Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lessons learned, and a few more bugs!

I always say that we are never too old to learn something new, so here are a couple of things I have learned. The first one was not that recent. Just before we moved out to Spain, when we had finally sold our house in UK and were rootless, we had the wonderful experience of spending three months backpacking around Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Now as a child I had, several times, watched my sister-in-law Pam (from Burma) showing my mum how to prepare a fresh pineapple, but whenever I tried, I made an aweful mess, and by the time I had dug out all the prickly bits that hide the seeds, there was very little fruit left to eat. But when we were in Thailand, Chris and I often bought fresh fruit from street vendors, and pineapple was our favourite. Little old ladies pushed handcarts around the streets carrying glass cabinets filled with ice, and halved pineapples, mangoes, papaya, and water melon, and for a few pence they cut it up into a plastic bag and gave you a wooden 'pick' to eat it with. Delicious!! At the end of the road, along from our guesthouse in Bangkok, an old man stood every morning with a wooden board and a sharp knife, just preparing pineapples, and I stood and watched him for hours, facinated by the ease with which he made such clean and juicy slices. I even videoed him so I would remember what he did. I don't buy pineapples very often now as after such lovely ones, the ones we could buy in England were a disappointment, and I haven't seen them much over here. But this week, when I was in Garrucha market, I saw some lovely ones and decided to treat us. Then yesterday I got out my board and sharpest knife and did my best to remember the lesson from Thailand. I think I did rather well. After lunch, Chris and I sat down with a few slices each and as we bit into them, we looked at one another and said in unison 'Thailand!' It took us both straight back there, and incidently, the pineapple was gorgeous.

More recently, at the end of April I signed up for an online course on colouring! Now you might think that after 60 odd years of colouring in, there can't be much more to learn, but although I love my crafting I have never been an artist. At grammar school I was nearly thrown out of art lessons. I think it was my first experience of not doing well at something, so I made up my mind that I didn't like it, and became a thorough nuisance in class. Then one teacher gave me a block of clay instead of paint and I settled down enough to finish my time there. But I am still frustrated when I can't make a picture look how I see it in my mind, and I thought these classes might help. When I won a national ATC competition a couple of years ago, I spent my prize money on a lovely set of quality coloured pencils so I thought it was about time I learned to use them properly. I belong to a group of crafters called The Chocolate Baroque Guild, and the owner of this company, Glenda Waterworth, provides these lessons through an American company called My Creative Classroom. Each week we get a downloadable tutorial and a set of six videos demonstrating a technique. Then we are given assignments to try for ourselves. For the second week we were shown first how to turn a flat empty circle into a sphere by careful shading and the adding of a shadow, and then we moved on to colouring a flower to make it look 3D, and hence more 'real'. So I thought I would show you my first attempt which was to colour the moning glory provided on the assignment sheet, as I was quite pleased with mine. I went on to do the same with a poppy to make a card for a family member this week. I think I am safe to put it on here as she does not follow my blog, so here it is.

On a very different topic I wanted to show you some bugs which are very common, but these had a 'twist'. Over Easter, while England was enjoying some much needed sunshine, we had a couple of very wet days. I was out in the garden, making sure none of my plant pots were being drowned by the water spouting from corners of the roof, when I saw these snails. They are more like something you would expect to see on the beach, than in the garden. What's more, they had all appeared on the most unfriendly plant in the whole garden. The spines on this cactus are vicious, but the snails had crawled between them and seemed quite happy there. I won't touch the plant so I found a stick and picked them out. A cactus of that size would cost at least 50€ to buy, and I didn't want ours spoiled by snail trails or nibbled holes.

Yesterday was different altogether, very hot with bright sunshine. As I was going out to the shops I saw this bug fly past me and settle on our rose bush. On closer inspection I saw it was a ladybird, complete with black spots, but instead of the rounded body we are used to seeing, this one was almost a rectangle. She was quite welcome in the garden as her larva will eat the green and blackfly that sometimes infest the roses. When I fed the dogs tonight, I was standing at our back fence, waiting for them to finish eating, when I noticed some more on a plant just below me. This is the mimosa tree that grew so fast last year, and Chris cut down in the autumn because it is right outside my room and its flowers give me hayfever. Already it is growing well and no doubt he will have to tackle it again this autumn. I suddenly realised that the whole plant was heaving with these ladybirds. If you click on it to enlarge it, you can see several in this small shot. They may be a new lot of larva that have all just emerged from their cocoons, or just adults about to breed, but there are certainly plenty of them. The swifts are darting around there catching bugs so I don't know how many will survive, but I'm sure some will.


  1. Your coloured flowers look fabulous,well done. Jean x

  2. I always wondered how to prepare a pineapple getting all those tricky bits out! I might have to give it a shot :)


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