I made a couple of pieces that I'm really rather happy with, even though they didn't turn out exactly as I'd hoped. I was going for a galaxy look using an "open cup" pour, and though I don't think it looks like a galaxy, and a slightly off-level canvas meant the paint fell off the side a little, I think it's a rather strong look.

    while wet


    dried


    close up!


    close up!


    I also made attempt at making a lava field, using some orange and some silicon oil mixed into the black. It was a bit of a disaster, but never mind! I have learned some things and will have another go soon!


    Garden, Dragonfruit, and AMPDG

    The dragon fruit seems to be thriving at the moment.



    I did finally re-water the pot at the end of the month, as it also sprouted some roots from the face that doesn't face the sun, which I've taken as a sign it needed a bit more water. The dragon fruit is a climbing succulent, so it's natural, but in this case undesirable! I brushed off the roots and they have scabbed over somewhat:



    My outside garden hasn't enjoyed the cold weather either, with the two gourds I'd planted out really starting to look anaemic by the time the weather turned. Inside, another courgette plant germinated, and that has now joined the others outside. The cauliflowers are hanging on; I weeded around them in the last weekend of the month and they look a bit happier now the sun's back. No sign of the second (or first) batch of carrots yet; it's just empty soil in that bed. No more sweetcorn has germinated, so it's just the three main crop plants and the single mini-sweetcorn variety that's been planted out. The latter is also not very happy; I think I planted it out too early but we'll see.

    The broad beans seem particularly happy; the "Express" variety I picked this year seem to have worked very well, and haven't become too tall to support themselves.

    Broad beans


    For AMPDG I chose "future orchards: plant something (a tree, a garden, a sunflower, some indoor herbs or sprouts)" which probably would've been cheating if I'd just gone with what I was already growing, so, taking AMPDG's suggestion, I got hold of some sunflower seeds too. About half of them germinated and survived, so I have four sunflowers growing outside now too, where the sweetcorn ought to have been!

    Li'l sunflowers.




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  • April 2021

    Tue, 04 May 2021 19:56:45 GMT

    I actually got up to quite a lot in April, despite having just started a new job. Partly because I had four days off for Easter, and I finally took the plunge and ordered both decorating paints and art paints to start that hobby off.

    Switch

    I also bought a Nintendo Switch and a capture card, so I've been both playing in private and streaming a couple of games when I've been feeling more sociable. I've also been streaming some art, more on that below!


    Painted living room

    I'd been putting off decorating the living room because I assumed that the ugly wallpaper was there to hide a really badly-finished wall. But something spurred me to actually check if this was the case, and it turned out to be finished pretty nicely, so I basically binge-stripped the whole wall





    I also realised that putting off waiting to buy paint samples until I could go to the stores in person was silly because the swatches on the front are only ever about as accurate as my monitor would reproduce the colours, so I just ordered a bunch and picked my favourite of those.

    It took five coats(!!) to fully hide the patchy colour on the wall, but I'm so pleased with how it turned out.



    The only downside is that it totally confuses my webcam, making me quite blue!


    AMPDG: Beach trip!

    The AMPDG I picked this month was to "go to the beach in whatever way is possible (real beach, imaginary beach, watching a beach film whlie lying on a towel in swimwear, etc…)"

    I'd been formulating this plan since it last came up in the selection a few months ago, though I picked a different option that time.



    I filled up several bits of kitchenware with salt water, set up a towel by the radiator, then changed into my swimsuit, put on the old sunglasses I'd found floating in a river during a hike in Kauaʻi, and sat back with a book and glass of orange juice.



    I didn't actually stay there that long (the floor was uncomfy!) but it was a good excuse to do a photo shoot if nothing else!


    Fluid art

    I made four more acrylic pours this month, and I feel I'm finally getting a feeling for the right consistency of paint, and I've been keeping notes too! I streamed the first one and the last two, which was nice to show off what I was doing, though sometimes the need to wait a bit to see how the paint spreads out makes it less ideal for that. For the final two I also recorded the stream, which meant I could look back and basically review the pour and see what I could do differently next time to better get the effect I wanted. (Mostly: stop tilting so much!)

    This was a flip-cup, and I love how it turned out, though the white wasn't mixed properly and so it's quite lumpy!


    This is much closer to the lava-like look I'm after, but I made the mistake of mixing yellow and black, which, with a blue-tinted black, made green. I now have a warm-tinted black ("ivory black") and I want to try getting smoother lines next time, and fewer black cells.


    I also bought a blow-torch! They help to reduce air bubbles on solid colour, and encourage cell formation in mixed areas. I may also use it to make a crème brûlée at some point… but for now I just used it on these final two, which I did in one session.

    these were open-cup pours, where paint is put into an "open cup", a cylinder resting on a layer of black paint, and then filled with various colours before being released. The pours I've seen resemble galaxies, with speckles of colour around a central point, but I over-tilted both of these and ended up with something completely different!


    I think I got the paint consistency just right though, and I used iridescent paints, blue and gold, for the first time, which catch the light in really interesting ways. Definitely need to be used a bit more sparingly than I have here, though!



    Gardening

    April was COLD. (No, really.) It started snowing just as I was finishing planting my cauliflowers out, and three of the eight died due to frosts the next couple of nights. I haven't planted anything else out since.

    Inside I have a squash plant ready to be hardened off and sweetcorn, both regular and mini-pop varieties, of which four out of twelve have germinated. Some oregano and courgettes are still waiting to germinate.

    The dragonfruit has lengthened its single branch, but I didn't take any photos.


    Friday outings

    My new job gives us a "wellness and creativity day" every other Friday, which they specifically encourage us to do things unrelated to our current workload, and management have set examples by going out cycling or walking, or reading, that sort of thing.

    So taking that example, I took my bike out on one Friday morning and went somewhere I hadn't been before, eastwards on the river Trent. The next wellness day I walked the furthest I have walked from my house, to Bramcote Hills, which is my local high point at 107m (oh dear!).

    I took my camera and got some nice photos.









    Candid horse!


    Candid pheasant!




    The high point.




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