Thursday, August 28, 2008

Almost time to leave

For my third year of college! AAAAHHHH! Hehe, I'm quite excited, I love where I live and I love my classes and my room mate is awesome. You'll likely hear of our exploits as the year goes on.

The sad part is I leave my boyfriend and my pets behind. We're about five hours apart during the school year and so visits are few and far between... but we've made it so far and plan to keep going. Been together since high school, been about five years now! Look how cute we are together:
Our individual weirdness complements each other, I think. He's the one who gave me the "weird bug lady" nickname! And I love him for it.

He's watching my ball pythons Bijou and Jacques, and my crested gecko Ninja while I'm away. He's a good snake/lizard daddy. He even takes Bijou out around his neck on walks around town. I definitely need to get a photo of that! They look so adorable together.

I'm leaving early tomorrow morning for school, and classes start on tuesday. I'll post more about my St. Croix vacation as well as list more of my sewing creations. I'm no longer at the pet store, so I've taken tons of photos and will slowly list what I had there. If I'm posting only sparsly it's because I'm unpacking and busy with school things.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

St. Croix's dinosaurs

My family has been traveling to St. Croix for about 7 or 8 years now, and until this past visit I have never seen an iguana on the island. I know they're there, but somehow, through all our travels on the island, I had never come across one.

Well, this time I got my fill! We found a great beach, Vincent Mason Sr. resort (right at the end of Sandy Point), that you used to have to pay to visit (there's a really nice pool and bathrooms/showers/pavilion/picnic tables/umbrellas/grills, and workers to keep the place nice), but the past few years it's been free. Not many people know that, so it's a generally quiet, safe place to go. The snorkeling was fantastic (pictures will come once I get them developed), the people around the place were nice, and the parking lot was filled with iguanas.

The first day we went I didn't bring my camera, but I was prepared the next day.

Here is the first guy I saw:
Really gray and scraggly looking, but look at that pretty tail! The next was brighter green:
It was really nervous about me approaching it, and kept taking short running bursts from the parking lot to the leafy area and finally into the trees. There were several others around, about the same size (1 to 2 feet long or so). And then there was THIS GUY:
When he had decided I was too close he made a mad dash across the parking lot to the edge you see him on in the last photo. Boy was he fast! And that crazy black dewlap... he then started head bobbing in really exaggerated motions, keeping his head lowered and suddenly throwing it back. Eventually as I snuck up on him taking photos, he decided I was too close and ran off into the trees.

There were also some bright green little ones:
And by the end of our visit there, it started to rain. A bunch of the iguanas ran out into the parking lot and began licking up the water, splashing and thrashing around in it, it was hilarious. Got one shot, not very good, it became a downpour really quickly and we barely made it into the car without getting completely soaked:
And there you have it, my giddy encounter with a bunch of iguanas, finally. I bet the locals hanging around the beach thought I was nuts.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Time flies...

...when you're in the caribbean, it seems. Got back from St. Croix late last night, it feels like the week went by so quickly! I know I went, though, by the sun burn on my butt from snorkeling and the photos I just uploaded onto my computer.

There are more photos on my mom's camera, and I have three underwater disposable cameras (800 speed film, so they rock) that need to be developed. My mom's camera does have an underwater case and I took a few photos before the battery ran out (didn't bring the charger, darn!).

So here's a sampling of my vacation - stories of our adventures will follow in more posts!

I went with my parents, who own the condo (at Sugar Beach) we stay at. Here's part of the view from our balcony:
We are literally on the beach, about 50 feet from the water of Turquoise Bay protected by Long Reef. It's fantastic snorkeling, there is also a section of sunken tires close by that fish just love to hang out at.

One thing we had to deal with this week was rain - luckily it didn't get in the way of any plans, at one point we were snorkeling but the rain was refreshing and didn't bother us. Here's a shot from one short burst of showers.
We had several visitors during the week, the first of which was an adorable little gecko. I captured it running around my room, and it hopped onto my sun glasses.
And for some reason, we got crabs! I'm pretty sure they're among the crabs that dig tunnels into the sand on the beach. Mind you, we're on the third floor. The outside (and inside) walls are stucco, so it's possible for them to climb, but I kept asking - why? Did they smell dinner? We offered them various little treats such as chips and chicken, but they seemed too skittish to go after any food. I put one of them on the wall, and half an hour later checked his progress - he was halfway back down to the beach.

Crab #1:
Crab #2:
Plenty more photos and stories to share... I'll post more in between packing up for college. Leaving later this week!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Aaaahhhhh I need to pack!

Leaving for a week long vacation with my parents tomorrow, and all my suitcase currently holds is a bathing suit... need to get my butt moving, but my cat is holding my lap and right arm hostage.

