Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 In Review

When I did this last year, it seemed quite fun, I was surprised how much I had managed to cram into the year and there seemed to be a good balance of business and pleasure. This year, by contrast seemed to be far too heavily weighted towards work but I have tried to create a balance here so as not to bore you too much!

The year started out with a bang with 'The Blizzard' or as we prefer to call it, 'Snowtorious BIG'. Even Chi Town which is used to dealing with snow was no match for this one. Over two thousand cars were buried in drifts on Lakeshore Drive and the usually bustling city streets were silent and swaddled.

I had a small patient at work with a broken leg so I had to stagger/wade/swim/slide/dive my way through the massive drifts to go into work to give him his medications. It was kind of fun being at work totally alone, just me and the animals in peace and quiet.

The first few three months of the year seemed to be filled with working on the creation of our first in house temporary exhibit, Nature's Architects a look into the world of animal builders. It seemed to be very popular and ran all through the summer.

In June we took our annual trip back to England to visit my family, taste the salt of the sea air, drink some 'real' beer and enjoy those seemingly endless summer evenings - bliss.

It was also a great opportunity to catch up with old friends - Hey Arthur!

And a first for us - take part in a Guinness book of Records attempt for gathering the most pirates in one place!

What a blast! We did it by the way, smashed the record by several thousand - OOO ARRRR!

Meanwhile back in the big city, I got to hear my first tornado siren for real! I must admit I felt a bit of a wally sitting in the stairwell of our highrise waiting for the all clear to sound. Especially when I found out that my mate was outside on his bike and hadn't even heard the siren!!

We took our usual department trip out to collect some critters for exhibits and had a good laugh and got wet and muddy in the process which is all part of the fun of course.

I made my annual pilgrimage down to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to see the best motorcyclists in the world 'do their thing' in the second US round of the Moto GP championship. Damn those guys know how to handle a bike!

At the end of the summer we said goodbye to two wonderful interns who had been with us for almost three months. These two young people definitely go a long way towards restoring my faith in the next generation. Joe, crazy as they come but a great worker and totally devoted to the animal kingdom.

And Amy, what a sweet person. She is going to be a kickass entomologist one day I am sure. We certainly miss them both but because they are so awesome they came back in and helped out over Thanksgiving and Christmas when they were home from college.

Another major departure was our wonderful colleague Vincent who migrated back to his native habitat of New Orleans. He blew in our general direction after hurricane Katrina but he decided that enough time had passed and he wanted to head back to his home and family after several highly productive years getting our butterfly conservation work up and running.

Other departures for the year were of the non-human variety and of a more permanent type. Dear Spike, who had recovered fully from his broken leg lived the course of a natural rat life-span which is an all too brief two years.

Little Caboose who was being sold illegally through a petstore and who we had no information about although it was apparent he wasn't in the best of health. We did our very best for him but he survived a sadly short few months but won everyone's hearts.

On a personal front, the biggest loss of the year was without doubt our beloved Winston. One day he was his usual wonderful self and the next day he was gone. After only two years of a potentially fifteen year lifespan. We still miss him hugely. We gave him a grand burial under a tree overlooking Lake Michigan with champagne under a full moon. Farewell Buddy, we miss you.

On a happier note we have some wonderful new additions to our menagerie. The quite splendid Patsy McNasty a little four year old Alligator Snapping Turtle. She is a state listed endangered species and her 'serious attitude problem' has ensured that she has rapidly become a favourite.

Another two state listed additions of an altogether milder disposition have also joined the gang. Ornate Box Turtles, Onyx

And the impossibly cute, Opal. No one can resist her, absolutely no one.

In what has felt like a less than stellar year there has been one very bright ray of light. Our beautiful little piece of heaven in the desert. A frequent bolt-hole and wonderful way to relax and recharge.

On the sporting front I think the less said about our football team this year the better!

Our splendid Blackhawks are more than making up for it though, especially the sublime
number 81. My throat is still sore from cheering at the game we were at last night! Great win.

To end the year a rare treat indeed, the first Christmas my mate and I have spent alone since we met! What a delight.

And so 2011 draws to a close and 2012 looms. I wish it is all things that you want it to be.
Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Our Southwestern Christmas

This post is really for my Mum and Dad because they wanted to see how we had decorated the house for Christmas but, of course, anyone else who is into Christmas is welcome to read on too. Where else to start but at the front door, festive with red bow.

Where does that messy wire on the left of the picture lead too? To our little baby Saguaro Cactus who is decked out for the holidays. It looks very pretty at night all lit up, however during the day the hummingbirds get very angry when they can't get any nectar out of the red bulbs and they keep buzzing it.

Inside the front hall we have a pressed metal Christmas tree from Mexico

My mate was a little perturbed when he saw me dragging a large branch in through the front door (it barely fit) but he liked the end result.

A place to put all the 'fuzzy' animal decorations that we have collected over the years.

They seem much more in their element in a natural wood setting rather than amongst twinkling Christmas lights.

There is a very brief nod towards the concept of a white Christmas but nothing remotely chilly here.

I didn't clear the wrapping stuff off the table for the photo but you get the general idea, simple and red.

Chilli's always feature strongly and they make a very festive wreath (smells pretty yummy too!)

The fireplace is swathed and I was so excited when I managed to find Christmas stockings with Saguaro Cactus on them! Who would have thought?

Last but not least is of course the Christmas tree and I have had a great time over the last couple of months scouring ebay, shops and farmers markets looking for appropriate ornaments.

A buffalo

Prickly Pear Cactus

The omnipresent chili peppers

Reptiles of numerous species and colours

The Wily Coyote howling at the moon

And of course, no tree would be complete without several different Saguaro Cactus ornaments

Happy Christmas everyone and I hope you all have a very Happy and Healthy Festive Season wherever you may be in the world.