• Interesting Insects

    … are what I plan to follow the “Magnificent Mammals” gift set with (or maybe “Brilliant Bugs”?).  I have an incredibly long list of wildlife cards I’d like to design, and I don’t know how long I’ll be able to have alliterative titles, but I’m having fun with it while I can.

    While actually creating the design takes seconds, the hard part is finding the right silhouette to use as a stencil, the right photo to use, and the right part of the image to concentrate on to get the effect I want.  I have started to experiment with new designs and, while I am fairly confident about the bee, it is likely the butterfly and dragonfly will undergo a metamorphosis between now and final printing.


    They grow up so fast …

    It was two weeks ago that I posted about watching frog eggs turn into tadpoles, and even after hatching they have been providing me with a great deal of entertainment.  The pond is the first place I stop after work; before even going into the house I take a peek to see what’s going on and how the tadpoles are developing.  They have easily quadrupled in size and are incredibly active in their efforts to clean algae from the sides of the pond (and, in the instance illustrated below, from the heads of one of their parents).  I can’t even begin to estimate their numbers as the pond is nearly black with them and, if the newt is actively hunting them, it doesn’t seem to be making a dent.

    Most of what I’ve read about frog development indicates that the metamorphosis takes a few months, so I am anticipating a mass migration from the pond in June. Although at the moment I am trying not to think about how to handle a thousand miniature frogs hopping around in the front garden, but simply enjoying having this privileged view of wildlife on my doorstep.



    5:30am: Alarm goes off
    5:30-5:45am: Talk myself into getting out of bed
    5:45-6:45am: Dress, hair, make up, get ready to face the day
    6:58am: Train from Chippenham to Swindon

    This has been my weekday schedule for the past year or so.  I am fortunate to have the flexibility to choose my own starting time at work, so these early hours are a deliberate choice.  The first hour or two in the office are incredibly quiet, which I find a nice way to ease into the hustle and bustle of a busy day (and they are all busy). An early start also means I have the opportunity to leave early, giving me the time needed to tackle the various side projects listed in the sidebar.

    However, I find this a very difficult schedule to keep in the winter.  It’s dark when I wake up.  It’s dark when I leave the house.  It’s dark when I get to the office.  Yet light is needed to regulate the sleep/wake cycle and has the power to impact moods; it’s also just nice to be able to see more of the
    world around me.

    For example, I enjoy watching wildlife and taking in nature (although not in the “Let’s hike 10 miles in the rain and enjoy the fresh air!” type of way).  But this is something that my schedule, at present, precludes. However, the change of time and added daylight in the morning has served to not only to boost my mood, but has also given me the opportunity to watch the passing scenery from the train rather than bury my head in a Metro or my Kindle.


    It’s hard to take a picture from a speeding train with a phone, but trust me, it was a beautiful morning.

    The scenery between Chippenham and Swindon is really quite picturesque, and a surprising amount of wildlife can be spotted from the train.  Just a few days ago I caught sight of several deer, I occasionally see a heron, and crows and raptors can often be seen around the fields.  And I recently
    was able to have a wildlife encounter before even leaving the station when a pair of mallards decided to join the queue for the 6:58.  Apparently I’m not the only one who likes an early start!


    Fox in a Wiltshire Wood


    I know I really shouldn’t have favourite designs, or if I do, I really shouldn’t admit to it, but I must confess that the fox is my favourite from the Magnificent Mammals” collection.  Partly because of how it looks, but mainly because of how it came to be.

    I wrote previously about how a stroke of serendipity meant that the badger gained an eye on my “Badger amongst the Bluebells” greeting card, and luck likewise played a role in the fox’s development.  My original plan for this shape was to use the red leaves from a Japanese maple, something a bit like this:


    But MrElaineous had previously picked out some of my photos that he thought I should use, and I began to play around with a misty view of West Woods. Again, more by accident than deliberate choice, the ground fell into perfect place on the fox’s legs, and I loved the look of the cool, grey palette. It also brought back a happy memory of watching a fox in this very wood.  So my fox design turned from red to grey, and I took the lesson of flexibility to heart.



    Why MissElaineous? (Part 1)

    I have always admired people who know exactly what they want to do in life. Those who discovered their passion at a young age and did everything they could to pursue it. The musician chasing after perfect notes and converting gruelling hours of practice into muscle memory, making their playing look and sound effortless. An artist dabbling in their chosen medium from dawn ‘til dusk (and perhaps continuing from dusk ‘til dawn), trying to turn the vision they see in their mind into reality. Or the engineer who goes from a child wondering how a lightbulb works to an adult who creates a new way of producing efficient energy. The doctor or nurse with a desire to help people get well. The teacher wanting to shape the next generation. Regardless of occupation, there are people who focus on what they want to do and concentrate on it with all their heart.

    And then there’s me. I see the world as a smorgasbord to be sampled from.

    As a child, I wanted to be a palaeontologist. It was a great party trick, a 5 year old pronouncing a word as long as she was.Then I wanted to be a biologist, helping bring endangered animals back from the brink. Then it was a marine biologist because, well, I can’t remember why. I assume it had something to do with liking to swim. Then I wanted to study archaeology.

    And that’s exactly what I did. Four years as an undergraduate. One year at the Master’s level. Another four and a bit years to get a PhD.

    But even then I couldn’t focus. While most people have their expertise, say Medieval French pottery or Roman jewellery from the time of the Emperor Augustus, I chose to focus on interpretation: how to make the past accessible and understandable to all, regardless of time period, culture, or artefact.

    Yet this failure to land on something that fits neatly into a labelled box can cause problems. How to pick a job or career when a dozen sound interesting? I was part of a mentoring group in a previous role and we were discussing our future plans (research posts in academia are notoriously
    short lived). While I know she meant well, the mentor seemed exasperated by my inability to come to a decision about what to pursue next. “What is it you want to be?” I couldn’t answer.  At the time, I felt embarrassed and frustrated with myself. I knew I didn’t want to stay in academia. But beyond that? I couldn’t say.

    The mentor, top of the pyramid in the academic food chain, was doing exactly what she wanted to be doing, investigating her chosen research area with a drive that got her out of bed each morning. Yet pinning myself to just one thing felt wrong. I still have the same interests I had growing up. My love of the underwater world has become a SCUBA diving certification. I am concerned about what’s happening in the environment and do what I can to live a sustainable life. And dinosaurs? I still want a pet triceratops.

    It’s only now that I realise the underlying core of what drives me: I want to share my passion with others. Make them care about a topic, or at least be
    willing to look at it in a new light. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to realise that common question we ask children “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is so limiting. We are so much more than just our job description. Not everyone has that one thing they must be. And that’s okay. There is more than one path through life, and the most important part is being on the one that’s right for you … and enjoying the scenery along the way.

    Which brings me to this website. I realise that it flies in the face of much of the advice given: a blog should be about one thing so the audience knows
    what to expect. Yet at the same time, we are also advised to be true to ourselves and to play to our strengths. To me, this seems like a contraction as it’s those varied interests that make me who I am. One part of my life blurs into the other, something that is echoed in the MissElaineous logo (more about this in Part 2). After all, don’t the areas where ideas meet tend to be the most interesting of all?

    So for those who are just tuning in, I’m afraid I can’t give you specifics about what I will be writing about. There will be wildlife and archaeology, photos from around the UK (and hopefully further abroad), and any other miscellaneous thing that catches my fancy. So please sit back and enjoy the ride – I know I will!

    MissElaineous Blog: Escape & Explore & Discover & Enjoy