Our resident sausage expert (bada bing!)
Karelian Blonde treated us with her
extraordinaly fantastico Makkarasoppa
(sausage soup) tonight. Oh yes.

The sausage in this particular one was
Mattessons Garlic Smoked Sausage and
the vegetables are carrots, onions, potatoes,
swede, turnip and leeks. The special secret
"incredident" is to fry the onions
in a dollop of butter.


Couple of fantastic
shots from the BBC Website

Mount Elgon in Uganda,
sunrise over Kenya by Will Moore.

Mallards in Central France
by Arnaud Darondeau.



A redwood tree discovered in a remote
California forest has turned out to be
the world's tallest tree, edging out
one nearby that had been the
previous titleholder.

The record-setting tree, named Hyperion,
is 379.1 feet (115.5 metres) tall, besting
the previous record holder, the 370.5-foot
(112.9 metre)-tall Stratosphere Giant.

Researchers exploring remote and
rugged terrain this summer in the

Redwood National and State Parks
along California's northernmost coast also
discovered two other redwoods taller than
the Stratosphere Giant, suggesting
there had been many more massive
ancient redwoods in the area

Some of those taller trees may have
fallen to loggers, while the remaining
ones were saved by a logging ban when
the Redwood National Park
was expanded in 1978.


Cute alert! New arrivals at the Wolong
Giant Panda Protection and
Research Center southwest
China’s Sichuan Province.

It's great to hear that the most endangered
species in the world is finally doing so well.
The number of giant pandas born in
captivity so far this year stands at a
record 27, researchers said on Thursday.

The figure, the highest since 1960s
when China initiated a research project
on captivity breeding of giant pandas,
may rise even further as experts
are expecting two more deliveries.

More than 30 female pandas, including
15 at the Wolong center, 16 at the Chengdu
Giant Panda Breeding Research Base
and several others in northwest
Shaanxi Province and other locations
were inseminated in spring.

The increasing birthrate of giant
pandas in captivity indicated Chinese
researchers had pretty much resolved
the problems of infertility
among the rare species.

Experts had previously estimated that
there were about 1,590 giant pandas
living in the wild in the country but
Chinese and British scientists announced
in June that there could be as many as
3,000 after a survey using a new method
to profile DNA from panda feces.
There are more than 190 giant
pandas living in captivity.

Giant pandas have a very low fertility rate,
their mating season’s only three to four
days per year and they deliver at most
two cubs at a time. The fertility of giant
pandas in captivity ranks even
lower than the wild because
they don’t move around enough.


I found this plant on my back
from the supermarket today.

I felt sorry for it, somebody had just
left it out on the pavement. Its leaves were
all droopy, it hadn't had water for weeks.
I thought if I don't rescue it, the kids
are just going to kick it all over the place.

So I brought it home, changed its earth,
watered it and placed it in the conservatory
so it's gets maximum light.
Hopefully it will perk up soon.

I know, I know.
I'm soppy like that.


Isn't this picture of the
Northern Lights (Aurora
Borealis) amazing?

It is the winning entry by Max Pickering
in this year's BBC News website
photo competition.



To celebrate Karelian Blonde's 40th
birthday next year we booked
ourselves a trip to my
favourite: Vienna!

I'm so excited I can hardly stay in
my pants and I've got wait till May!

I am looking forward to the gorgeous food
there, especially the cakes (ooh!) and
Wiener Schnitzel (above).

And of course...local wine.

Gemütlichkeit indeed.


There's been an explosion in the population
of flying daddy longlegs, but what
are the gangly insects for?

The UK is in the grip of an explosion
of daddy longlegs - or
crane flies as
they are otherwise known - because
of the combination of a hot summer
followed by heavy rain showers
and a dry, warm September.

They are a late autumnal species that peak
at this time of year. The larvae - known as
leatherjackets - feed through autumn,
winter and spring on decaying plant
material and plant roots just below the soil
surface. These then turns to pupae and
new adult flies hatch in September.

