Thursday, 26 June 2014

Fountains Abbey

We went to Fountains Abbey last weekend, which I've really wanted to visit since we moved to Yorkshire. It's one of the largest and best preserved Cistercian abbeys in England - and supposedly the most beautiful - and I was especially excited to see the cellarium, because I'm just a really thrilling person who gets excited about medieval monks and their living spaces. I don't think anything will ever beat the sun setting over Rievaulx (because that was just indescribable, oh my gosh) but the day came out lovely and the cellarium was just as beautiful as promised! (It was a sunny Sunday and should have been really busy, but I suppose everyone was inside watching the world cup?! Their loss. Either way, I managed to get plenty of people-free shots!)

The amazingly magical cellarium.

Couldn't resist a silhouetted self-timer selfie.

Stupidly large ice cream to complete the summery feeling!

Beth locates her residence of choice (nothing less than would befit her status, of course.)

Please note Beth's beautiful roller derby dress I acquired at BCUK from the wonderful Laura Kate!

Gavin in the cellarium.

Beth & me in the cellarium.

It's just enormous. The one photo I really wanted to take was The Photo I like to take when I visit somewhere - the panned out view of the entire thing - and I just couldn't get it, it was too huge, and when we walked out into the grounds, the summer haze was too thick to get a clear photo. The grounds are enormous too, and it's definitely more than we could cover in one afternoon. We'll be back. I will get my dream shot! (Armed with our absolute bargain £27 young person National Trust memberships, which we are very excited to get the most out of. A summer of ruins and stately homes awaits!)


Monday, 23 June 2014

Happiness is a Handful of Warm Hamster

This is baby Sputnik. He is a precious fuzzy ball of love! When we decided we wanted Roborovski hamsters, the internet was at great pains to tell us that robos are often not very tame by the standards of most other small pets. We figured it didn't really matter, because they were adorable, and we'd be happy to just watch them if they really didn't enjoy being handled.

As it turned out, Pintsize is more of a 'just watch' hamster. He is tame, but he doesn't feel like demonstrating that very often. He'll always eat food from my hand, but he just isn't very keen on being in them for long. Or at all. Part of this is maybe that he's just incredibly fast, and so I can't keep up. It's not so much that he's trying to exit the hand conveyor belt, as the hand conveyer belt is too slow and boring for him.

But then we have Sputnik, who is just the complete opposite in every single way. He can move fast, I've seen him do it a few times, but he rarely does. He prefer to amble. He takes life at a slower pace. And he's so tame. Incredibly tame. He was super comfortable with us pretty much from day one. If he had any sense of height, he would make a great shoulder hamster. I think when he gets out of his hamster teens he might mellow out even more, which would be adorable. (My dream is for him to have a nap in my hand. Too cute!)

Pintsize is amazing and really great fun, but I am stupidly happy that Sputnik is as cuddly as he is, because ahhhhh a baby hamster in your hands, it is the best of all the things!


Saturday, 14 June 2014

Baby Circles

I saw someone online somewhere once refer to Roborovski hamsters as 'baby circles' and it stuck with me. It's so true. They are the most circular of the hamster kingdom. Small fluffy baby circles with little feets and noses. (That's partly why I chose Sputnik's name! We decided to go for a robot theme, as they are robo hamsters, and Sputnik is a cute, round robot!)

Both hammies are settling very nicely into their new tank! This week has been pretty warm so we've been trying different ways of helping them keep cool. They mostly seem to enjoy lying flat in their sand baths and sleeping outside their nests pressed against the cool glass (the chilled plates we put in for them to lie on were completely ignored. Well, Pintsize peed on his, but that's it. Charming.)


Thursday, 12 June 2014


I took my only Middie Blythe out for some cute summery photos the other day. The sun was doing its intense, late-evening summer thing, and it was super pretty.

