Tree Tuesday

I’ve had the Monkey Puzzle Tree on my list of trees to share with you so I was delighted to receive these photos in our mail this week. It comes from Lofty and it’s a splendid specimen.

An interesting tree that was planted in a local park over 100 years ago, a South American “Monkey Puzzle” tree.

©Lofty, all rights reserved

©Lofty, all rights reserved

©Lofty, all rights reserved

The tree was given the name “Monkey Puzzle” in about 1850 by a British Barrister named Charles Austin who remarked upon seeing the tree in an English garden “It would puzzle a monkey to climb that.” The tree had no common name at the time and so monkey puzzle stuck. The tree is a long-lived conifer and is now cultivated in temperate zones world-wide. Unfortunately, in its home range of South America the tree is on the Endangered list because of logging and fires. – source: Wikipedia

Thanks Lofty. Your timing was spot on.

Once Upon A Time in Madrid

Or should I say “madrid”? ;D

Second week of May, I spent a full workweek in Madrid for a working group meeting, and it was a fantastic time (as always). Besides the science-y, political-y days (there’s a lot of discussion about legislation and quality standards, not just the fun research and applications stuff), the organizers had planned out a couple of very interesting cultural evenings, and I found myself quite pleasantly surprised by the city in general. It had a very different feel from Rome (last year) – much cleaner, much more organized, more expansive – which I liked, but the organized part works mostly if you’re not driving a car – never mind the six lanes and wide roads, vehicle traffic in Madrid is atrocious (in my opinion!).

Anyway, the weather held out, the people were wonderful, and my first night the lovely hotel staff pointed me towards (what felt like a) very local cafe-restaurant, where, despite the language barrier and despite clearly being not local, I felt very welcome and extremely well-fed (I had octopus). I went back a second time prior to leaving, which I usually don’t do, but it had that perfect mix of being taken care of and being left alone, which was exactly what I needed.

I have a series on chandeliers in the Royal Palace, but for now, here’s just some small details from that particular cultural visit:

Just a small house… © rq, all rights reserved.

If I was a moth… © rq, all rights reserved.

… there would be so much to love. © rq, all rights reserved.

Secret lions peeking out everywhere! © rq, all rights reserved.

To be honest, they look a little sad. © rq, all rights reserved.

It’s all fun and games. © rq, all rights reserved.

And maybe some more serious faces. © rq, all rights reserved.

One thing that did leave an impression was the collection of Stradivarius instruments – it’s true that brands are often over-rated, and I’m not too big on the detailed decorations on my instruments, but as a former violinist, it still left an impact to see these famous instruments in one room. I’d have to hear them to judge their quality, but the craftspersonship of the construction (and the artistry of the detail) is undoubtedly something else.

© rq, all rights reserved.

© rq, all rights reserved.

Today’s music selection, which felt like it suits the historical theme, is from Latvian Voices – I found this particular performance of theirs via a post answering the question “what is it like to be a woman in the music business?” (that’s a link to their FB page, I don’t know how to link to that post specifically):

As a female group, we’ve been questioned many times about the topic of “how it is to be a woman in the music business?!” We took it very seriously and made research in music history looking on our female colleagues back in the day. As a result, we found ourselves willing to perform more music written by female composers or music which is dedicated to strong and powerful women all over the world.
Please, enjoy our contribution to Frau Fanny Hensel-Mendelssohn – the song “Die Mainacht”, poem by Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hölty.

Video: Kaspars Teilāns
Sound: Andris Ūze
Make-up: Ilona Zariņa
Style Cita Rota

The Reptarium

Bella, a very friendly Rhino Iguana, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Sorry to be absent the past few days. My adventure to Michigan put me into a crash cycle and it’s been slow climbing out. I’m feeling closer to normal today, but the brain fog is being stubborn and persistent. I hope I can string together a few sentences that make sense to tell you all about my amazing experience.

Content Warning – There are photos of snakes ahead.  [Read more…]

Archaeological Museum of Macedonia – Part 2: Other Shiny Things

Coins is nice, but the Museum has a few other exhibits – it’s not a large museum or particularly stunning in its collection, but I liked the feel of it. I do have some commentary about the art depicting life in the Stone Ages, though. About half the population seemed to be missing in most paintings, and you can probably guess which half.

But the exhibit design was, as with the coins, quite interesting:

© rq, all rights reserved.

I did not take photos of everything, as it was mostly different kinds of pottery and metalwork, but allow me to present a few of my favourites:

Looking altogether too happy, if you ask me! © rq, all rights reserved.

An absolutely stunning piece of glasswork. © rq, all rights reserved.

The design of these cloakpins seemed oddly familiar. © rq, all rights reserved.

© rq, all rights reserved.

And this! Was a piece of musical notation from a few hundred years ago. Religious music, if I recall correctly, and I find it fascinating. And I’m curious as to how it should be interpreted. © rq, all rights reserved.

You can read more about the museum itself here.

Let’s Play 9: Goodbye!

