Pink Snow: Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure

Pure as the driven snow, me.” – Me being sarcastic at some point in the past.

This week’s weekly photo challenge is ‘Pure‘ so I found some beautiful recent cherry blossom photos that I haven’t shared before, to spread the purity of pink snow:

Pure Cherry Blossom May Blossom Snowfall Petals
Pure Cherry Blossom
Pure Cherry Blossom May Blossom Snowfall Petals
Pure Cherry Blossom
Pure Cherry Blossom May Blossom Snowfall Petals
Pure Cherry Blossom

Sparkles and Cobwebs

So I’ve been very, very busy editing my next two books, which are coming out in quick succession this month by the publisher.  Titles and links and such shall be divulged once such things exist.  In the meantime, some photos:

Photography cobwebs photo rain invoke delight and inspire
Strands of cobweb supporting lots of sparkling droplets of water.
Photography cobwebs photo rain
Shifted the focus a bit and changed camera settings. Shot with Canon EOS 700D with 18-55mm (EF 3.5-5.6) lens (can you believe!)
water droplet photo photography invoke delight and inspire
A drop of drip. But not an April shower. Late May, actually.

Can you believe it’s June today???  It’s going to be my wedding anniversary in 3 weeks.  I swear it wasn’t 2 years since we got married!!!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Jubilant

The WPC this week was Jubilant. Which means really cheerful.
Well I’m stuck into editing my next book at the moment, it should be out in a few weeks time, I’ll let you know, but I did get some beautiful pictures of cherry blossom this week and I do always think the pink snowfall of cherry blossom is one of the happiest sights in the world.  It always reminds me of wedding confetti only you don’t have to be at  a wedding to enjoy May blossom.
In Japan they hold festival celebrations for it.

A dandelion amidst the fallen petals. cherry blossom may blossom delight and inspire
A dandelion amidst the fallen petals.

If you can’t take the bunny to the garden… WPC: Admiration

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge was Admiration.  I’ve explained why this fits the bill underneath.

bunny rabbit eating dandelion cute bunnies cute bunny soft bunny adorable funny
If you can’t take the bunny to the garden, you’ll have to take the garden to the bunny. Fifer is a rabbit I admire.

This week you had to show something or someone you admired.
I was totally going to do this the day after my last post but I had a bit of trouble with this one because I tend to either admire people from afar or, if it’s some one I know, I’m generally unable to post pics of them on my blog without their consent. Which they tend not to give, since most of the people I admire (my Dearest, for example) have important jobs they wouldn’t want to tangle up with my blog which sometimes borders on the unconventional (let’s say), I struggled to think of something.

Rabbit conga funny adorable bunnies cute bunnies
Poppy (black and white) hiding her injured paw and Fifer (brown) try to start a conga line.

Poppy, one of our bunny rabbits, got hurt last week playing in the garden. So while she was recuperating we moved her and Fifer, her boyfriend, into our kitchen in the spare indoor hutch.
Used to going outside whenever they like (their home has 24/7 indoor outdoor access) it’s been especially hard on Fifer, who is half-wild.
I admire how he’s tried his best to take the new surroundings in his stride, despite being unhappy that he can’t play out when he wants to, and I admire that he has done everything he can to look after Poppy.
You may not remember that Fifer was so antisocial when we first got him that he nearly killed a bonded pair of rabbits by premeditatively breaking into their run and attacking them at a time of day when I and my Dearest were not at home.
He had issues, and we got him a new friend (Katie) to help him socialize.
When he lost Katie, he seemed to be going back down that path, and for a while I had to keep him and Poppy separate because he was just rejecting her and she was being all fighty with him.
But it’s 6 months later, and he’s taken to Poppy so well that he has done his utmost to make her comfortable while they’re indoors.
As a treat, I decided that since we couldn’t take the bunny rabbits to the garden, I’d have to take the garden to the bunnies. So I dug up a big triple dandelion (do they grow on top of each other everywhere or just in my garden) and put it on some newspaper in the kitchen.
I hope my Dearest doesn’t mind too much when he gets home.