The lifespan of an adult is only about two
weeks and their purpose is to mate and to
die within a few days. There is debate over
whether they even eat during their short lives
or survive on food reserves stored in their bodies.

More and more will keep hatching if the weather
stays mild into next month. But apart from
being a nuisance and frightening people -
they were voted the world's second scariest
creature after spiders in a recent poll -
what's the point of daddy longlegs?

They are an important source of food for
creatures that eat insects, including birds and
spiders, says ecology professor Guy Poppy, from the

University of Southampton.

"Insect eaters will be feasting on all the
daddy longlegs at this time of year,
a spider web will be full of them."

The larvae also eats decaying plant material
and helps to recycle nutrients back into the soil.

But one man's meat is another man's poison.
As they feast on plant roots, this proves to
be a nightmare for many gardeners -
particularly when they gorge on
grass roots, leaving bare patches.

"Some people think they are useful and
others think they are a pain in the neck.
They're definitely not very popular at
golf courses," says Professor Poppy.

"It's hard to predict what would happen
if all daddy longlegs were eradicated but
I don't know of any bird and spider that
eats them exclusively. However, as an
ecologist I think all life forms have an
important role to play in the eco system."

Love or hate them, the explosion in numbers
could result in an increase in bigger,
well-fed spiders... which won't do much
for the popularity of daddy longlegs.



A sea lion at a US zoo has been amazing
visitors by painting for her supper.

Maggie, a California sea lion at Pittsburgh Zoo,
has created dozens of paintings,
reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Zoo trainer Kesha Phares started teaching
Maggie to paint last year and
says she caught on quickly.

"It's, in a way, enriching," Ms Phares said.
"Sea lions are very smart animals, and
painting keeps their minds active."

After three months teaching Maggie to
hold the handle in her mouth and touch
the bristles to the paper, she dipped the
brush in paint and Maggie jabbed it at the canvas.

Maggie specialises in absract art, usually
putting more paint on the right side of the
canvas. Each successful brush stroke earns her a fish.

Ms Phares has saved all of Maggie's paintings
and is considering selling them, with the
proceeds going to animal welfare.



A rare black swan has fallen in love with a
plastic swan paddle boat for
hire on a German lake.

According to biologists, the Black Australian Swan
is showing all the typical signs of love - circling its
plastic lover, staring endlessly at it
and making crooning noises.

Both boat and swan live on the Aasee lake
Münster, north-western Germany.

The boat, a large white plastic peddalo
designed to look like a swan, is hired out to
families who want to picnic on the lake.

When the striking looking swan arrived
at the lake a few months ago it instantly became
a local attraction and now that it has fallen
in love with the boat it has become a major
star - with souvenir shops selling t-shirts, snow globes
and key rings depicting the star-crossed lovers.

But locals say tourists are now nervous about
hiring that particular boat thanks
to its ever vigilant admirer.

Aasee lake in Münster

Yacht school owner Peter Overschmidt
complais: "When I sail too close to the
peddalo, the black bird puffs
up its feathers and hoots at me."

Biologist Dirk Wewers from the local
Allwetter Zoo said: "This behaviour proves
that the swan has built an
attachment with the peddle boat."
And biologists are worried that because
swans are monogamous, this one will waste
its life pining away for its plastic lover.

Expert Andrea Klein says they are worried
what will happen when the boat is locked
away for the winter but they are relatively
confident the swan will recover.


Scientists may have solved the mystery of the
Mona Lisa's smile - they believe
she had just given birth.

A team of Canadian French scientists
reached the conclusion after studying

Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece
with infra-red technology.

It allowed them to see beneath a layer of
varnish and discover the model had a
gauzy layer over her dress.

The filmy robe, called a guarnello,
was typically worn by pregnant
women of the time, or mothers
who had recently given birth.