This concludes our series with some more animals from the wait line for the wild water ride, in which #1 learned an important lesson about agency, autonomy, consent and respect.

On our second day we went straight for that attraction since it tends to have the longest waiting times. We still needed almost an hour, which #1 used for bickering about how it was a stupid ride and she didn’t want to go anyway. We told her that of course she didn’t have to, but we wouldn’t leave the line since the rest of the family wanted to go on the ride, so she decided to come along.

When we were all seated, properly belted in and the boat started to move she said “I don’t want to!”. Mr yelled for them to stop the boat, they let her out and we took the ride without her, which was exactly not what she wanted as evidenced by the 2 hours that she kept complaining about how it had been unnecessary for us to stop the ride and that she would have been OK to go with us.

Well, kid, no means no, and if you actually mean “yes”, you need to say that.

Her little sister, who is usually the kindest person on earth and too often the target of her older sister’s cruelties, frustration and meanness, couldn’t keep herself from talking about how that was the coolest ride in the whole park for two straight days and we only had half a heart to stop her…

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

My absolute favourite, as hippos are my favourites. Mr. wants to email Lego about whether this can be bought as a set and put it inthe front yard (so it can become a Pokestop. Yes. he’s serious).

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Anyway, the design of that ride is mean. What you can see from the outside is the boats disappear around the corner, emerge at the top and then go down the steep ride. What you cannot see is that they first haul you up and then you don’t go forward to the steep ride but are turned 90° and go down a different ride backwards. You then travel the hidden dinosaur valley (obviously no pics here) before you go up again for the final ride.

It was fun.

All in all, the whole trip was fun even though it was exhausting. We were absolutely lucky with the weather as t was summer temperatures, making all the water attractions enjoyable. Now we have some arctic air with snowfall on Saturday…

Archaeological Museum of Macedonia – Part 1: Little Shiny Things

Also known as a coin collection. I don’t have much to comment here, except that they really know how to set the mood for learning about history:

© rq, all rights reserved.

While there was quite a bit to learn, the focus was on coins. So here we go: be as amazed as I was at the variety of designs, the visible cultural influences, the intricacy and the detail, the mastery and the metalwork.

[Read more…]

Let’s Play 8. Nighttime

Our trip was two days with one overnight stay in the holiday village and we’d chosen an ancient Egypt themed “cottage”. The rooms were clean and more than enough for an overnight stay, and I adored their attention to detail. This fellow hung over our bed.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved
We’re well protected from any Lego mosquitos.

©Giliell, all rights reserved
But maybe we should have a word with their pest control?

Canyon Matka – Part 7: Miscellaneous and Odd

This is the final post from Canyon Matka, a couple of views of the dam, and some random items I saw along the way.

As mentioned before, never believe anyone if they tell you there is nothing to see: I was thoroughly impressed with my visit to this canyon, and I would certainly plan to see other parts of the country (especially the mountains!) if I had the chance. Maybe I’m just easily pleased, but the sheer beauty of Macedonian nature – so different from the one up here – is enough to keep me satisfied.

Looking back towards Skopje (or at least an edge of it). © rq, all rights reserved.

The hydroelectric dam – it’s hard to get it all in one photo! © rq, all rights reserved.

Tangles. © rq, all rights reserved.

Some mountaintops with a mysterious trail… © rq, all rights reserved.

And that trail leads down to what apparently is locally known as the American Embassy… © rq, all rights reserved.

It was there. © rq, all rights reserved.

Living over the edge… © rq, all rights reserved.

… And a look upcliff. © rq, all rights reserved.

Maybe he assumed it was too dark for me to take a good photo, but this little feller spent a good ten minutes singing right about my head, giving me a chance to adjust the camera to get at least this one decent shot! © rq, all rights reserved.

Farewell to this adventure, and here’s to the next one!

Let’s Play: At Legoland 6

My favourite part is probably the mini world, where they rebuild cities and places in Lego. I could have spent hours there.

Also a whiptail found that a balcony in Venice is the perfect place for its nest.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved
The huge dinosaurs are the best thing anyway.

©Giliell, all rights reserved


A stately specimen from Lofty.

This picture is of a well built male kangaroo that I saw out of the window right on dusk, complete with a “Wot U Lookin At?” expression on its face. It’s still very dry hereabouts and the slight runoff from our driveway grew a little green grass for it to munch. Fortunately it paused just long enough for me to reach around and fire off this shot. A few seconds later it bounded out of sight.

Roo, ©Lofty, all rights reserved

Let’s Play: At the Legoland 5

No, really, I don’t like rollercoasters. Maybe it’s an acquired taste or one you need to learn young, but it’s not my fun part. I rode my first one last summer and before even considering this one I researched whether it was faster (no way!) or slower than the one in Spain. I don’t like the sudden movements, though I was not fighting unconsciousness this time as I did in Spain. It’s not like I don’t like speed as such, there’s some fast stuff i really like, just not this. So enjoy the pics from the “harbour trip” in small boats at slower than  walking pace.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved