11 December 2009

Christmas Crafting: Gift Tags

Printable Gift Tags

Here is a lovely selection of Free Printable Christmas Gift Tags from across the blogosphere for you. As long as you have Adobe Acrobat Reader, or something similar, to download the PDF's, you can get clicking, printing and holepunching straight away!

Just scroll down for the links.

  1. Sew, Mama, Sew or click straight to the PDF
  2. Creature Comforts Blog or click straight to the PDF
  3. Paperseed or click straight to the PDF
  4. Martha Stewart or click straight to the PDF
  5. Fog and Thistle or click straight to the JPG
  6. Angry Chicken or click straight to the PDF
  7. Delight.com or click straight to the PDF
  8. Living Locurto or click straight to the PDF


07 December 2009

Christmas Crafting: Ornaments

Sequined Christmas Tree

Taken from guest Blogger Living with Lindsay, over on Centsational Girl, this is one of the Christmas crafts I have started albeit, not yet finished. You should give it a go though, it's really quite fun.

  • Styrofoam / polystyrene cone ~8" tall
  • Sequins (8mm) in 2 colours e.g. blue and green
  • Beads (4mm) metallic or clear
  • Straight pins e.g. dressmakers' pins, with a large enough head so bead doesn't fall off
  1. Separate beads and sequins into sectioned boxes, e.g. tuperware, bowls, etc.
  2. Begin by sliding a bead then a sequin onto one of your straight pins.
  3. Starting from the bottom of the cone, push the pin into the Styrofoam base and make a horizontal row around the cone, slightly overlapping each sequin.
  4. Make horizontal rows around the cone, alternating between your 2 colours (or just use one colour, if you wish). You should also slightly overlap the sequins with the row below so that the Styrofoam cannot be seen underneath the sequins.
  5. When you have about one row left until you get to the top of your cone, fill in the flat top by putting one sequin in the center and then making a ring around it.Then finish the top row around the tree.

Alternatively, you could use a styrofoam ball to make a Christmas bauble decoration. For that, you make a ring of sequins around the ball vertically and then a ring around the ball horizontally. Incorporate some ribbon to hang your decoration. A good ball tutorial can be found at ThriftyFun.


03 December 2009

Christmas Cooking: Goulash

I have a lovely BBC Good Food winter recipe for you today to warm your insides and banish those icicles from your fingers and toes!

Quickie Sausage Goulash

Image: glitterboi
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 454g packet low-fat sausages, cut into big chunks
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp bouillon powder (powdered stock)
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • good pinch of sugar
  • 4 medium floury potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 2 big handfuls shredded spring greens (I couldn't get srping greens so substituted them with leek, you could use any vegetable you fancy.)
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan and fry the sausage chunks until evenly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Mix the remaining oil with the onions in the pan and cook over a high heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.
  • Pour in the tomatoes, stirring in the bits from the bottom of the pan, then add the tomato purée.
  • Fill the can up with water twice and pour the water into the pan. Sprinkle in the bouillon powder, paprika and sugar and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir well and bring to the boil.
  • Tip the potatoes into the pan, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Drop in the shredded greens and sausages and gently heat for 5 minutes or until the greens are tender. Taste for seasoning before serving.
I served mine with a generous portion of bread and butter!


02 December 2009

Christmas Crafting: Advent Calendars

Matchbox Advent Calendars

So while Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, you can always join in a little late -- it just means you have to eat all the chocolates you've missed so far, oh how very awful!

Do you have some spare matchboxes lying around? Give these Matchbox Advent Calendars a whirl.
1. Christmas Tree Advent Calendar
    • 25 matchboxes
    • Pen or small rubber stamps (numbers)
    • Christmas wrapping paper/card
    • Glue
    • Your choice of sweets or chocolate
    1. Glue 9 matchboxes together to make the first row from the bottom.
    2. Wrap the entire row in your Christmas card/paper. Do the following with the other rows, decreasing the number of matchboxes in each row by 2.
    3. Glue each row together to make a Christmas Tree .
    4. Write numbers 1 to 25 on the sides of the matchbox in any order you like!
    5. Finally, fill your matchboxes with sweets or chocolates, you may decorate the top of the Christmas Tree with a star or angel, if you wish.

    2. Martha Stewart 'Chest of Drawers' Advent Calendar

    This advent calendar looks like a cute little chest of drawers, made up of 3 columns and 8 rows. And when each matchbox is removed, a Christmas image begins to emerge.

    • 24 matchboxes
    • Pen or small rubber stamps (numbers)
    • Christmas wrapping paper/card
    • Glue
    • Your choice of sweets or chocolate
    • Ribbon
    • Paint, felt tip pens or crayons
    • Scissors
    1. Gluing matchboxes in 3 stacks of eight.
    2. Glue stacks together to make the chest.
    3. Cut a strip of your Christmas paper/card to wrap around the sides of the chest, and glue it in place.
    4. Number the front of each drawer using paint, felt tip pens or crayons.
    5. Turn the chest around; paint a design of your choice on the back e.g. a Christmas tree.
    6. Remove drawers and glue a ribbon tab on the underside of each drawer on the numbered end.
    7. Cut a square of card to use as backing for the chest to keep drawers in place and hide the image; attach it at the edges with glue.
    8. Fill the drawers with your choice of sweets/chocolates, or even notes, and slip them back into the chest.
    Now all that's left is to eat the chocolate!

    There are so many more DIY advent calendars out there so investigate! Or perhaps get creative; design and make your own!


    01 December 2009

    Christmas Crafting

    Goodness me, it's already December!

    Image: Phil Stewart

    Every year I avoid the early Christmas cheer as the shops go all out with decorations, as early as November(!), in an effort to make you spend, spend, spend. However, as soon as it hits December, I start to adopt some Christmas spirit, especially when the ground is covered in ice and my choir has already begun serenading the public with carols.

