Tag Archives: Space

Sunday Smiles: From highbrow to lowbrow

On Thursday I realised that it was exactly eight months since I landed in New Zealand.  Eight months?  Wow!  It’s funny because it feels rather longer than that, and yet I can’t believe that it’s already been eight months.  I also realised that I can’t do basic maths because I spent a good hour or two thinking I’d been here for ten months.  Ya… I forgot to subtract February’s two months from October’s ten months.  Ya, hmmm.  Clearly doing basic maths before coffee isn’t my thing.  Or perhaps the fact that it was bright and sunny and warm enough to take morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea outside without a cardigan (!) went to my head.

On to this week’s Sunday Smiles:

  • I’ve previously mentioned that I find space fascinating, so I was rather excited when I came across these photos of the fully powered-up flight deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour.  Oh my gosh, amazing.  Also, I clearly could never have been an astronaut – it looks way too complicated and I only just figured out how to get emoticons on my phone (I’ve had it for eight months, ahem).  And the seats don’t look too comfortable, either.  I hope space suits are padded.
  • I got an email last weekend from Lucy at The KitchenMaid saying that she’d had to re-draw her Equagold giveaway and that I had won!  Super exciting since I rarely win things.  Anyway, so the goodies arrived this week which was marvellous – now I just have to decide what to do make with them.  Too many options!

  • Somebody sent me a link to Cookie Monster’s Share It Maybe song (his version of Call Me Maybe or whatever that ridiculous song that makes no sense is called).  I do love Cookie Monster.
  • This dissection of a spam email really did make me laugh – we all receive them, and this really is a great way of laughing at it.
  • I love Downton Abbey, so this Downton Labbey comic made me chuckle when I saw it.  (Cartoon source)

  • One of my facebook friends linked to an intriguing-sounding blog called Introvert Fairy Tales.  It describes itself as ‘What “Happily Ever After” looks like when being alone isn’t a problem to be fixed‘ and it’s hilarious.  The posts are few and far between, but I find them really funny (no prizes for guessing that I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert).  My favourite one is about Ariel.
  • There have been Diwali celebrations in Aotea Square (central Auckland’s main big square thing) this weekend and they were setting up on Friday when I was passing through on my way home and there were flower garlands everywhere.  It was so colourful and beautiful, particularly in the sunshine.  I went along yesterday and had a nosy around some of the stalls and watched the concert for a little bit, but it was incredibly windy so I didn’t stay too long.  I could actually hear most of the concert from my flat, where there weren’t 80 km/h gusts.

  • Speaking of Diwali, I’m guessing the celebrations have just come to an end since we’ve just been treated to a massive firework display over Aotea Square, which I could just see by craning my head out of my window.  Grainy photographic evidence:

  • I’m a firm believer in treating oneself to birthday presents, and so for my birthday a month ago I offered myself a ticket to last night’s performance of the Imperial Russian Ballet Company’s Swan Lake, which is touring NZ at the moment.  Swan Lake is probably my favourite ballet because the music is just so expressive, and it was beautifully danced and the costumes were stunning.  I had a few music-related niggles (namely that the music was pre-recorded), but I won’t dwell on that.  I adore watching ballet, and this performance definitely had me enraptured throughout.
  • And finally, just in case you thought I was all highbrow, here’s some lowbrow…  This restaurant is near the pool that I go to, and the name never fails to make me chuckle.  Oh, you thought I was mature…?

What made you smile this week?

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Sunday Smiles: Marine biology geek-outs & knockwurst

New Zealand went into summer time today, which means the clocks went forward through the night.  I’m super excited about being one step closer to summer, but mildly unimpressed at losing an hour of sleep.  You win some, you lose some.  And waking up to bright sunshine definitely helped, particularly since a couple of days ago, the forecast for this weekend was solid rain.