Mona Lisa was Lisa Gherardini,
the wife of Francesco del Giocondo,
a Florentine cloth merchant.

Records suggest she wasn't pregnant when
she posed for Leonardo, but that the painting
was commissioned to celebrate
the birth of her third child.

Bruno Mottin, curator in the
research department of the
Centre de Recherche et de Restauration
des Musées de France, said the infant,
boy, was born before Leonardo
began painting the Mona
Lisa in the early 1500s.

The researchers carried out the most in-depth
scientific study ever done on the painting,
using a number of high-tech tools, including a
three-dimensional laser scanner developed by
Canada's National Research Council.

They carried out their work in a laboratory in
the basement of the Louvre in Paris. They had
to work at night, when the museum was closed.
They also found a veil visible on her head,
Mona Lisa was wearing a dark bonnet that can't
be seen under the layer of varnish applied
long after Leonardo died.



Using forklifts, Dutch cheesemakers turned
over a thick slab of Dutch cheese weighing
nearly 600 kg (1,320 lb) today, hoping to
claim the title for the world's largest cheese.

The table-sized cheese, commissioned by
Dutch cheese producer Beemster, was gently
lifted and turned by forklifts in preparation
for an official weighing next week.

Last year, when attempting to break the record,
the cheese broke in half when it was being turned.
Cheese-turning allows it to ripen evenly.


Barbie in Midnight Red, dating from 1965,
sold for a record £9,000 today as collectors from
around the world gathered to bid for a piece
of a unique private collection of
4,000 Barbie family dolls.

The doll, which had been priced at up to
£600, became the most expensive modern plastic
doll sold at an auction in the country. The
previous record was £2800 set in 1999.

"It was very competitive," said a
spokeswoman for
Christie's auction house.
"People were taking this very seriously.
We had interest from all
four corners of the world."

The doll was bought by a woman in the sale
room on behalf of an anonymous collector.

The same woman also paid £7200 for Gala
Abend Barbie -
a high colour doll produced
for the Japanese market - and £5040 pounds
for Barbie in Midnight Pink.

The co-founder of U.S. toy giant
Mattel, Ruth Handler, invented
Barbie in 1959 and named
her after her daughter Barbara. She has
since become the top-selling doll in
the world, with annual sales of some
$3 billion (1.58 billion pounds).

Boyfriend Ken, who came along later,
was also named after one of Handler's children.

Named Barbie Millicent Roberts and with
95 different careers and 45 nationalities
under the belt around her wasp waist,
Barbie has a mind-boggling array of
accessories, including 43 pets ranging
from a poodle to a zebra.


A pet hamster travelled from Devon to Scotland
in his owner's golf bag.
Fudge was found
by his owner, Kingsley Moyle,
when he landed north of the border.

He was put in a box for safe keeping but on the last day
of the holiday he escaped but was found again by a
local woman, hidden in a hire car.
By then
owner Kingsley was back home in Kingsteignton,
and too far away to collect the pet.

Mr Moyle said: "Amazingly he has been found,
a lady in Scotland used the same hire car after
us and suddenly he appeared.

"At the end of the day he is in Scotland and
by now he's probably acclimatised to life up there.
"I've been told that this lady is happy to keep
him and that's fine, hopefully
it won't turn into a tug of love."


Researching the drinks by famous
Finns I came across
Matti Nykänen’s
quotes which he is also known for.

He means well but always
manages to get it wrong!

Here’s a few good ones:

“Every chance is an opportunity.”

“Tomorrow is always the future.”

“The chances are fifty-sixty.”

“To be alive is the best
time for a human being”

"Every time I'm about to go off the end of
the ski jump I get that Bon Voyage feeling -
y'know like I've been there before"
he means déjà vu!)

"Love is like a ball of wool - it begins and it ends"
(actually, I think for once Matti
might've hit it on the head!)