    My goal this year is to be as thrifty and crafty as possible. It all began with the idea of making my own advent calendar and has been followed by the scouring of t'internet and da blogs in search of anything and everything DIY Christmas!

    Then I thought 'Hey, if I'm doing it, maybe you are, too?'


    Let's have a Christmas Countdown! And no, not an ordinary countdown but a crafty, DIY themed Christmas Countdown!


    Piggy-backing off Sweet Paul's idea, I have decided, between now and December 25th, I shall share with you some Christmassy DIY crafts, recipes, resources or gift ideas located somewhere across t'internet or the blogosphere -- the more the merrier. I shall aim to fuse it altogether with some Christmassy and wintery photography.

    So let's kick things off gently -- especially for those lacking some seasonal spirit -- with some December and Christmas calendars for your computer desktop. Head on over to Smashing Magazine for a selection of 45 desktop calendars. I managed to narrow it down to a good ol' Christmas Tree!



    Perhaps you have a tutorial, craft, recipe, gift idea or something you'd like to share? Or maybe Guest Blogging is your game? Get in touch! Visit the Contact Me section in my sidebar to the right.



    29 November 2009

    Christmas Blog Decor

    So, after some blog formatting jiggery-pokery (in the good way, of course), you see before you some lovely Christmas decor around the Gingerella blog.

    What do you think? Having to add a santa hat and put up for my virtual decorations really got me in the mood.

    What are you doing to add some Christmas cheer to your blog?


    08 October 2009

    100th Post!

    I know, I know; considering I've had this blog since February 2008, I really should have smashed through this milestone some time ago. But it's quality rather than quantity, right? Actually, don't answer that; you'll shatter my illusion.

    Either way, I think it deserves a minor celebration!

    Yay me!

    I shall be back with more later. I have so much to blog about, including stories of a newly acquired musical instrument, a blogger networking event, a charity shop haul, reviving an old craft and blogger kudos, but I just can't seem to find the time. I must make time!


    29 September 2009

    DIY Face Mask Recipe Cards & Labels

    If you've had a good old peruse around my blog, you'll know I'm training to be a girl guide (or girl scout, for any American readers) leader and recently had to plan a themed evening for the girls; a Girls Night In.

    We had various different stations, including DIY face masks and lipgloss. I decided to put together some labels (for the pots of DIY face masks I'd made at home, the night before) and some take-away recipe cards for the different flavours; Honey & Oatmeal, Cucumber, Peach and Strawberry.

    So, I thought I'd share them with you all:

    You can download PDF copies of the labels and the recipe cards.

    I simply attached the labels to cocktail or kebab sticks to sit in the face masks themselves like umbrellas, which is why they are double sided. You could also print singlesided versions onto adhesive labels and stick them onto containers. Enjoy!


    19 September 2009

    Raspberry & White Chocolate Muffins


    • 300g (10.5 oz) plain flour
    • 15ml (1tbsp) baking powder
    • 100g (3.5 oz) caster sugar
    • 100g (3.5 oz) butter
    • 2 medium eggs
    • 200ml (7fl oz) milk
    • 150g (5.5 oz) raspberries
    • 100g (3.5 oz) Somerfield white chocolate
    • Muffin cases


    1. Preheat oven to 200°C, 400°F, gas mark 6. 
    2. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. 
    3. Add the sugar.
    4. Melt the butter. 
    5. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. 
    6. Pour the melted butter and the egg mix into the flour. Stir; take care not to over-mix.
    7. Stir in half of the raspberries. Cut the white chocolate into small chunks and stir in half of them.
    8. Arrange the paper cases in a muffin tin. Spoon the mixture between the cases. Dot with the remaining raspberries and chocolate chunks, pushing them in a little. 
    9. Cook for 15–20 minutes until golden. Cool. Eat on same day if possible.

    Incredibly yummy! With the left over batter, I added a little cinnamon and made cinnamon and white chocolate muffins.


    17 September 2009

    I need to...

    ... VENT!!

    The following really isn't going to mean much to most of you but I am going to go ahead, anyway because I am losing my patience, and probably my sanity, right now.

    I just cannot align the laser beam with the inverted microscope. I will have it pretty much spot on until I add the 3rd of 4 lenses, at which point it all moves out of alignment and the laser beam isn't collimated. I don't know if it's the galvanometer controlled mirrors -- maybe not at the right height -- or something else. But everything right up until that 3rd lens seems to be fine. Then, kaputt!

    Then, once I try to adjust the lens position using the X, Y, Z adjustments, the lenses pop out -- which frigging way are these things supposed to go in?!?! Because no matter which way I have them, they always shoot/fly out. And today, at least I think it was today, I have managed to crack a rather expensive anti-reflection coated 1064nm lens because it flew out and bounced around in the enclosure. Wonderful, just friggin' wonderful.

    I am so pi**ed off.
    If the other researcher in my lab hadn't come in, I think I might have actually started crying.

    I would go to Super's office and have a mini-rant about it all if;

    a) it didn't make me look like a totally incompetent 3rd year and
    b) if I thought I could actually hold it together without breaking down in front of him. I am that frustrated with it all right now!

    I have a 2nd year poster session on Thursday that is supposed to show my progress since first year and my plan for final year but I have no friggin' results and no actual laser trapping ability right now. So, it's all useless.

    I just don't know what to do. No, scrap that, I do, but no matter how hard I try, it won't friggin' work.

    Maybe not having had any lunch today had something to do with this reaction, but I don't care!

    ... :(


    I decided to act on my situation with an e-mail:
    Hi Super,

    Should we have a meeting tomorrow?

    I'd also really appreciate if you could just come and have a look at the alignment after the meeting tomorrow because I just cannot get it right -- and two heads are better than one. I'm just getting really, really frustrated with it!


    That doesn't sound so bad, right? Sometimes, you just need a helping hand. We shall see his response.