So on to this week’s Sunday Smiles:

  • First off, this photo of the Space Shuttle Endeavour flying over San Francisco’s Bay Bridge is rather amazing.  I was totally into space and astronauts when I was little, and I still find the Space Shuttle awe-inspiring.  Even if it’s attached to a 747 (or whatever kind of plane that is).
  • The Great Barrier Reef has been put on Google Street View.  I’d heard that this was going to happen, but thought it was currently still being photographed.  Clearly I’m just behind in my news…  Anyway, it’s amazing, fabulous for procrastination and we totally had a marine biology geek-out the other day in the lab.  We’re super cool like that.
  • Clearly it’s marine biology geek-out week, although if you’re a little squeamish, you might not be too keen on this one.  The technicians have some starfish in tanks at the moment (possibly for a lab, but I’m not sure) and on Friday they were consuming some little crabs that were in the same tank.  I’m not sure if they were supposed to do that or not, but regardless, it’s rather awesome.  Because the starfish are attached to the clear sides of the tank, you can see the trapped crabs, and, totally exciting, the starfish’s stomachs.  Quick biology lesson: many starfish species digest their prey outside their body by everting their stomachs.  It’s kind of utterly amazing.  And also pretty slow I think.  I’m rather intrigued to see what state these crabs will be in tomorrow (there’s actually a tiny little crab to the right of the larger one, but it’s difficult to see in the photo):

  • Check out these amazing light paintings set around Los Angeles.  I really like the dinosaur ones (because dinosaurs!), but the one of the campers is so clever.  People are so skilled!  I can hardly draw on paper, never mind with light in a photograph.  Just wow.
  • I’m not the greatest fan of London’s Underground (give me Paris’ metro any day – oooo controversial), but these guerrilla Underground signs make me want to take it just to see if I can spot one.  They amused me.
  • And finally, it appears that OPI have brought out a Germany collection of nail varnishes (I’ve no idea why).  It’s not clear whether a miniature painting of the Fallen Madonna With The Big Boobies comes hidden in the bottle of My Very First Knockwurst or not.*  (If you’ve landed on this page after some strange search and haven’t found what you’re actually looking for then I do apologise.)

What made you smile this week?

*If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, you should watch ‘Allo ‘Allo (British sense of humour highly recommended…).

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Sunday Smiles: From the edges of the solar system to Eden Park

Not the happiest start to Sunday Smiles but I have to mention it: you guys, Neil Armstrong died.  I totally wanted to be an astronaut when I was little, and although my career dreams and aspirations veered off into the direction of the ocean, a little part of me has always remained fascinated by space, so the news saddened me, in the way that the death of a famous person who did something truly great does.  Neil Armstrong was definitely the person with whom I most associate space exploration.  And the moon.  I still think it’s incredible that humans have walked on the moon.  Fun fact: more humans have been to the moon than to the depths of the Earth’s oceans.

So this week’s Sunday Smiles starts off with something space-related:

  • NASA’s Voyager 1 mission is about to leave our solar system.  After 35 years of service, the Voyager missions appear to still be going strong, which is incredible when you consider that we can still communicate with 1970s technology at the fringes of our solar system.  Voyager 1 is currently 18.2 billion km from the Earth and Voyager 2 is currently 14.8 billion km from the Earth, which is apparently the furthest any man-made object has ever travelled.  Isn’t that just awe-inspiring?
  • This altered Oatmeal comic which jointly covers the (crappy) NZ internet situation and the ridiculous delay in TV series being shown here made me laugh.  I’m not supporting illegal downloading (just to make that clear), but I don’t see any logical reason for there to be such a delay on TV series – it’s the 21st century, so it’s not like the series have to be shipped here by boat or something.  And as for the internet situation here… well it’s pretty frustrating when one streams the radio over the internet and it cuts out every ten minutes or so.  I realise these are first world problems, but this is a first world country, so…
  • I’ve already written a whole blog post about them, but my labmates’ reactions to the chocolate, cherry and hazelnut cookies that I baked the other day were so enthusiastic that I couldn’t help but smile.  Other people enjoying something I’ve baked never fails to make me happy.

  • Time for something cute, check out these adorable koala macarons!  Aren’t they the cutest?
  • Another week, another Tumblr…  The link to Dog Shaming was sent to me by a couple of different people and it also made the rounds in the lab.  If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’ll probably appreciate it.
  • If you’ve ever lived in a touristy city or town, you’ve probably encountered frustration if you’re actually trying to get somewhere but have to bypass hordes of (oblivious) sauntering tourists.  The effect seems to be so much more intense in Edinburgh, possibly because the population doubles during August thanks to the Festival and the Fringe.  Whilst I’m not there this year, this tongue-in-cheek analysis of Edinburgh’s tourist tactics amused me.  The observations are equally valid for anywhere touristy.
  • And finally, as mentioned last week, a friend from St Andrews was in Auckland this weekend and we went to see the All Blacks vs Wallabies match last night.  The All Blacks beat the Wallabies by 22-0 so it wasn’t the most nail-biting rugby I’ve ever seen, but I’m still not over my enthusiasm of seeing the All Blacks play in real life at Eden Park, and we were both totally excited by the whole thing.  Plus the weather was in our favour.  And the haka was played over the PA system as well, which was so much better than when I saw the All Blacks play Ireland a few months ago.