I also like these ones by American
baseball player
Yogi Berra :

“It's not over till it's over.”

“It's like déjà vu all over again.”

“ I never said half the things I said.”

“It's so crowded nobody goes
there anymore.”

“Tomorrow night is another day.”

“Our similarities are different.”

“We make too many wrong mistakes.”

"You can observe a lot by watching."

"It gets late early around here..."

"If I didn't wake up
I'd still be sleeping."

"I usually take a two hour
nap from 1 to 4."

"If you don't know where you're going,
you'll wind up somewhere else."

"The future ain't what it used to be."

"Always go to your friends' funerals,
otherwise they won't go to yours."

"Never answer an anonymous letter."

"Prediction is very hard, especially
when it's about the future."

When asked what time it is:
"What? You mean right now?"

At a dinner in an Italian restaurant,
he was asked how many slices should be
cut in his pizza, and he replied
"You better make it six, 'cause
I don't think I could eat eight."

And of course we must not forget "Murrayisms' "
by (the now retired) F1 commentator,
the legend that is
Murray Walker :

"Excuse me while I interrupt myself..."

"With half the race gone,
there's half the race still to go."

"If the gloves weren't off before—
and they were—they sure are now!"

"That's a good stop. Just under 10 seconds.
Call it 9.7 in round figures."

"There's a difference of only one second
between these two cars ...one...
that's how long a second is"

Describing his commentary style:
"I don't make mistakes. I make
prophecies which immediately
turn out to be wrong."

"The interesting thing about this
circuit is that it has inclines; not
just up, but down as well."

"And the track temperature
has in fact risen in degrees!"

"And here comes Damon Hill in the
Williams. This car is absolutely unique—
except for the one following
it, which is identical."

"Do my eyes deceive me or is
Senna's Lotus sounding a bit rough?"

"Tambay's hopes, which were nil
before, are now absolutely zero."

"You can't see a digital clock,
because there isn't one."

"And now the boot is on
the other Schumacher."

"Unless I'm very much mistaken...
I am very much mistaken!"

"It's the first time Schumacher's won here
since 1959" (Michael Schumacher
was born in 1969)

"Mansell knows exactly where Senna
is because he
can see him
in his earphone."


The new Lordi Cola got me thinking:
are there any other countries where
famous people have had/have
their own drinks?

In Finland so far they've had
ski jumper
Matti Nykänen cider,
violinist & Playboy model
Linda Lampenius (now Brava)
cider, Symphonic Power Metal band

Nightwish beer, and now the Lordi Cola.
(Understantably they went for a soft drink
as their audience is mostly kids and teenagers.)

Is this a uniquely Finnish phenomenon
or is there Pavarotti Beer, Whitney Wine or a
Schumacher Cider lurking
about somewhere in the world?


I have a crystal hanging in my bedroom window.
When the sun catches it from the right
angles it casts the most amazing colours.



Today walking back from South Wimbledon
I saw a poster advertising saving energy by
NOT leaving your telly, DVD or any other
electrical gadgets on stand-by.

Turning one gadget off completely
when not in use saves £46 a year!

About time too it was rammed into peoples
heads: if there is one thing I hate it’s wasting
electricity. Wasting it is not only bad for the
environment and your wallet but also for the
actual machine. For instance a TV set on
standby is going to wear out a lot quicker
than one that hasn’t got electricity humming
through it all the time unnecessarily.

Britons waste the equivalent of around two
power stations' worth of electricity each year
by leaving TV sets and other things on standby.
People leave them on even when they go
on holiday for a week or two. Why?!

Electrical equipment in sleep mode uses
roughly 7TWh of energy and emits
around 800,000 tonnes of carbon.

If so much electricity is wasted by devices
being left on standby, one obvious
question to ask is: do we need standby
buttons on electronic devices?

At the very least, the standby should go
off after something like 10 minutes.