    08 September 2009


    It seems I have to write these apologetic I'm-sorry-I've-not-blogged-for-ages posts all the time but here's another. Yup, I've been M.I.A for a little while, mainly because I haven't had anything interesting to say but also because I've been rather busy of course. There's not a great deal to update you on and I don't really have the energy to recall it all now, so I shall just continue as if all is well. Sound good? Good.

    Alright, I shall return to the topic slightly. I think I need something of worth to blog about because -- and I'm not hoping for a string serenade here -- my life is really not 'of worth' when it comes to blogging. I tried this website called Plinky, which offers you questions/topics, supposedly for you to blog about, but they are rather ridiculous questions/topics, if you ask me. So how does one go about being inspired on blog topics? How does one stay motivated and fresh when it comes to blogging?

    The whole Book Club I was hoping to partake in and the Book Review portion here, didn't really come to fruition as I am just too busy these days, my mind is rather preoccupied by other things!

    OK, OK, so I'll give you a little update.
    • R and his housemates have started a band for which R is the drummer and I may or may not be the singer (it's undecided)
    • I want to teach myself the guitar (I might be getting a second hand-me-down guitar)
    • In 2 weeks time, I officially start the 3rd and final year of my PhD
    • I am addicted to Florence And The Machine's album, Lungs
    • This year marks the centenary (100 years) of GirlGuiding, for which the celebration launch party was the weekend just gone
    • I want to learn to make my own jewellery and sew my own clothes (yup, a sewing machine would be required)
    • I watched District 9 last night = weird
    • A bunch of friends and I have started a 'Film Club', which I may or may not keep you posted on :P
    • I went to Glasgow for PhD purposes and was sure all academics there thought I was actually an r-tard
    • I narrowly missed out on the chance to go to South Africa as part of my PhD this week. Nice, just bloomin' wonderful.
    • I need to find a nice dress to attend R's cousin's wedding next month
    • In roughly 18 weeks, I should be an auntie!
    Well, that should do. Toodles!

    01 August 2009

    The Playlist

    So it's Saturday night and rather than sitting around an empty house moping and pining after R, tonight I'm gonna have a night out. :D

    A large bunch are headed out to a club in town, Boutique. I've never been but heard it used to be a gentlemen's club (eek! plenty of poles then, I'm sure) and that it's expensive e.g. drinks are £8-10!! So I shall either drink at home (yup, on my own, can't see that happening) or drink somewhere else first, cheaper of course.

    There is one saving grace, it is supposedly free before 11pm for the ladies. Otherwise it's £10! There's quite a lot of people going, supposedly 50+ confirmed on the guestlist and I know a lot of other maybe's will turn up. So, I better get myself outside that club early so as not to be stuck waaay back in the queue when the clock strikes 12 (well 11, but shush, you get it). If I miss the free entry, I'm coming home; what club can be worth £10 entry and then £10 drinks?! I should be smuggling drinks in instead, Benicassim style. I say that now though, but if all my friends are there, I might just pay £10. :(

    Anyway, to the point. It's taken me all week to psyche myself up for going out tonight. So, in a bid not to waste those efforts, I shall continue to stoke the fire with this awesome 'Party Tunes' playlist I just created, which I thought I would share with you. I know, I'm lovely aren't I? :P

    - Sweet Dreams - Beyonce
    - Release Me - Agnes
    - Beat Again - JLS
    - Poker Face - Lady Gaga
    - David Guetta & Kelly Rowland - When Love Takes Over
    - Poppiholla - Chicane
    - Dog Days Are Over - Florence & the Machine
    - Quicksand - La Roux
    - Just Dance - Lady Gaga
    - I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas
    - Bulletproof - La Roux
    - Papparazi - Lady Gaga
    - Boom Boom Pow - Black Eyed Peas
    - In For The Kill - La Roux
    - Out Of This Club - The Pussycat Dolls

    I've never really sat down and created a specific playlist and there are a few odd ones in there, but it's not bad. I'm hoping I don't get bored of it repeating and that it gets, or at least keeps, me in some sort of party mood.

    What's everyone else upto this Saturday night? Whatever it is, enjoy! I'm off to get ready and put my warpaint on...


    31 July 2009

    Holiday Blues

    I know, I know, long time no blog, and I'm sorry! But you may -- or may not -- be pleased to know, I'm back.

    I had so much to do before my holiday that I didn't have time to blog. Similar is true about when I got back, although I was mostly too busy forcing myself to get over my post-holiday blues just enough to get out of bed in the morning, let alone blog.

    But I finally unpacked (after 4days of my luggage sitting there) and I really feel 'back'. And I've missed jabbering on about absolute nonsense.

    The holiday was fab! I decided to extend by an extra day, which cost me at least another £120 (!), but it was well worth it. First was Benicassim Festival which involved 5 days camping. Just like last year, the music and beaches were fab, the camping not so much but it's all part of the fun! The only downside with the festival was the massive windstorm that occurred on the 2nd night which saw the stages and campsite areas getting ripped apart, tents blowing away and campers being evacuated in the middle of the night to the town's local leisure centre. Check out one of the YouTube videos of the winds;

    We'd already fled the campsite by this point and 5 of us spent the night in one of the fellas rented cars. It was so sereal, and uncomfortable. It resulted in Kings of Leon -- the main band I went to see -- not playing! Gutted. But the show must go on and it was still so much fun.

    Then onto Barcelona for 5 days. I love the city and whilst I initially would've preferred to go somewhere I'd not been before, this time we went with a different group of people, spent doing different things in different places. So it was still great; a whole new world of discovery.

    The final downside is that on the 26th July, I flew back without R, and he's still in Espania touring the country with 2 of his housemates. I miss him too much! He's not back until the 8th August, at which point I will have left Manchester and be at my cousins wedding, so won't be here when he gets back. Big girls don't cry. I'm being so mellodramatic, I'm not gonna friggin' cry! lol.

    What else is new? Not a fat lot. Things are being readied for me to visit Edinburgh and perform some measurements. I say that as if I am not the one (supposed to be) organising it. I still need to email the guy back about exactly when I'm going. I also still need to make some more samples, and really should be doing that right now. Tut tut Jen!

