Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I disappeared for a while because, well, I actually DID get some studying done. Final grades are in for the semester, and I am pleased. People always tell me I shouldn't worry so much about schoolwork and exams, because I always do well.... but freaking out is WHY I do well!

So my first semester of grad school is over, and winter break has arrived. I am having a wonderful time at home, visiting family and friends. Pepper the parrot has missed me terribly, as usual, and won't leave me alone.

Slowly getting prepared for my trip to Ecuador next month... still trying to hold in my excitement though, lots of things to get done before then (including Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations!). Going to see lots of relatives, and spend some time up in Montreal with my college friends (the poutine alone is nearly worth the trip).

Taking a break from sewing will leave me feeling refreshed and inspired by the end of January. Bring on the custom orders! And happy holidays, whatever you may celebrate :)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holiday/Should be studying sale!

If you're still looking for something for the holidays, I'm having a sale today through Wednesday night. This is special for people who read my blog and follow me on twitter and facebook :)
Enter coupon code "ShouldBeStudying" during checkout for 15% off AND I will ship priority mail.
(I have a final exam Thursday... maybe some sales will keep my morale up?).

I am planning on adding a few little things to the shop in the next couple days, too, so keep on the lookout.

A reminder that my shop will be closed during my winter break - starting about the 17th of this month through January 23. If you're interested in a custom order, be warned that I already have a list of requests for when I return (but you never know how many people will follow through). You can always email me and I can add you to the list and let you know when I'm ready to sew!

Friday, December 10, 2010


I enjoy doing trades for my plush work, especially when you get just the right combination of mutual love for each others work.

I recently sent off some goodies in exchange for this fabulous print by an artist known as EatToast on deviantART. She is incredibly talented and it was difficult to choose an image from her gallery, but I eventually decided I could not live without the grumpy iguana.You should check out her gallery!
Of course, I am partial to the wildlife category.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kaatskill Life, Winter 2010

Even though it has been rather routine to get my work published in Kaatskill Life magazine over the years, I still get nervous when my dad mails me a copy from home. I get emailed an edited copy of the article before publication, but I don't get to see the layout or final tweaks until it's out.

What fun though, eh? This one is about overwintering strategies of lepidopterans (butterflies and moths).Since this is the second in a row for me (I also wrote for the fall issue about brine shrimp), my dad is writing the spring article about water striders. Whoever comes up with a better idea first will get probably dibs on the summer issue. We're moving up in the magazine, too! "Kaatskill Kritters" used to be one of the last articles, now we're right about in the middle.

You can subscribe, but I'm not sure if individual issues can be bought through their website... though if you live in the Catskills region of NY you can probably find the magazine in a variety of shops.

Now if only I could get a good enough photo for the cover...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In progress

It should be pretty easy to figure out what I'm making next, eh?

Been wanting to make a Phidippus audax for a long time now, but never got around to it... now as a custom order, I'm diving right in.

The picture on the right is a big female I kept for a little while this summer, you may recall my post about her bunch of babies.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Two heads are better than one

New in the shop - a two headed planarian! I haven't had much time to work on inventory because I am swamped with custom orders. That's not a bad thing, of course, but if only I had more hours in the day. I might be able to fit in a few more small/simple custom orders in time for the holidays, but otherwise all new requests will have to wait until February (I will be traveling for most of December and January).

Since I get so many requests for tardigrades, I hope this little guy finds a home soon.

True love

I went home for Thanksgiving break, and got to spend some time with my parrot, Pepper (as I've mentioned before he's a caique, and a rescue). Sometimes I wonder how well he really knows us, especially since the past few years I've spent so much of the year away from home and college. But every visit he can't get enough of me - which means lots of snuggle time in the evenings, and his mating dances. Luckily he doesn't completely regurgitate for me, but he goes through the motions.

I wish I could keep him with me, but there is no way he could handle being kept in a small apartment while I'm gone most of the day. And he certainly keeps my parents busy/entertained. Perhaps someday, though, when I have my own place he can come with me.

And something exciting to ponder - next month I am taking a trip to Ecuador, and will get to spend some time in the Amazon. That is, of course, the native range for this species! The black headed caique, Pionites melanocephalus, lives on the northern side of the Amazon river. One of my goals of the trip is to see (and hopefully photograph) one of these crazy birds in the wild.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A herp in the lep lab

The past few days have been quite an adventure. I am one of the TAs for an intro biology course. The lab this week was "animal diversity"; as you can imagine I was looking forward to this one all semester.

The lab itself was a little boring - well, depending on if you enjoy looking at dead things in jars or not (I certainly do, but I know not everyone does!). The only live specimens were echinoderms and cnidarians, and the only real activity was a quick crayfish dissection. So I thought I should liven things up a bit.

Enter Bijou the ball python! I had her around my neck for the labs I TAed, and brought her for 10-15 minute presentations in most of the other lab sections. I used her to demonstrate some general concepts about reptiles and their evolutionary history, and answered lots of questions. Students got to touch/hold her if they wanted, and their reactions were my favorite part. There were so many students who had never held a snake before, or were afraid, but Bijou was such a sweetie. I think she was able to change a lot of peoples' minds about snakes. She also got to hang out with me through the day, she was well behaved and well liked among everyone who got to spend time with her. I'd love if she could keep me company every day, but that cute face would be too much of a distraction.

Science and art and pain

Here I am, looking incredibly goofy. That plush on my head is Euclea obliqua, one of my favorite caterpillars (note that it is also drawn on the bottom of my lab coat). Yes they really are that colorful, though instead of fluffy pompoms they have clusters of poison-filled spines. We raised some of them in the lab, and I accidentally got stung by one a few weeks ago. It was much more irritating than I expected! The itching came and went for about a week, and it was another week before the discoloration on my skin went away. My adviser, instead of being concerned, was quite excited. He made sure to document my response to the sting through photos.

When you are a squishy tasty caterpillar, you need a way to defend yourself - which is accomplished in a variety of ingenious ways. Some sequester toxins through their host plant, some use cryptic coloration and/or behaviors, while others are covered in irritating hairs or spines. Some caterpillars can even seriously injure a human - for example the puss caterpillar, Megalopyge opercularis, can cause anywhere from local irritation to chest pains and difficulty breathing.

In our lab we raise hundreds (maybe thousands?) of caterpillars throughout the year, many of which have never been raised in captivity before. We joke that we should purposefully get stung by some of them in order to record their sting intensities... however a willing volunteer has yet to step forward.