Our Snow Queen. Please ignore the surrounding mess, it's a work in progress!
Remember when we had the big storm in November and a tree fell down in our garden? Well, just before Xmas we received a wonderful surprise gift from out lovely neighbour Mr G. He'd bought us our very own birch!
They have one in their garden that he brought over from Sweden years ago. Ours is a Himalayan birch "Snow Queen" (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii) and it's going to look like this when it grows (obviously without the "pots"):
Thank you once again Mr G for the brilliant present! May it grow to be as magnificent as your birch!
It's beautifully shot, funny and sad, makes you smile, laugh out loud and reach for a box of tissues.
Nature is so cruel yet these amazing creatures get on with their astonishing feat to keep the next generation going year after year. Some of them do not of course make which is when the tear ducts get a workout.
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the size of this dog. I know he is a Great Dane but still!
George, a four-year-old blue Great Dane from Arizona (above with his owner Dave Nasser) is certainly a contender for the world's tallest dog.
The gentle giant, who measures 7ft 3ins (2.22 m) from nose to tail, 42.625 inches (108 cm) at the shoulder and weighs 245lbs (111 kg) could take the title from the former record holder Gibson, a harlequin Great Dane who passed away from cancer last August.
Our Siouxsie (below) looks like a Chihuahua compared to him! Even our Archie The Wolfhound, who was a giant, looks tiny!
EDIT 26.2.2010: George has now has been officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the tallest dog ever on record.
The fact that the tragic ski jumper legend Matti Nykänen made it to the top of the BBC's news feed this morning made me chuckle.
Apparently he tried to "murder" his wife on Xmas day and for some reason the news agencies around the world made top headlines out of it.
Except he has tried to kill/maim/mutilate/divorce his wife on every single public holiday and other dates when they've happened to be in the same room (with alcohol of course) for more than 10 minutes in the last 10 years! They married in 2001 and by last year she had tried to divorce him 14 times and vice versa!
He is undeniably the greatest ski jumper the world has ever seen, even though it may be by a combination of freak of nature and luck that he climbed to the top podium time after time.
And his private life, a colourful story which was told in a full length (acted) feature film "Matti" in 2006, has kept the Finns amused all these years.
Apart from bashing his wife he has made a career out of singing, stripping, a cider named after him and various other doomed projects. Not to mention the famous, mostly unintentional Matti sayings like “The chances are fifty-sixty.”
So what's next for the happy couple? True to form the latest divorce application will be cancelled, a two week holiday to Tenerife booked (paid for by a local glossies like Hymy or 7 Päivää ) and a warts and all interviews arranged.
Things you notice on TV: I was just watching last night's Alan Carr: Chatty Man as one of his quests was the divine Ms M (she was the only reason I taped it in fact!), Bette Midler (top pic with Alan).
At one point she was hiding behind a pillow (middle pic) and I noticed it was the same one (plus a fringe) I've got on my sofa (bottom pic)!
Funny thing is I bought mine from a pound shop in Tooting (last of the big spenders, eh?!), the producers of the show have probably spent loads on theirs!
I thoroughly enjoyed BBC 2's Victorian Farm which aired in the beginning of the year.
Now the team, archaeologist and historian Alex, archaeological digger, supervisor and teacher Peter and historian Ruth return to the Shropshire estate to celebrate a traditional Victorian Christmas in a three part special.
From the left: Peter, Alex and Ruth
I just watched the first episode and it was as funny, entertaining and indeed educational as always. Makes you appreciate how easy life is in the modern world!
The first outing for the team, Tales From The Green Valley (in 2005) was set in Tudor England of 1620 and Victorian Farm followed. I loved both of them so I hope they do another full length series set in yet another time.
The website dedicated to the specials is full of handy hints on how to create your own Victorian Xmas including cards, crackers, wrapping paper, decorations and many more.
I wasn't keen on the DIY tills when they first appeared in our local supermarket but since they've made the whole process a bit simpler it's a breeze.
The only gripe I've got are that the scanning plate should be cleaned at regular intervals as sometimes they are so grimy you have to do the barcode a few times before it "beeps".
Also people please take note: the person after you cannot start the process before you lift your bags off the bagging area as the whole thing is a scale. While you start to sort out year's worth of receipts in your purse the queue behind you is standing still.
What do cats do when their owners are away? There was one way to find out - "cat cams."
Fifty American house cats including Leo-Hector (below ) were given collar cameras that took a photo every 15 minutes. The results put a digital dent in some human theories about catnapping.
About 22 percent of the cats' time was spent looking out of windows, 12 percent was used to interact with other family pets and 8 percent was spent climbing on chairs or kitty condos. Just 6 percent of their hours were spent sleeping.
"What surprised me was how active the cats were. I believed my three cats were sleeping during the day," said Jill Villarreal, an animal behavior scientist who collected the data for Friskies brand of cat food.
The 777 photos studied by Villarreal showed the cats looking at a television, computer, DVDs or other media 6 percent of the time and hiding under tables 6 percent of the time. 5 percent was playing with toys, eating or looking at finished food came in at 4 percent.
Should we give the tradition of buying Xmas pressies to people we don't like or hardly know the heave-ho, asks the BBC Magazine.
My answer would be a resounding yes. Waste of money and everybody's time. The gift will most likely be half-heartedly bought and the recipient will pretend to like it for about three seconds when the giver is around.
Even worse they haven't got anything for you and now feel obliged to rush out to get something which again will probably be not wanted.
I'm so glad I don't have to be part of the Xmas present merry-go-round with friends and relatives, let alone work colleagues.
All of my family live abroad and we've all agreed not to send each other presents. For instance my mum gives me cash for both birthdays and Xmas when we see each other and when I go to visit relatives I take them bits and pieces they've asked for.
I buy Xmas presents for exactly four people and always check if there is something they'd like and that's what they'll get.
My favourite from the beginning was 80's page three pin-up Sam Fox but since she got voted out I've liked both snooker ace Jimmy White (below on the left) and The Queen Of Clean Kim Woodburn (below right).
I didn't know what to make of "The Whirwind" at first, he didn't really say or do a lot (well nobody had the chance because Katie Price got voted to do everything!) but towards the end he's come up with some cracking one-liners and turned out to be great entertainment.
My favourite moment was when Kim was hassling him to hand over his clothes for a wash and then pack because he might be the next one out and he just said: "I'll tell you what, if I leave you can burn the clothes for heat."
I don't mind if Kim winds, she's as mad as a bag of spanners but funny with it. Oh yes, luvvie! That's right dah-ling.
But I hope Jimmy is crowned the new King Of The Jungle tonight, not only is he deserving, he's a Tooting lad as well! I read his autobio a few years ago.
Mind you is he wins ITV2 are buggered next year because traditionally the King hosts the Get Me Out Of Here, Now! show and Jimmy...well, he's not exactly the most talkative of the lot! Last years King Joe Swash is perfect for the job, you can't shut him up!
EDIT 5.12.2009: Gino won, Kim came second and Jimmy third.