    Well, this is getting rather long so I shall leave it there. My apologies for all the boringness. I shall be back with more later.


    07 July 2009

    I fell off the wagon...

    So I was either going to go with that analogy or the 'get back on the horse' one. But wagon is a pretty cool word. Not to mention, I really love wagon wheels;

    Wait, you still don't know what I'm talking about? Well, I'm not an alcoholic so it wasn't the sober wagon I fell off. It was the blogging wagon. I'd gotten into a good routine and then my PhD had to get all involved and zap my time. And then I just kept putting off my blog posts...

    But I'm back my luvlies! And I have lots to update you on but I will try and keep it brief.
    • Poster
      The poster (big file!) went absolutely fine! I didn't manage to get it laminated as they'd run out of laminate at the printers. Super spotted the one (non-technical) mistake on the poster straight away. I was going to correct it before sharing my poster with you lot but I changed my mind, so feel free to peruse it for the mistake yourself. Here's a little preview:

    • Moving house
      The move to my new house, with 3 previously unknown ladies, also went well. I am loving the house; it's so homely, and although I had initially thought the room would be small, I love it! If you're lucky, I'll provide photographic evidence of my new room. I need to get rid of quite a lot of clothes, either ebay or charity shops. That just reminded me, I moved out of my old place nearly a week ago and still haven't heard from the old landlord about my deposit. Tut tut. Shall text him now.
    • Holidays
      I can't wait! I am going to the festival Benicassim in Spain, again this year. I fly there, from Birmingham, next Wednesday. I'll spend a few days in Barcelona afterwards before flying back to (probably rainy) Manchester. Sadly, I shall be returning alone though as R has a big Spanish tour planned with 2 or 3 of his mates. He might come back without a liver... eek!
    • PhD news
      Due to me having to do some rather in-depth data analysis for my poster, I actually made a breakthrough. A similar breakthrough came in the form of using digital calibration techniques as suggested, to Super, by an expert in the field. Within 2 weeks that has evolved into Super buying me (well, not really me, but my project) a Macbook Pro (£900!) and a new high speed Firewire camera (£800!). Both should arrive within a week. Super considers me to be worthy of such investment?! I'm in shock. The next step will be taking the new laptop and camera up to the experts in Glasgow and spending time with them getting to grips with it. I'm excited about that!
    • Brotherly love
      One of my brothers has just finished his degree in Physics (yup, he copied me, and at the same university too) and found out he got a 2:1. :D I'm gutted I'll miss his graduation on the 16th though, as I'll be in Spain!!). His girlfriend also got a 2:1 in Accounting and Law, and I watched her graduate yesterday. A massive congrats to them both!

    Well that's your lot and I know I didn't keep it very brief but, you know as well as I do, I can type for England!

    I really need to do some photography so please bug me about it!


    23 June 2009

    Looky looky!

    Ohhhh I know it's probably really weird to get so excited about this and it's only a measly little poster session (not even a proper one) but look;

    That's pretty damn cool, right? No?! Sod ya then. :P


    22 June 2009

    All systems go!

    So, the meeting went well and I submitted the abstract to the secretary on Friday afternoon. She didn't reply Friday, nor over the weekend, but she finally got back to me yesterday (Monday) saying my submission hadn't missed the poster-boat. So looks like I'm doing a poster folks. Yay me!

    So now it's non-stop work for the rest of the week! I actually have to try and get some results, which isn't proving 100% successful just yet but progress is being made. The poster is coming along nicely though; I decided to do it in Inkscape (as opposed to the Powerpoint that most researchers do them in), and used a university compliant template I got from the media centre. Don't worry (or should I say, if you care?) I shall share it with you when it's done! :D

    Today (or asap) I need to;
    • Finish writing the porgram to control the stage motion (my fellow PhD'er A helped me out with starting it)
    • Understand concepts relating to microrheology, the viscous drag force method, Faxen's correction law and position calibration without using Brownian motion and power spectral analysis
    • Make samples of the liquid crystal and polystyrene beads. I really think I am neglecting this one, it's pretty damn important but I need to calibrate with water first
    • Find out about particle tracking with CCD/video using LabVIEW (IMAQ)
    Yes, I realise most of that probably means nothing to most of you and I apologise! To make up for it I'll post something much more your scene soon.

    In other news, I'm starving!!


    18 June 2009

    So abstract.

    "Publish or perish" seems to be a popular belief when undertaking (or failing, as I am) a PhD and whilst I'd really like to let you go down the path that your mind is probably detouring to right now, I have to put you straight; I haven't published anything nor am I even a million miles anywhere near publishing my research.

    Dude, it's a big thing. I'm gutted that I'm not at that stage yet. And although I'm reassured by people that this is common, I actually feel embarrassed.

    And just to add icing to that pile-of-poo-research cake, I'm not really anywhere near presenting a bloomin' poster about my research.

    But that, my little tiddywinkles (don't ask, because I have no frickin' idea, seriously), might all be about to change! There is a poster session (for my institute's big wigs) coming up at the end of the month and I decided to grab the bull by the proverbial horns and make a poster for it and submit an abstract.

    Yay! Yeh, I thought that too. But it's definitiely not that frickin' easy. Let's break it down, the potential problems, that is;
    • I only decided to do this yesterday
    • the deadline for titles and abstracts is tomorrow
    • I only sent the title & abstract to Super this morning 
    • Super responded pretty quickly, but it was all a little difficult to gauge what his response really meant with phrases like "the poster session is a week on Monday!" and "we'll discuss it tomorrow". Eeek! It feels like when you call your mom/dad and tell them you're staying out late and maybe not coming home tonight, and asking whether you're in trouble. Usual response: "we'll talk about it tomorrow". Yikes! that means I'm in trouble!
    • For my current project (please observe: I say current like I've had several so far, lies!) doesn't actually have any results
    • I have to get results in time for a) the poster session and b) to be included on the poster, which will probably need to be submitted for printing on the frickin' Friday.
    • I have to make the bloomin' poster!
    • Assuming I get past all that, I then have to stand up in front of said poster and face (probably concealed, maybe openly displayed) judgements of why the hell I even bothered to submit a result-less poster and explain it all with a smile on my face

    Arghhhh! And there's me thinking this was going to be a beneficial undertaking. Just so that I have something other than a pretty blog, a fancy schmancy new camera and lots of responsibility-dodging volunteer schemes to show for my PhD so far.

