Sunday, 31 January 2010

Lions and tigers and igaunodons...?

Whilst I was in Bruxelles I was lucky enough to have hours to spend wandering in the Museum of Natural Sciences.

This would have to be the best museum I have ever visited anywhere in the world.

Such a well thought out and beautifully designed museum, albiet in one of the most ugly modern buildings you can imagine. But then I suppose the museum building is a testiment to the 60's and 70's and one day will be admired in some way. Personally, I think concrete monstrosities such as these are horrible, but that is my opinion.

Anyway, back to the museum contents.

One of the highlights is to visit the dinosaur gallery. They have the most amazing collection of Igaunodons discovered in the Bernissart coal mine in Belgium in March 1878. The collection of bones turned out to be the best in the world due to the quality and quantity of fossils found in this mine.

Luckily the mine work did not take precedent and the bones were all lifted and taken to the Belgian Royal Museum of Natural History. Careful drawings and excavation of the remains ensured that they could be reconstructed again in the position found in the mine, and each animal with its own remains.

The collection comprises 30 Igaunodon bernissartensis and at least 1 Igaunodon atherfieldensis. You can see some reconstructed remains in life position, as well as view some in the position they were discovered in the mine. Incredible display.

The mineral gallery was fabulous. Not as state of the art as the dinosaur gallery, but everything was easy to see and clearly labelled. I was really impressed by the specimens on display as well.

There was so much else to see and do there, which I will not write about today.

I cannot recommend it highly enough as a place to visit. Children are well catered to and the displays are labelled clearly (even if not in english). Guides and books can be purchased in english at the gift shop. The prices were very affordable in my opinion, and the only problem you will have is how to choose from the huge variety of books and other gifts on offer. As you can imagine my bags were groaning under the weight of the books I could not resist....

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Tea for one, with a heart

Late in the afternoon, when I am at home, I sit and have a cup of tea and read a book or just snuggle with the cat for half an hour.

It is my way of relaxing, unwinding and organising my thoughts.

I may plan what we will have for dinner that night, go through my "to do list", or just let my thoughts wander were they may.

As I have just come back from Bruxelles, I have chocolate to enjoy with my cup of tea. A delicious treat!

The heart theme is, of course, for Barbara. She is focusing on hearts at present in her blog

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Well, I guess it is time to come clean about my trip to Bruxelles.

Yes, it was to do with rocks, but no it was not archaeology. I was attending the AGM for the Geology Society I am a member of.

What a fabulous group of people and what a great weekend.

We visited a disused quarry, and had opportunity to gather specimens ourselves of some fabulous Devonian fossilised tree trunks. Also vegetation fossils in the most fine grained shale I have ever seen. This photo shows ripples caused by wave and current motion on an ancient sea floor. Something that you can see today at any beach. Incredible to think that this has happened since time began and the evidence is visible in places like this. Very interesting morning.

Another trip was to a cave system, or "Grottes" as they call them in french. (I was too busy taking notes and did not get the opportunity to take any photos, but will post some when they are forwarded to me from the others on the trip.)

The caves were interesting as they were on two levels and had been carved by the action of an underground river. In fact, after walking though the upper level of the caves, we had to return to the entrance via a boat on the lower level. The caves are still full of water on the lower level and water was constantly trickling down from the surface so the level never drops.

Fascinating to see so many enormous stalagmites and stalagtites as well as flow deposits from the calcium carbonate in the water building up over the centuries. Makes you look at the limescale in the kettle in a whole new light........

Of course what trip would be complete without sampling some of the local delicacies? Not this one that is for sure! I have tried chocolate in every permutation imaginable, and every flavour on earth. Think I will need a complete post dedicated to that topic alone.

One thing which Belgium is known for is waffles, or "gaufres" as they are called in french. Traditionally you eat them with powdered sugar only, but in the cafes and street stalls you can have almost any topping you can think of.

I had mine with powdered sugar and a glass of hot chocolate, called "chocolat chaud". The hot chocolate was not a sweet version. It was chocolate from Madagascar that had been powdered, but left in its natural state flavour wise. Deliciously bitter and with a great depth of flavour. The perfect companion to my sweet gaufre.

You will notice a small foil wrapped biscuit on the left of my drink tray....... It was a very unusual thin crisp biscuit with slivers of nuts in it. I asked my waiter what they were called, as they were so nice I thought I might look for them in a supermarket and bring some home. He told me that they don't really have a name, and you can't buy them in a supermarket. I must have looked a bit disappointed as he returned a few minutes later and asked me to open my backpack. When I did he placed a huge handful of them inside, zipped it up, said "Un petit cadeau", winked and walked away. Such a lovely thing to do, I was so surprised and very pleased. You can be sure he received a tip!

Sunday morning we visited the Natural History Museum. It was such a great place that I think it also deserves a post of its own. So stay tuned and I will show you this magnificent museum in a few days.

I will leave you with one last photo. Even though my focus for the trip was geology, I did walk all over Bruxelles and do all the usual cultural things. It is an interesting city with a real melange of building styles. The guild houses in the Grande Place were fabulous though and really caught my attention.