Tomorrow is even MORE awesome because it's my birthday. That's right, finally will no longer be a teenager! *dances*

Hoping all the airport crap goes alright, as much as I love flying all the lines and check points are incredibly tedious and boring and frustrating. Making sure to keep my liquids less than 3oz and in a plastic baggy (seriously, that's lame).

So, where am I going, you ask? Only my favorite place in the world. Click to see a webcam of the beach! You might be able to see me there...

Sugar Beach, St. Croix, USVI

I am going to take so many pictures, it will be ridiculous. Underwater, too. Weather and blisters-on-my-feet permitting, I'll be snorkeling several times per day.

And in other news, finished up some more fun custom orders this morning, hoping to get them sent out before I leave. Limpet and tardigrade (water bear). I've made them before, and someone saw them and had to have them.
Ok. Time to start packing. I mean it.

Oh, and my shop will stay open! I just won't be able to ship anything until I get back (first shipping day will be the 25th).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Itsy bitsy spider

I love custom orders, especially when they cause me to create things I've wanted to make anyway. I ended up under charging for this one, but that's because the vision in my head got more and more elaborate as I went on, and I just had to do it justice. Here, my tarantula Tip Toe (Avicularia avicularia) and I take turns posing with my creation:The fabulous eyes are from EnamiEyes on etsy, highly recommended! They're just what I needed.

I also recently finished an albino ball python, my dream snake! Some day I most definitely will own one. I currently have two normals, Bijou and Jacques, but I feel bad calling them "normal" because they're both so beautiful. I'd love an albino, piebald, spider, pewter... oh they're all so pretty... and so expensive. *swoons*

And I finally have my laptop back! *hugs laptop* All fixed up, and my wireless works again. Been working on some custom orders, while also packing for a vacation, and for going back to college. Keeping busy, life is hectic but good. Got to visit my boyfriend and had a lovely time, and came back to some sales on etsy! That always seem to happen when I leave. I should get off the computer more often, huh.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


This morning started off normal enough. Came downstairs, ate breakfast and read the newspaper, and went to check on all the animals. My mom had already let Pepper (the parrot) out of his cage, so he followed me around on the floor, chirping.

I got to Misty's cage, and at first wasn't alarmed that I didn't see her. She's a pacific tree boa (Candoia carinata), and at 22" and the width of my pinky finger she is full grown. However, after checking her usual hiding spots, I started to panic. The lid to her cage is a bit loose, but she had never escaped before. I took the whole cage apart when I glanced over to the salamander cage nearby, and saw this:I found the opening where the lid had separated a bit and left a gap she could push open, and right away fixed it up with some duct tape. Here she is on my hand to give a sense of her size:She's a really fantastic snake, and not very common in the pet trade. She has fairly easy cage requirements (height, branches, 70s and 80s for heat and about 50% to 70% humidity), stays a small manageable size, and isn't aggressive. I used to have trouble feeding her and she would only take tree frogs for a while, but now she's eating frozen/thawed pinky mice and takes them within seconds. She can change colors as well - some days her patterns are dull and dark gray/brown, other days she really lightens up and you can see all sorts of shades of red, tan, even some faint blues. Definitely recommended as a pet if you can find one, not too expensive (got her for $60), and won't take up a lot of space. When handling her she's energetic at first, but will calm down quickly and in fact loves to wrap around my watch and will stay there for an hour or so.

So thankfully she didn't get too far and is back in her cage again, safe and sound. The snakes are being fed tonight, too, so she wouldn't want to miss that!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My two favorites

When asked what my favorite insect is, I'm hard pressed to give a single answer. Heck, my answer can change day to day!

However there is no denying that both praying mantids and ambush bugs have a special place in my heart. They're both such fascinating predatory insects. I caught this cute male this afternoon and he was kind enough to pose for a few shots with me:
I also found some ambush bugs while walking along the street. They like to hide out on goldenrod, and queen anne's lace. I saw 21, and captured 16 of them to quickly photograph and release. I left the others alone because they were eating.

And as soon as I had a few in my jar, they started... well... you know...

Actually, the male has to be on the side of the female to mate, so when he's sitting like that he's just holding on and staking his claim. At one point there were five males trying to get at one female! And at another point there were six couplings in the jar at once. I quickly released them and let them go about their, um, duties.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Nom nom nom nom nom....