Review: Visiting Flamingoland Zoo

flamingos at flamingoland

We saw the first road sign for Flamingoland and I got so excited I nearly steered the car off the road. The second sign and I really had to concentrate on driving because I was jumping up and down in my seat and would have been clapping my hands in excitement if I wasn’t holding the steering wheel.

We parked up and I practically ran to the entrance. I may have locked my car. Not that anyone would have done anything to it – Flamingoland just felt totally safe, in the middle of nowhere, in the North Yorkshire countryside, and there weren’t many other cars parked today because it’s the off season. Tickets were £10 for Winter Entry (December to March) – about a third of the usual price – because the combination zoo and theme park only had the zoo open (and possibly one ride). I am really glad that they have started doing this because going in the off season has many advantages –

1. The tickets are affordable.

2. There are no crowds on the walkways, no queues to see the animals and no jostling or other general annoyances that you get in the main season.

3. The screaming from people on rides is vastly reduced – with just the one ride open, and far less people around the park, the screaming noise is an absolute minimum which is great. I used to live near and work at a different theme park and found the screaming noises from people on rides could get quite annoying at times. I don’t think people have any idea how annoying that is or how much noise pollution it causes.

4. I didn’t want to go on the rides anyway – I only wanted to go to the zoo, so it was lovely that they have the winter opening.

Where did I go first? I went to see the giraffes.

These adorable baby giraffes with their mommy were having a nibble in their play area.
These adorable baby giraffes with their mommy were having a nibble in their play area.

giraffes at flamingoland

giraffes at flamingoland

giraffe eating at flamingoland

I probably spent an obscene amount of time around the two separate giraffe enclosures (that’s six giraffes in total), and I really loved that they all had big sized areas to play in – and that some of them were kept close to the zebras.

zebra at flamingoland

The zebras (who are housed with the ostriches) really seemed to love being near the giraffes and they interact with each other through their enclosures which is really adorable.

zebra at flamingoland

I think they don’t house them together though because the giraffes can probably get a bit boisterous and they’re very tall. I got taken to London Zoo when I was about 17 and they had three giraffes but they were all out on loan to another zoo when I went which was very disappointing, I’ve always wanted to see a real giraffe. I wish we’d got to Flamingoland a bit earlier so we could have participated in feeding the giraffes, that would have been the experience to top all zoo experiences, but they only do it once per day and they only let four people do it each day, and we arrived an hour after they’d finished. I’ll have to look forward to next time.

Then there were the Bactrian Camels. They’re the ones with two humps. They seemed to be people watching, and somewhat unaware that the people they were watching were camel watching. It was funny.

bactrian camel

The tigers were chewing on bones, I was very glad that both they and the lions were behind safety glass. The lions were asleep and didn’t make for a very good photo (the tigers didn’t either due to the glass).

tiger at flamingoland

The flamingos were adorable. They were just going about their daily business enjoying life. It was nice to see different hues of flamingoes because naturally they’re not pink it comes from the beta carotene in the shrimp they eat, and a lot of zoos feed them beta carotene additive to make them pink or they have boring white ones as they lose their colour. These ones were the full range of flamingo colours and I think it must be because their diet was pretty much what they ate in the wild.

flamingos at flamingoland

The penguins were also pretty sweet, although I’ve never been that caught up on penguins. The emus were the fluffiest birds I’ve ever seen, and they came to say hello.

penguin at flamingoland

emu at flamingoland

Another special surprise was the red panda – he lives on his own because apparently they’re very solitary but he was the snuggliest little thing I’ve ever seen!

red panda at flamingoland

After all those animals we took a break and had a coffee – I was absolutely astounded that the coffee shop had soya milk for my tea, but it really made the day that little bit better, especially as it was freezing cold outside.  There were also squishy sofas to sit on.

soymilk cafe flamingoland small

In the gift shop we found this six foot tall giraffe that costs £100.  It was very awesome, but we didn’t buy it.