The carved stone work and the gold gilding was gorgeous.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Whiskers on kittens, and bright coloured mittens

Aren't those whiskers just gorgeous! And such a rich coral coloured nose. I could gaze at them for hours. Just beautiful.

Just a little something to keep you going till next week. The mittens - well they are for me to head out into the cold with....

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Guessing game

Hmmm, what is this picture?

What am I going to be doing next week?

It involves one of my interests, and something I have done a lot of study on.

OK, another clue is the picture below.

Stay tuned for the answer to this guessing game which will be posted after 25 January.....

Thursday, 14 January 2010

I'm a big girl now

Well, it seems that little girls do grow up fast. And the urge to nurture is there early.

Our new addition to the family is growing day by day. His older sister thinks that he was put on this earth just for her.

She is enamoured of him and cannot leave him alone.... even to the point of wanting to give him a bottle.

So gorgeous.

I heart........

This photo is for the gorgeous Barbara of winosandfoodies.

Some hearts for your collection.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Baby it's cold outside

Just walked into the bedroom to put on an extra layer of clothes (it is minus 5 outside, and it is 11am) and what do I find......

Hmmm, think I am approaching this cold weather all wrong.

Need to take lessons in coccooning from the cat.


For about a year I have been going on and on that I wanted to make my own yogurt.

Living as we do in a small Parisian appartment, Wayne has been totally against my buying a yogurt maker. Another thing to take up room.

Crazy really as we eat a lot of yogurt. Wayne has one, sometimes two pots a day of flavoured yogurt. I eat at least one a day of natural greek style yogurt. So I buy almost 30 yogurts a week.

Whilst in Australia Mum gave me my Grandfathers yogurt maker. It is a simple glass flask inside a thermos. I carried it carefully home and had it sitting looking at me all through Christmas. Chastising me for not using it yet.

Well, I finally made my yogurt a few days ago.... and am kicking myself for not doing this years ago. So easy, so tasty and so satisfying.

Now I just have to remember to buy milk........

Homemade yogurt
1 litre of fresh milk (full cream is best but you can use any)
3-4 tablespoons natural yogurt with active cultures, at room temp

Bring milk almost to boil in a large very clean saucepan. When you see little bubbles around edge of pan take off heat.

Allow to cool till you can put your finger in (around blood temp or 37degrees).

Mix a little of the warm milk with the yogurt. Add to pan of milk and mix well.

Pour into glass flask and place in thermos for 8 to 12 hours. Do not peek till done!

Place in fridge overnight to chill before using.

Add fruit or cereal before serving.

I used semi skimmed milk. Any milk will work, but the higher the fat content the thicker the yogurt will be.
The longer you leave the mix to rest the thicker the end result. At 8 hours have a look and gently tilt the glass flask. If it is almost at the correct consistancy then it is done. It will set more after refridgeration.
You can use yogurt from old batch to make a new batch. After a while it will not work as well, and then you buy a pot of fresh yogurt and use it as the starter.
I bought small glass jars with screw top lids to decant the yogurt into after the initial chill time. Easy portion control and fits into the fridge better.

For Wayne, I put a layer of homemade red fruits preserves in the base of the pot and then topped it up with the yogurt. It looks fabulous, and he said it tasted great.

Apparently you can make yogurt without any special equipment. You just need a warm place to sit a glass flask while the mixture does its magic. An oven with the pilot light on, a heat pad that you drape around the flask, etc. Will leave the experimentation to you. I am happy with my method for now.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Midweek Musings

Well, today I resigned my position as the co-ordinator of the younger members group at the club..... effective immediately.

I promised to co-ordinate till it was up and running and then I wanted to hand it over to others who have the time and energy. Promise kept. Exit stage left.

For my next trick.....

I am away a lot over the next few months. Professional conferences and opportunities abound for me this year. A good feeling to know there is a niche for you out there in the big wide world.

Prior to may I also need to brush up on my academic french so that I can apply to the Sorbonne. A big call, and one that is going to require huge amounts of time, effort and dedication if I am to succeed. Come september I want to be walking in the portals of La Sorbonne feeling confident and ready to tackle a tough year of cramming. For it will be a course that seems to cram four years into one......

As Wayne would say, take a big bite. Bite off more than you can swallow - then chew like hell till it's gone!

After which I am sure I will be feeling proud as a .... well you know how it goes..

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Once in a blue moon.....

Well, another year has arrived and everyone I know is madly making resolutions.

Except us.

I just cannot see the point in making resolutions that will add stress or complications to my life. Hopefully I am doing the right thing by myself, family and friends anyway. So what is the point.

There are a few things I would like to do this year, but they are in no way resolutions and in no way compulsory. If they happen I will be happy - if they don't I won't be upset.

One of the things I want to do is to take more photos with my new camera. The above photo is a good start... along with the 60 odd photos of the cat that I took this morning while I had the camera out....

A blue moon is supposed to be one of those - well - "once in a blue moon" type experiences. The moon for new years eve and for last night was the above mentioned blue moon. An opportune opening of the curtains this morning meant that we had a perfect view for about half an hour, before it gradually faded out and was obliterated by the clouds. We felt quite privileged to have seen it as the next blue moon will not be for 30 years or so... and who knows where we will be then.