Linnea is my only Middie, which is a very sad situation, because Middies are the cutest size! I bought her for myself in my last year of my undergrad, as a post-exam present. Then I bought myself another Blythe (Alexis Emerald!) as a graduation present, because it was a really great excuse. (My undergrad was full of great excuses, and I was great at using them.)

When I hand my MA dissertation in this September, I think I will deserve another doll. Probably. I mean, it's really long. I'll have put tonnes of hours into it. Yes; on reflection, I will indeed require a doll as compensation for my efforts. Definitely.


Monday, 9 June 2014

Ikea Detolf Hamster Cage

Since we brought the two hamhams home (two months ago on Saturday!) I've been spending far too much time obsessively watching hamster videos on youtube. I kept seeing hamsters being kept in these magical things: Ikea Detolf display cabinets flipped on their side. They make really enormous tanks (43 by 163cm) for a very reasonable price (£40), when you consider the usual cost of much smaller made-for-pets tanks. Plus, they look really nice. Double plus, I already had an expedit unit, and they fit so nicely on top of one. It was meant to be.

The assembly was super simple: follow the instructions, but just don't attach the door or the shelves, which look like the trickiest part of building the detolf. Super easy, but definitely a two person job, though - someone to hold the glass panels in place while the other person secures them. Within ten minutes we had it on the side of the expedit and ready to go. No lid needed for tiny robos! (If you have a Syrian or a bigger or more climby animal, maybe a made-to-size wooden frame and chicken-wire contraption?)

As you might know if you follow me elsewhere, our two robos lived quite happily together for a month, and then started fighting, so they've been living separately ever since. (Pintsize took a chunk out of Sputnik's butt.) Pintsize stayed in the plastic tank we originally bought for them, and Sputnik was in a homemade box cage. We decided not to reintroduce them because they adjusted so well and seemed so happy being on their own. So, we needed to divide the detolf somehow. The glass shelves that come with it aren't great, and leave a massive gap between the bottom and the shelf. Definitely big enough for a robo.

We popped out to B&Q and bought some high-density fibreboard which we got cut to size in store with their magical big saw which was much quicker and neater than we would have managed at home. Then, we used our handsaw to cut the bottom corners so they'd fit around the metal frame of the detolf, and slotted it in. (We ended up using PVA (hamster safe!) to glue the pieces we'd cut out around the metal bar. A little bit fiddly and annoying.)

Our initial plan was to use aquarium sealant (also animal safe) to secure it in place, but it was a pretty tight fit, and the sealant really didn't work like I thought it would. So, we actually ended up ditching the sealant, and just using these clippy things (see above: I think they're part of the door hinges?) to secure the hardboard to the rails at the top, so they're pushed back against the metal rails for the middle shelf. It's stuck really quite securely. To make sure, we pushed Sputnik's heavy plant pot of bathing sand up against his side (see below) of the barrier. There's really no way it's moving.

I saw a lot of people concerned about this split tank situation on hamster forums because there wouldn't be sufficient space between the hamsters, and they might smell each other and get stressed. I did give this thorough consideration! The thing is, every hamster is different. When ours were separated, we kept their cages next to each other, and they've never seemed remotely bothered about smelling each other. So, we felt pretty confident they wouldn't mind living next to each other in a detolf. We've been keeping a careful watch on them over the past 5 days, and they really just don't seem to mind at all. They're not displaying any worrying behaviour, and seem no more interested in the barrier than they do any other wall. They just seem super happy in their new homes!

Definitely the best hamster-related purchase I have made! It looks awesome, they both get plenty of room to run about in, we can have a lovely thick layer of substrate, the ventilation is great, and I can see their adorable faces much more clearly through the glass. Perfect! (Note how my desk is now right next to the tank for optimal hamster viewing.)

The only problem is that the dolls have been usurped, somewhat. This is how the room used to look, and as you can see, it's only the one cubby hole of Blythes that still live in the expedit. We bought two extra drona boxes to house hamster related goods, and so lost two more cubby holes. Dolls are still being relocated, updates to come. Alas for tiny flats!