Blueberry season is in full swing, and we're inundated with them! For some reason my dad decided a few bushes is not enough for us... I don't even know how many we have, but there's more than we can handle. The picture above is a handful of my favorite blueberries, they're huge and juicy. There is nothing in the world like fresh picked blueberries in the morning. Here's a shot of our enclosures, and there's a dozen or so more bushes, uncovered, to the right. I say they're our sacrifices to the birds. We used to cover every individual bush with netting, but that became too cumbersome and the birds would get stuck.I had to chase some birds out of the big enclosure this morning, they likely snuck underneath the chicken wire... but that only happens every few days, and few berries are lost to them. A shot of the inside:We also have several varieties of raspberries: red, golden, purple, and wild black-caps. The purple are my favorite (a hybrid between red raspberries and blackberries), but they went so quick I never got a photo. Here's some of the others, though:

Mmmm. We're going to make jam soon, and my mom is a pro at making blueberry crisps, cobblers, pancakes and muffins. And if any of you have never tried golden or purple raspberries, I HIGHLY recommend you look out for them! They're the most delicious berries I've ever had.

I think I'm going to go pick myself some lunch.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Not for the squeamish

My pink toe tarantula (Avicularia avicularia), Tip Toe, FINALLY MOLTED today! I can't even remember the last time she molted, it's been at least a year.

Caught her when she was just starting and watched her on and off for an hour or so. It's a fascinating process which I had never actually seen, I've always managed to catch her just after she finishes. Here she is about halfway through:Close up of the pretty new fangs:When she finished I very carefully took away the old skin so she'd have room to turn over. It's important a molting tarantula doesn't get disturbed during the process.
I'll get more photos once she's completely hardened up and ready to be handled again (oh yes, I play with her, she's a friendly tarantula).

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hardcore handmade

Problem: Need a new, larger lightbox. Needs to have a white background, and be portable and able to be stored easily in my room. However, commercial light boxes are expensive and really small.

Solution: Head to home depot and make my own.

I had pieces of pine molding cut, and nailed them together to make two 2' by 3' frames. I also bought four hinges, black chain, and a staple gun (the guy helping me gave me the wrong staples, which jammed up the gun, so I had to go back and return them to get the right ones). I then went to JOANN fabrics to get a large sheet of white felt.

I only hit my finger once while nailing the wood, hehe. Screwing in the hinges, by hand, took a long time, but now I'm thankful I've been working out at the gym! My right thumb feels like it's going to have a small blister, but that's ok.

Then I stapled the felt all around, added the chains, and voila!

I'm hoping that the felt is good enough to provide a nice neat background. I've previously been using a light box I made out of an old pizza box and a piece of white poster paper. It works really well but it's unweildly and is pretty small. With this one, I can store it easily and use it for my larger pieces.

Overall it cost me about $70, which is well worth it in my mind to have exactly what I need. If you want to make something like this yourself, if you have your own wood and already have a staple gun, that'll dramatically cut your costs. I encourage anyone who needs a big light box to try out this idea! My aunt and I brainstormed the design together but I made it all myself.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I'm famous!

I'm hoping that a lot of you are finding this blog due to the article in the Sunday Gazette (Schenectady, NY) today! I was so thrilled that the reporter, Elysia Nest, was willing to write a story about me. And having the photographer over was a lot of fun.

If you want to see the article you can find it here.

There's also photos online that aren't in the paper, you can see them here.

A summary:
"Brigette Zacharczenko is passionate about all things creepy-crawly. The 19-year-old Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake high school graduate turned college zoology major, in fact, can’t ever recall a time when the outdoors and its myriad inhabitants were not the focal point of her days and nights. She has gained international attention and has become a favorite among area insect enthusiasts for her ability to replicate a variety of critters by using crafting techniques her grandmother taught her as a child, including sewing, cross-stitch, knitting and crochet"

That last line is partly right - I only use machine and hand sewing to create my creatures, but I *did* learn all those other techniques and use them now and then for things for myself.

I love that, "international attention", hehe!

I'm going to go bounce off the walls now.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What? Those aren't bugs!

Yes yes, I know. The latest additions to my shop aren't bugs, but sea creatures. While I won't do puppies and kittens I'm otherwise pretty open about what animals I'll create, especially when they're underrepresented and underappreciated. Besides, what else am I going to do with these fabulous fabrics?

Spotted stingray:Spotted moray eel:They've all been quite fun to make so far, and more are on the way! I've also discovered some beetles I could make with some of the fabric. It's looking stormy outside so I think I'll be sewing the rest of the day.

Friday, August 1, 2008


We had some adorable visitors the other day... two teenager mergansers. That's what we've surmised, anyway, by the fluff on the backs of their heads. We usually only get mallards and Canada geese, these two were a real treat.

They spent all day diving for goldfish and frogs. My dad wasn't too pleased and wanted to chase them off but I wouldn't let him. They were gone the next morning anyway... I hope they come back!