giant giraffe at flamingoland

There were lots of other cool and awesome animals, of the others, the meerkats have to win out as the stars – there were two enclosures for them, and the second one, in the middle of a children’s play area, was teeming with bouncy excitement, as we got there just as feeding time was happening:

meerkat at flamingoland

meerkat at flamingoland

meerkat at flamingoland

meerkats at flamingoland

 I was very proud of myself because the exit was through another gift shop and I left without buying anything – not even a postcard (which I usually get at places where it’s hard to get good pictures, and which has become a bit of a tradition when I go anywhere now).  I am following through on my commitment to not fill my house with clutter, and I felt really good about it as we left.  We then carried on spending the rest of Valentine’s Day celebrating our relationship.

For Valentine’s Day, we have had a five-year history of not doing anything. Every year I’ve gotten really excited, because I’ve always wanted that *one* Valentine’s Day where we went on a romantic date and ate food and stuff. Just the one. Every single year, life has intervened and made sure we couldn’t do anything on February 14th. It was becoming a tradition that we failed to celebrate V-day every year.  I wanted to go to Bempton and see the puffins but they won’t be back again until the end of march (seasonal wild birds are like that) so I thought it was going to be another year where we did nothing.  When my husband suggested Flamingoland I thought it wasn’t open, and that even if it was it would be £30 each to look at some flamingoes.  I was very pleasantly surprised and it turned out to be well worth a visit with the winter opening hours – and even though it’s school half term (a weeklong holiday for kids) there were not many children at Flamingoland either which was great.

Overall, it was a lovely day out as part of a magical Valentine’s day (I’m going against the popular opinion here because I actually really looked forward to Valentines day even though I care nothing for the consumerist trappings, I just wanted to enjoy being with someone I care about). I’m glad we got round to doing something this year because it was really special to just spend time with my husband, have a fun day out, and focus on how much we love each other and celebrate our relationship.

We didn’t bother with cards, flowers or chocolates, and champagne would have been out of place, but the zoo was perfect, followed by a nice meal (at a pub, no Valentines day specials for us), and then we went home and watched Kung Fu Panda 2 followed by the extended version of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring, which was about four and a half hours long (and excellent. I’ve seen it before when it first came out and it hasn’t lost its depth, I highly recommend it if you have the time to watch it, or you could chunk it into two parts).

Have you been to any good zoos lately or seen any exciting wildlife?  Let me know in the comments, and remember to keep ’em clean – this blog gets read by pensioners and children as well as twenty/thirtysomethings!

UPDATE!  I have now finished editing the video footage of my day at the zoo, you can see the first video here:
The second one will be out once I’ve finished it.

How to build an igloo

How do you build an igloo? With all the Boxing Day snow we’ve been having, I am going to show you how to build a functional igloo; we built this igloo in our drive in 2013, at a guess it was about 12 feet (3m) in diameter.

We built this igloo that lasted several days (until it melted in some heavy rain) and we were able to camp in it with sleeping bags and roll mats. I always wondered if it was true that igloos were warm and dry inside. I don’t know how it’s possible, but it was actually pretty cozy camping in our igloo!

It took us about 4 hours to make this igloo, mostly because I didn’t have a lot of energy at the time and working on this was manual labour.

1. Get some large plastic boxes:  Recycling boxes or storage boxes will do just fine for igloo building.  A packing crate isn’t very good as it’s not very strong and the sides are full of holes so the snow falls out instead of making solid igloo ice blocks.

This is the sort of box we used for the first layer - it's a 70 litre plastic box.  The lid wasn't much use.
This is the sort of box we used for the first layer of igloo ice blocks – it’s a 70 litre plastic box. The lid wasn’t much use.

2. Fill the boxes with snow.  Pack the snow down in the box to make giant bricks of ice.  You will need to repeat steps 2 and 3 a lot to make an igloo.

These are the stronger plastic boxes we used to make the bricks from the 2nd layer upwards.  I don't know where they're from - my OH was using them to store Lego before this.
These are the stronger plastic boxes we used to make the bricks from the 2nd layer upwards. I don’t know where they’re from – my OH was using them to store Lego before this.

