Journal Entries

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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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  • March 2021

    Sun, 11 Apr 2021 13:10:55 GMT

    In March I did some somewhat unexpected photography, some artwork, started a new job, and played a fair amount of Sonic 3: AIR (just like last March…)

    New camera lens

    In my entry for last month I took some starscape photos one evening while Mars was close to the Pleiades. I would have loved to get some closer up photos of the Pleides in particular, so after I got my new job offer I did some research and treated myself to a second-hand Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3, which has a lens about four or five times longer than my longest lens which was then my 18-55mm kit lens.

    Naturally the weather wasn't great at night for the rest of the month, so I haven't taken any night sky pictures with it yet (and the nights are getting very late now…) but I have discovered that I'm absolutely loving it for wildlife photography.

    Swan!


    Duck!


    Squirrel!


    Bra!



    AMPDG: Paint a ceiling

    For AMPDG this month I had to "paint a ceiling". I made a twist on it and painted my loft hatch into a sky roof.



    I'm pretty pleased with how it came out! Next time ("Next time") the sky could do with being a mite lighter, but I'm very happy with the clouds.


    Acrylic pours

    I attempted two acrylic pours (where you put paint into a cup and empty it onto a canvas) this month, for the first time, after seeing some youtube videos and being enamoured with the effect. It's harder than it looks!

    These were my first two attempts, though I don't have a good photo of after they dried, where the left one got very dark (and the canvas wasn't wholly covered anyway) and the right one, which was my favourite, unfortunately cracked during drying due to me making the paint too thick. I will attempt something in a similar palette again soon!




    Chocolate truffles

    Work had a couple of virtual away days in my second week of the job. One of the activities was a guided live cello meditation that I'm quite tempted to buy the pre-recorded version of at some point since it was excellent (and scheduled quite close to when I would normally take an afternoon nap, so worked well in that sense too).

    The other activity of note was a chocolate truffle making experience. We had some chocolate cooking buttons posted to us and had to buy some dairy or coconut cream ourselves. The live lesson itself wasn't so great (it turns out I ice my cakes with basically truffle mixture already) but before the lesson we were told to temper the chocolate, with instructions, which I'd never bothered to try before.

    I used the cheap analogue thermometer that came with a cheese making set my parents bought me a few years ago though they gave the impression that "liquid but cool to the touch on your lips" was adequate. Dark chocolate tempered at about 31°C; milk at 29-30°C.

    My tempering seemed to work since the chocolate coating we put on the truffles was a little shiny and didn't bloom overnight, so that was satisfying. What was a surprise was how quickly the chocolate solidified once it started to; I ended up having to chisel a fair amount out of the bowl afterwards!

    You can spot the moment I realised I was running out of time!



    Dragonfruit update

    The single branch continues to grow pretty quickly! Here's a photo from the start and end of the month





    Here's a close-up of the tip using my fancy new lens




    03-in-03

    Since I knew I'd be starting my job and probably quite busy in April as a result, I moved my normal 04-in-04 short story challenge to March instead, and wrote three in the couple of weeks before my job started.

    I haven't put them online this year because I'd like to keep them back in case I want to submit to an actual publisher of short stories (I've been looking around but haven't found one with submissions open at the moment) and they don't accept ones that have been online publicly beforehand, but if anyone wants to read them, I'd be happy to send them across.

    Ruins (2791 words): A teenager works through her broken relationship with her sister while visiting an urban ruin. (Modern fantasy/supernatural.)

    My life as a sapient collection of fish (1848 words): a new lifeform attempts to find a kindred spirit. (I have no idea what genre this is.)

    Untitled sci-fi/zombie story (1198 words) about an astronaught trapped on a crashed ship with an infected crewmate. (Sci-fi/horror maybe?)

    The first two stories went extremely well (from a writing point of view, at least) and I'm very happy with them. The third was a slog and probably would need a lot of tidying up to be worth submitting anywhere.



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  • (I should clarify that I got the embroidery patch on ebay, but sewing it onto the bag is still an achievement for me)

    2021-06-20T10:15:13.152939Z

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