A survey by the Energy Saving Trust found
that the average household has up to
12 gadgets left on standby or charging at any
one time. It also showed that more than
£740m of electricity was wasted by
things being left ticking over.

It seems that some people think
standby is just a tiny red dot
with no impact at all.

Personally I switch of everything from
the main button and I think it is sheer
laziness not moving two meters to do that.


Remember the Lordi credit
cards from yesterday?

Well, it gets better: there is a
Lordi Cola. Yes. I shit you not.

Available as "normal" Cola and "Light"
for the weightwatching Lordi fan.

Wonder what they'll come up
with next? Lordi sauna
stoves, birch twigs and
other accessories?

(Thanks Heavy for the link!)



Remember Finnish Eurovision

Well, now the Finns have the privilige
of enjoying a Lordi Visa, Master
or cash card. Oh dear.


Me and Karelian Blonde went down to my friend
Heidi's in Lower Upnor in Kent yesterday
for a sort of end-of-season barbeque.

The weather gods were definitely smiling
on us, it was a gorgeus during the day and
everybody sat outside in their shirtsleeves
till well gone 10 o'clock. Exepct your truly,
I had to borrow Heidi's ski jacket to keep warm!

Food and drink was plentiful, jerk chicken
made my eyes water, many a laughs had
and broken nights sleep courtesy of something
that went "ho-hoo-ho-hoo-hoo"
in the forest next to the bedroom window.
Possibly an owl or a confused cuckoo.

Here's some shots:

Dramatic sky over the Medway river

Heidi's man Malcolm with his dog
Hurli or "The Scratch My Belly Tart"

The patio heater came in handy in the small hours.
Boy those things kick out some heat!

Couple of shots on the way back:
rusty cranes next to Battersea Power Station



Whilst travelling on the Northern Line
yesterday I noticed a new set of
poems has appeared in the trains.

Poems On The Underground was
launched in 1986 after American writer
Judith Chernaik, realised it was an
easy way to bring poems to he masses.

One of the new poems that particularly
caught my eye is called “Sisu” which is
Finnish for 'to persevere in the face
of adversity'. It’s written by

Lavinia Greenlaw and is in
her book “Minsk: Poems”

She has two Finnish themed poems in that book,
“Sisu” (n:o 62) and “Kaamos” (n:o 57).

is a natural phenomenon
which occurs inthe winter when the Sun does
not rise above the horizon for 51 days
and it is also the Finnish
word for "polar night".

Typical "kaamos" scene in Lapland


Got a spare £20 000?

Better get in quick, this
VIPN Black Diamond is the rarest
thing on the market: they’re only
producing five individually
numbered units.

It was designed by Jaren Goh and
is built by Swiss firm VIPN.

The menu navigator button is a 0.25 carat
diamond while more diamonds
decorate the titanium body.

It also changes colour from silver
to black when not in use.


Here's a quick (fake!) Chinese lesson.
NOTE: Read out LOUD.

English Phrase / Chinese Translation

1. "That's not right"............... Sum Ting Wong

2. "Are you harboring a fugitive?".. Hu Yu Hai Ding

3. "See me ASAP".................... Kum Hia Nao

4. "There goes Stupid Man".......... Dum Dum Wa King

5. "Small Horse".................... Tai Ni Po Ni

6. "Did you go to the beach?"....... Wai Yu So Tan

7. "I bumped into a coffee table"... Ai Bang Mai Ni

8. "I think you need a face lift"... Chin Tu Fat

9. "It's very dark in here"......... Wao So Dim

10. "I thought you were on a diet".. Wai Yu Mun Ching

11. "This is a tow away zone"....... No Pah King

12. "Our meeting is next week"...... Wai Yu Kum Nao

13. "Staying out of sight!"......... Lei Ying Lo

14. "He's cleaning his automobile".. Wa Shing Ka

15. "Your body odor is offensive"... Yu Stin Ki Pu

16. "Great"......................... Su Pah