    Well, I will let you know the outcome of tomorrow's meeting with Super.


    17 June 2009

    Wordless Wednesday: Holidays Revisited

    { Black Point Lighthouse, Penmon Point, Anglesey, N. Wales }

    1/400s | f/5.6 | Canon Digital IXUS i @ 6.41mm (DigiComp)

    { City of Arts & Science, Valencia, Spain }

    ISO 80 | 1/140s | f/2.8 | Kodak C763 @ 5.8mm (DigiComp)

    { Cathedral of Santa Maria, Plaza de la Virgin, Valencia, Spain }

    ISO 200 | 1/60s | f/2.8 | Kodak C763 @ 5.8mm (DigiComp)

    { Cathedral of Santa Maria, Plaza de la Reina, Valenica, Spain }

    ISO 80 | 1/140s | f/2.8 | Kodak C763 @ 5.8mm (DigiComp)

    16 June 2009


    I'm wounded, financially wounded!

    Almost the worst kind, especially for a student (albeit a fully funded PhD student) like me. The purchase of a digital SLR, along with accessories, has affected me more, and longer, than I thought it would. It's only the middle of the month and I'm overdrawn! What the hell am I spending my money on?!

    Granted, 2 siblings owe me money and I am currently 'missing' 2 accommodation deposits, one of which I should get most -- if not all -- of back when I move places. But it sucks. I have a rather large overdraft facility but still, I hate being in this situation. Plus, I have flights, travel insurance and train tickets for the Spainish festival, Benicàssim, to worry about, too. I'm hoping they won't be any more than £150.

    R has managed to save up so much money whilst I appear to have simply squandered it. :( And that's with him getting slightly less funding than me. But my rent is more and he also gets paid for teaching assistant duties.

    If I clamp down on my clearly ridiculous spending (I still don't know on what?!) for the rest of this month, get as much of my deposit back as I can i.e. clean my flat phenomenally well, and wait patiently for July's instalment of my funding, I should be fine. Right?

    Many moons ago, I used to keep a spreadsheet of my expenditure; maybe it's time to start doing that again. I could also get one of these bad boys?

    I always thought I didn't need these sort of money saving devices, but maybe I should reconsider. Or how about one of these;

    Now that's a clever piggy bank.

    I did have another holiday in the pipeline for September but my Dad pretty much vetoed that (yup, I haven't lived at home for 6 years and my parents are still the boss of me) which I don't really want to talk about. But it's probably a good thing, seeing the state of my financial affairs.

    You have simply disgraced yourself, my dear.


    15 June 2009

    Holla! @ Happiness

    Blogging ideas are a bit thin on the ground again this week. Yes, I know it's only Monday and I'm already falling short of content, but allow me, my brain is otherwise occupied with some other junk (= PhD).

    So, in the mean time I will give a Holla! @ Happiness and share with you a few things that have made me happy recently...

    • Last.fm
      I know I don't shut up about this radio station style website but I really don't think nearly enough people use it. I didn't understand enough about it -- likening it to Yahoo radio before I'd even visited the site -- but after test driving it, I was an immediate convert. And the number of old school songs that pop up and remind me of my youth are enough to lift my heart!
    • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
      I would love to know why, if any other women know, why crying at a film makes the fairer sex happy? maybe it's not all of us, but I sure as hell love a good cry, I tell ya. Well, I watched this film last week and it was rather sad indeed and, whilst the severity of it's effect might be blamed on my already high monthly hormone levels, it really made me blub. And no, it's got nothing to do with my all out infatuation for everything Brad Pitt (did anyone see Meet Joe Black? I love him, no, both of them, Black and Pitt!). OK,  I probably was a little influenced by my attraction, but it was actually a good film regardless.

    Time for your Holla! @ Happiness.


    11 June 2009

    Happy 1st Blog-a-versary

    This is going to be short and sweet...

    Happy 1st Blog-a-versary to Me!

    Thank you all for making it so much fun for me so far!

    10 June 2009

    Wordless Wednesday: 'Baked Bean Tin'

    The 'Baked Bean Tin' Building, The University of Manchester
    ISO 100 | 1/320s | f/10 | Sony DT 18-70mm @ 20mm

    08 June 2009

    Strawberries & cream!


    how was everyone's weekend?

    Mine was nice. On Friday, the rain stopped a little and a night out with some friends was still on. It was really fun actually, although we drank quite a lot.

    On Saturday, I passed by a little street book sale and, as usual, never expected to find anything but managed to spot a book I've wanted to read for a while now; The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, and for a bargain price too; £2.50! The rest of my Saturday was a little wasted though; I decided not to take up the offer of another night out with friends, and had a lovely night in on my own instead. I finally did some baking and made some strawberries and cream mini-cupcakes.

    So I sat down with a good book (although truthfully, the book was Twilight III, not the one pictured) and these deelish cupcakes. I'd stayed up until 3am to finish the book -- onwards and upwards with Twilight IV -- but I had gorged myself on cupcakes, mini or not, well before that!

    Sunday I popped into town and just picked up some bits and bobs, toiletries mostly. I did spot a lovely dress in Miss Selfridge (one of my fave shops!) that I could team with Mary Jane court shoes, a quilted bag and some silver jewellery for my cousins hen party that I'm going home for this weekend. What do you think?