What made you smile this week?

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From Venus to limes

Were you able to see the transit of Venus on Wednesday?  I was really quite excited about seeing it – I didn’t see the one in 2004 (I’m not sure that I was even aware of it), and the next one isn’t until 2117, so I’m working on the assumption that it’s highly unlikely that I’ll still be around in 105 years to see it.  New Zealand was one of the places where the whole transit would be visible, but sadly the weather here in Auckland was being rather uncooperative and it was cloudy or rainy for pretty much the whole afternoon.  We were restricted to watching live footage from Hawaii (one of the beauties of the internet) in between presentations at a lab group symposium during the morning.  Ya, we’re that cool.  Whilst being able to watch the transit live from 7000km away was pretty awesome, not being able to see it in real life was a little disappointing.  We had been thinking of taking a lab trip to the Auckland Stardome to go watch it (just in case you weren’t convinced of our coolness…) but that didn’t happen.

Not seeing the transit is obviously not the end of the world, but since it’s such a rare occurrence I was still a little gutted when I got home.  And also a little damp from the rain, which is not a rare occurrence.  I had a fail-safe antidote to being miserable though, in the form of lime curd.  I find that lime curd automatically makes everything better – it’s green, zingy and super tasty, so how could it not?  Citrus fruit always makes me think of summer sunshine, even though they’re usually in season through the winter, and as a result, I find that citrus-based things nearly always cheer me up.  Particularly when it’s something as easy to make as curd.  If you’ve ever had to buy a whole net of limes or lemons when you only need one, making curd is a great way to use up the surplus.  It’s also a great way to use up egg yolks.  What I also love about curd is that it can be made with any citrus fruit (I tried blood orange curd last year and it was fabulous) and in various combinations.  Lime and lemon work wonderfully together.  This curd comes out deliciously zingy, which is how I like it, and there’s no mistaking the lime flavour.  That said, it’s not sour (because that would be horrid), just full of flavour.  Curd is a brilliantly versatile ingredient as well – spread it on toast, crumpets, digestive biscuits; use it in muffins, cakes; the possibilities are endless!  Tomorrow is World Gin Day (are you excited?!), and I have something special lined up for this particular batch of lime curd – check back tomorrow to find out exactly what…  I’ll give you a clue though: it involves scones.  And gin (no kidding).

Lime curd

Makes enough to fill a small 300ml jar
Adapted from Waitrose

To sterilise the jar, wash in warm, soapy water and then dry at around 110°C in the oven.  Remove from the oven once dry and allow to cool fully before filling.  If you don’t have immediate plans for the leftover egg white, it freezes well.  If you find that the lime juice is a little pale, you can add a couple of drops of green food colouring to boost the colour (keep it minimal though).  You can use curd in plenty of different ways: on crumpets, on toast, to make dessert canapés, on a sponge cake, in cupcakes, etc.  The curd will keep for about a week in the fridge.

Ingredients

4 large unwaxed limes
55g butter
110g caster sugar
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
Green food colouring (optional)

Directions

1.  Zest and juice the limes into a small bowl.  In another small bowl, beat the two eggs and the egg yolk together well.

2.  Melt the cubed butter in a large heat-proof bowl over a simmering pan of water (make sure that the water doesn’t reach the bottom of the bowl).

3.  Add the sugar and the zest and juice from the limes, followed by the eggs.  If you’re using food colouring, add a couple of drops in, too.  Stir the mixture carefully and constantly with a spatula, making sure the mixture doesn’t boil.  Once the mixture coats the back of the spatula (turn the spatula flat and run your finger through the mixture coating it – if you can draw a line through the mixture and it doesn’t re-fill, then it’s done), remove from the heat.

4.  If using the curd straightaway, pour into a bowl, otherwise, pour into a sterilised glass jar.  Allow to cool (it will thicken further) before sealing and storing in the fridge.

Enjoy!

PS – How super smooth was my segue from the transit of Venus to limes?  Truly flawless.  Clearly not a case of remembering halfway through that “oh wait, this post is supposed to be about lime curd…” – that would never happen to me.  Never ever.

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