3. Tip the boxes upside down in a circle (leave room for an igloo door) and pat the bottom to get the snow-bricks out (see picture):

This was the first layer from a different angle.  We left loads of room for the doorway.
This was the first layer of blocks for the igloo from a different angle. As you can see our first box cracked and we used a smaller one for the igloo’s other layers (which made our igloo really strong). We left loads of room for the doorway.

4. Once you have a complete layer, do the same above – but don’t line the bricks up (think about how brick walls are built), and make sure the ice blocks are facing slightly inwards so your bricks eventually meet at the top.

This was what our igloo looked like at our halfway point.  The igloo doorway was improved with bricks set at a different angle for structural stability.
This was what our igloo looked like at our halfway point. The igloo doorway was improved with ice bricks set at a different angle for structural stability.

5. At the top of the igloo, you have two choices – some people prefer to build a capstone out of ice, to stop everything from falling apart.  Otherwise, leave a hole in the top to let air in.  We left a hole in the top of ours.

This is what it looked like when it was nearly finished.  The MDF at the front was used as a door when we camped out in it over night and to keep cats out while we were building.
This is what our igloo looked like when it was nearly finished. The MDF at the front was used as a door when we camped out in the igloo overnight and to keep foxes out while we were building.

6. We used polystyrene and wire mesh to support the door of our igloo because the size of our ice blocks (and the ambient temperature being only -5 or so) meant the whole structure may have collapsed if we hadn’t used any support.  Smaller boxes (than 70 litres) or hardening the blocks of ice using cold water would have both prevented this problem, but it wasn’t cold enough for water-hardening the ice blocks and they just melted when we tried it.    For the amount of time we put into building this igloo, I was very happy to complete it and didn’t worry too much about it being 100% Eskimo-worthy.  Whether you end up with a perfect building made only of ice or not, you will feel damn proud when you go inside your finished igloo.

This is what the finished igloo looked like.  It took us about 5 hours to build, including a break every hour or so when we went indoors to defrost.
This is what the finished igloo looked like. It took us about 5 hours to build, including a break every hour or so when we went indoors to defrost.

7. Now admire your igloo.  Can you sleep in an igloo?  Definitely!  We camped out in ours with some roll mats and a double sleeping bag and it was surprisingly cosy (although we did this wearing serious layers).  It also confused the neighbours which was hilarious.

This is the finished result.  We had a LOT of fun in this igloo last year.  Hope it snows as much this year so we can build another one in our new house (and get some better pics)!
This is the finished igloo. We had a LOT of fun in this igloo last year. Hope it snows as much this year so we can build another igloo in our new house (and get some better pics)!

8.  Take plenty of photos and share them with me via Twitter @mamaadventurez so I can see your awesome creations!

How long will it last?

An igloo can last for weeks in the right weather conditions. If it’s dry, snowy and subzero (celsius), your igloo will only give up when it’s been subjected to too much wear and tear. Rain, as we found out with our igloo, will basically kill an igloo.

Does it need a roof cap?

The traditional (i.e. boy scouts) thinking is that you do need one, but leaving the roof open improves ventilation and the shape of an igloo means very little falling snow will actually get in. If you’re concerned about rainfall or snow, you would be best off sticking an umbrella over the top of your igloo.

Making a roof cap that balances properly is a complete faff because you either need to build the bricks higher, and the top is hard to reach from the outside due to the curvature of the igloo, or you need a really big, solid and sturdy block of packed snow which is difficult to make without the right shape of container.

We left ours open at the top and found it warm enough but not stuffy at all, because the air was able to circulate.

Can you really sleep in an igloo?

It’s worth noting we stayed in ours in dry conditions in temperatures of -3, you may find the blocks are prone to becoming weakened in warmer temperatures, especially once you hit positive numbers on the thermometer.

Have you built an igloo?  Share your igloo pics with me on Twitter!  Who needs an expensive package holiday to Iceland?  You can do this in your own front garden!