    A bit of a girly moment here, but allow me that much; I am a girl, after all. :)


    05 June 2009

    Good intentions

    So much for those...

    I had all sorts of plans today, lots of tasks to accomplish;
    • Get on top of my mail, especially those that require a reply
    • Do at least some programming
    • Improve upon the data set I took this morning
    • Go exploring with my camera again
    • Bake cupcakes
    But apart from er..., oh yeh, none of those were really achieved today. I should probably get myself one of those t-shirts. OK so there is still time to go exploring with my camera. That is, if it weren't for the sudden terrential down pour (with the odd crackle of thunder for good measure) that has just engulfed Manchester. I have to cycle in it, and you know how much I don't like cycling in the rain -- I need not fear though, I have my trusty Kag in a Bag and a new waterproof (I hope!) backpack that I told you about. Don't tell me you forgot?!

    Yes, yes, I'd be telling myself there is still time to bake cupcakes too, but not with the insufficient lack of sleep I had last night -- I don't know how I'm keeping my eyes open to be honest with you; I need my 8 hours. Yup, that's a flakey excuse, I know because come on, how much energy does it really take to do a bit of baking? True, true.

    Don't condemn me as being lazy juuuust yet though, plans to go out with the girl guiding leaders tonight around 9pm (£2 cocktails at Font!) would have also put to bed any aspirations to shoot some photos or gorge on bake cupcakes, but with this bloody monsoon weather, I am not sure a night out is even really on the cards. Am not decided how I feel about that.

    We'll see what happens.

    I know I don't need to explain myself to you (the masses that you are. Not.) but come on, it's Friday, it's almost 5pm; I'm going home! Well, as soon as it stops raining...

    Happy weekend guys and girls.


    03 June 2009

    Wordless Wednesday


    Credit: Marie-Marthe Gagnon

    02 June 2009

    Long day

    Very boring post today but I feel I should say something.

    01 June 2009

    PhD Mail

    So Friday's meeting with Super was not a complete disaster after all. Far from it, in fact and I would almost go so far as to say, it was a pretty good meeting.

    Although I had decided about a week ago now, that I wasn't going to quit -- I didn't want to quit anymore -- I still considered quitting as an option because maybe it was too late for the PhD to be salvaged. I did mentally prepare myself for, depending on how the meeting went, to tell Super in Friday's meeting, that I was going to quit. But after the meeting going quite well, I finally put all ideas of quitting behind me. And I'm really quite happy about it. :D

    I imagine Super wasn't amazingly happy that I came into his office with this worried 'I-still-have-no-idea-what-the-hell-I'm-doing!' look on my face, yet again. He asked me if I was confident (maybe about the small part we were discussing) and I just said 'No, not at all. Not about anything really.' I did try to put across to him how worried I was about the lack of time I had left but again, he put my mind, and my nerves somewhat, at ease with the old wives tale (maybe it's true?) that most PhD's don't even get results till their 3rd year, anyway.

    So, he doesn't seem to have lost all faith in what I'm doing. I'm sure I didn't impress him too much when he asked me about the Matlab program I'd written -- the topic of which I had admittedly, brought up -- and, as usual, I was taken off-guard and didn't understand, or know the answer to, his question. Ahhhh! Of course, I did know the answer, I just got all freaked out and thought because Super is asking me a question, I cannot possibly know the answer?! But, it's my program and of course he doesn't know the answer because he hasn't seen the program you wrote. Wally.

    He did take a trip with me down to the lab, during which he told me I may have to completely move my experiment. Noooo! All the optic alignment took far too long, I cannot start from scratch. But he assured me that because someone above him was making us move the lab, he agreed to it on the proviso that he could use 2 forklift trucks to move my experiment so as not to disturb the delicate optics. Way to go Super!

    He set me some tasks and we're going to spend some time together on Friday going through this Matlab program I wrote. 'Could take hours' he said. Eek! But I am happy about it -- even if it does show up my lack of knowledge.


    31 May 2009


    The weather in good old UK is glorious at the moment and whilst I have some time before I go out and enjoy it I thought I would share with you some of the lovely photos I took yesterday. 

    After I finally got hold of a camera bag and new backpack (there will be a post about that soon), I finally took the plunge and ventured out with my new camera.

    28 May 2009

    Over it?

    Dudes & dudettes,

    there's me thinking I've had a motivational brain wave, epifany, if you will. I've been all raring to go since yesterday (OK, not all procrastination has ceased but I'm doing a Phd, I'm not dead!), all I did this morning was spend 3 hours uncovering new literature, updating my EndNote library, coming across a 2009 paper that sounded exactly like my research but applied to a different liquid (ghay!), etc. I spend my lunch at my desk and spent all afternoon in the lab and this last hour doing data analysis...

    And it's useless because I am mega crap at this bloomin' PhD. I really should quit despite whether I've had a change of heart about wanting to. I really can't do it, it's not doubt, lack of confidence, or lack of motivation talking now, it's my inner self -- she always seems to know the truth despite how long I deny it for. I don't have the intelligence. I don't even think I want to carry on in academia afterwards anyway!

    What do I dooooo?! I need some serious help. There is a meeting set up with Super tomorrow morning at 11am and I have 4 options really...

    • Pretend
      I could completely pretend that all is going somewhat to plan, with only a few hiccups, in the hope that Super still has even half an ounce of faith left in me, and work my damned hardest to sort things out. That probably equals late evenings and weekends at uni. I'll tell ya, I'm willing to do that if that's what it takes to get this things (back) on track, but the problem is: I have no idea where to start. Exactly how much of my almost-filled lab book is just rotten and diseased? God knows. Super definitely doesn't know!
    • Come clean
      I could come clean about having doubts, motivational issues and generally just struggling with the work and/or with a PhD. Maybe then I can just wipe the slate clean a little. But, I've tried this before and either I don't really get my point across about how difficult I am finding it or Super just doesn't hear me!
    • Lie
      Now, I don't normally advocate lying but if a little white lie -- such as, I have been having personal and/or family problems -- is gonna get me out of a whole heap of potential mess, then what's the harm? As long as I am doing it for the right reasons.
    • Quit
      I think that one speaks for itself.

    I repeat, what do I dooooo?! I have to shoot off now as I am going to have a night in -- takeaway, wine and a movie -- with my new housemates. I am really not in the mood but I really don't want to cancel. Hopefully it will be good and I won't have had too much wine to cycle home later.

    Not an amazingly happy bunny but toodles!

    27 May 2009

    PhD peevedness!

    Dear uninvited guest,

    OK, you clearly know as well as I do that I haven't frequented my lab much over the past week or so. But, having swipe card access to my lab and me not being present during your scavenging mission, does not give you license to pilfer my equipment.

    As I am sure you know, the items you took -- the power meter and laser shutter -- are very useful, in fact, I assume that's the very reason you took them. However, your need and/or desire of said items does not give you priority.

    Allow me, if you will, to elaborate on exactly how vital those items are to me;
    1. Laser shutter
      I now have to switch off the power and remove the key for the laser every single time I leave my lab -- a lot, considering the amount of data I end up ferrying around between my equipment and my computer, situated on the floor above, no less.

    2. Power meter
      My current measurements involve me reducing the laser power until the trapping power is no longer sufficient to overcome the viscous force of the surrounding medium. I am sure you can guess, if not, as a fellow scientist, agree with me that power value readings are pretty damn important there.

    If, unbeknownst to me, those items are to be shared, then I shall share. If you're going to steal borrow them, tell me. There is plenty of paper and the odd pen in my lab for you to leave me a note. I won't be cross, I promise, so long as I know where and/or when I can get them back.

    Definitely no love,

    peeved PhD..



    I have e-mailed Super asking him if he knows where they are as he often takes the power meter. I am beginning to wonder if he is removing things from my lab to see exactly how long it takes me to notice they're gone. Maybe he has a hunch I've been avoiding the lab lately. Paranoid, much?

    26 May 2009


    Despite not hearing my 8am phone alarm this morning, maybe after turning it off or even smothering it with my body -- phone alarms are really no good, I must revert to my alarm clock -- I got straight out of bed at 9am, jumped in the shower and was ready to go fairly quickly. I felt ready to work.

    So today has the potential to be really good. I am feeling productive., especially on the PhD front. R made a good suggestion; a To-Do list. Now, it's not difficult to sell a To-Do List to me, of all people; I love 'em! But he stipulated that it should be rather detailed, he should be able to ask me about whether I have achieved said items, oh and it should be work related -- forgot that minor detail -- not so good at those, well completing them anyway.

    I have received an e-mail about a photon science poster session at the end of June. I will get some fatty-bumbum (translation: good) results and hopefully, rapidly put a poster together. Rather exciting.

    I didn't do much over the bank holiday weekend apart from enjoying the weather and getting a little jolly on Friday night for a friends visit. How about you lot? I did however, receive the 2 reading circle books from Amazon and buy the pink 'Kag in a Bag' (although they called it 'Jack in a Pack' as it zips down all the way). R even got one of the black 'Kag in Bag''s as it was half-price.

    Oh and I placed an order at Jessops for a Lowepro camera bag but won't be able to pick that up until at least Friday. Booo! But at least then I feel that I can start exploring the outdoors with my DSLR. I'm now just waiting for this month's pay before I order my lovely Jansport bag. I'm too excited. :D

    That will do for now.


    Images: Goddess_Spiral

    21 May 2009

    I ♥ rain.


    Well, rain is OK perse, but cycling in it is just not fun. And I tell you what else is not fun; that it's not raining before you start cycling, it's not raining after you stop cycling but is pelting it down when you are or at least won't stop whilst you're waiting for it to stop so you can cycle! All that happened to me today. I got drenched in the rain and took me 3 hours to dry at uni.

    So, today I am buying a kagool or a 'Kag in a Bag'. Either black or a funky pink.

    Then, I am buying a new backpack -- one that is actually designed to accommodate my laptop, too -- so that everything in my bag -- clean pants, tissue, diary, book, almost everything -- doesn't get wet when cycling in the rain. What do you think of this Jansport bag? I think it's beautiful! lol.

    So sexy! Is it worth £50 though? Probably. Ooooh, gimmie!

    It seems quite hard to get hold of though. Amazon do it but only in red, navy or white. I'd consider red and navy but it's the black I really want. This website: ePacks, has it in black but I've never shopped with them before. How many of you put your faith in an online company you've never shopped with before? It's difficult.

    Should I, shouldn't I? Help!


    20 May 2009

    Reading Circle

    Incase you don't already know, I love reading!

    Sometime ago, I joined a virtual book club, inventively called The Book Club Forum, whose main interaction -- as you can probably deduce -- is via their forum. It really is a great place to talk about everything literary with fellow bookworms but unfortunately, I haven't been at all active there. I thought now is the time to get a little more involved and my first port of call -- as has been during all my previous well-intentioned visits -- is their Reading Circle.

    Just to quickly explain how their Reading Circle works;
    The Reading Circle, around since the early days of the forum, has now settled into a monthly read. During the preceding month, members can nominate, and then vote for, their choice of book.

    The Reading Circle is a chance for forum members to get involved, from nominations, through to discussions. At present, nominations include all genres, but there have been 'themed months', covering such genres as 'classics', 'historical fiction', etc.

    You can see all previous Reading Circle books by visiting Kell's Reading Circle Fast Finder. To buy previous or current choices, visit their bookstore.

    The Reading Circle's choice for May was The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, but we're already well into May, I'm still reading the Twilight Saga, I believe it's quite a long book, and, oh this small problem of my PhD...

    So, I'll start first with the Reading Circle's choice for June: Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, as part of the Main Reading Circle. Then, in June: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, as part of the Classics Reading Circle. I've just pur-chased both of them for 1p (yup, £0.01) each from Amazon. Well, if you exclude the postage & packing of £2.75 per book.

    Out of the 66 titles they've read so far, although I've heard of most of them, -- so they're not really obscure, like most book clubs -- I've only read about 6 of them. 9% is not too good, time to work on that.

    One final piece of the Reading Circle puzzle, will be the start of my Reading Circle Reviews, posted here, on my blog. So watch this space. Maybe some of you can even get involved too?


    Images: Manyaro

    Musical Freebie

    I told you guys about it one Freebie Friday a couple of weeks ago but thought it was worth reminding you that you can download a free copy of Coldplay's 'LeftRightLeftRightLeft' album -- which I believe to be a live album they recorded during their most recent tour, but I haven't yet listened to my copy.

    It is Coldplay's way of saying 'Thank you' to all their fans.

    Get your copy here.


    19 May 2009


    Recovery is an excellent word to apply to what's been going 'down' lately. I don't actually know where to start...

    { Busted laptop }

    Wonderful, just what I need, a broken laptop. But that's what I got. Some people, if they knew I attempted to upgrade the RAM from 500MB to 1.5GB and then do a system restore, miiiight think I was the cause. But, considering the RAM upgraded fine, and it was thanks to the system restore failure that the laptop wouldn't boot, then I know you don't blame me, do ya? ;)

    Luckily, I'd just backed up everything that was on the laptop -- which actually wasn't a great deal that I didn't already have backed up, as I don't trust laptops as far as I can throw them -- before I'd attempted the system recovery so that wasn't a problem. Buuut, Dell went through a period (that period may not have ended) of shipping their laptops without any recovery/installation and driver CDs. Cut a long story short, I finally managed to get my hands -- which the owner said I could keep -- formatted my hard drive and reinstalled Windows. What a mission to get hold of all the drivers and updates though! Then there are all the programs to re-install. Massive amount of annoyance but it has to be done. I shall create a restore point which will make future restoration to loveliness an altogether easier undertaking. Then, I am going to upgrade the RAM again. All should be hunky dory soon enough.

    { I'm infected! }

    And I haven't yet reached the recovery phase. Dammit. I'm just going to go ahead and say what you're all thinking... I hope it isn't swine flu! But you can rest assured, there is no evidence to prove that the infection can be transmitted whilst reading my blog. Never fear, my dear. :)

    OK, so I know that's a lose connection to the word 'Recovery' but it counts, OK?

    { Blog Boringness }

    I always considered my blog to be quite boring and, for the reader, left a lot to be desired but not as far as Abstaining Irene from Year of My Fake Engagement is concerned. And how do I know this? Because this lovely lady has chosen me as one of her 5 nominees for a 'One Lovely Blogger' Award. I know, that's what I thought; what was she thinking?! Awww thaaaanks Irene!

    I have seen these types of awards floating around the blogosphere and I never thought I would ever get one, but it really is lovely to get one. :D So, I suppose, my blog seems to have recovered from it's blog boringness disease. I shall soon post my nominees.

    { PhD }

    I wish there was a better word for PhD, a cosier, softer one. Then, it might be a little easier on the eye, and not leave people wondering where the letters come from or which letters should actually be capitalised. Then maybe it wouldn't cause me to start sweating like who knows what at the thought of the state mine is in at the moment.

    How about 'Fudd'? It's so close to the fudge, and fudge is nice! Or maybe people will start thinking of Elmer Fudd? Well, I would start using it permanently but well, it might just confuse people.

    Anyway, I digress. I had a post in the pipeline about 'coming clean' regarding my lack of motivation and, therefore lack of productive work, for my PhD R and I had a big chat (and I had a big blub) about what I should do -- soldier on, or quit. I can't keep taking the money when I hate it so much and am struggling to produce anything worthy of a PhD And if I do carry on, I run the risk of not getting a reference from my PhD Super. That's going to put me up shit creek without a paddle. I still don't really know how I feel about it all to be honest and although I'd like to be able to post and say that my lack of PhD motivation has recovered, I am not sure it has and I wouldn't like to tempt fate.

    I think that's really all the recovery information I have for now. But actually, it's a bloomin' long post so it's more than enough.


    15 May 2009



    how are we all today? Good I hope. I'm not too bad, got over my little bout of sicky-ness yesterday -- no idea what that was all about?!

    Anyway, I have something else (I believe to be) funky to share with you. It's called PictoBrowser and I found it after a long and hard search for a way to share and display my (yet to be created) Flickr photostream. I tried out several different options including Airtight Interactive's Simpleviewer (of which there are Flash and HTML versions), Flickr badges and slideshows, and several other widgets. None of them gave me the kind of functionality or customisability I was after. Then, hidden under a virtual rock somewhere on the internet, I unearthed this little gem.

    As I haven't really got any Flickr photos, I opted to display photos from Flickr group Sony Alpha World, at the bottom of this page. Click the link in the left sidebar << to scroll down and have a look. I will change it to display my photos once I actually take some worthy photos.

    Unlike the HTML SimpleViewer, it doesn't involve heavy HTML and CSS coding or the need to host all the photos you want to display -- and for those of us who are devoid of that mysterious entity known as a 'server', it means a lot of 1-on-1 time with Imageshack, Photobucket or Tinypic.com, i.e. not what I wanted!

    Similarly, unlike the Flickr badges and slideshows (HTML or Flash), PictoBrowser has so many customisable options so your slideshow really will look how you want and still look the business! You can change;
    • PictorBrowser's Width and Height
    • Image file size (medium or large)
    • Image Vertical Alignment
    • Image Titles (on/off)
    • Image Notes (on/off)
    • Thumbnails AutoHide (on/off)
    • Image Zoom (on/off)
    • PictoBrowser's background color
    • Navigation background color
    You can only show pictures from Flickr, it's true, but you can choose from your sets, groups or keywords. I simply created a set called 'Blogger' and bunged all my photos in there.