Glasses….

Nothing wrong with my eyesight!

I have mixed feelings about glasses – the optical variety, not the drinking vessels, they’re generally quite useful, although they have their own separate issues… like somebody very kindly left me a dead moth once in a glass of water I was drinking, and I have to be careful at my mother’s since Rocky, her dog, will cheerfully sample anything you leave within reach.

But anyway. Glasses. Spectacles. Face furniture. Nowadays they seem to be quite a chic fashion accessory, with various high-end labels available, and they also serve other purposes than to enhance or correct faulty vision, like filtering out blue light. Whatever…

I wear glasses for one reason and one reason only. I am incredibly short sighted. To the extent where I have bent down to pick up a piece of fluff only to have it sprout legs and reveal itself as a surprise spider. I have greeted people seen from a distance as good friends only to approach closer and find out that I have absolutely no idea who they are. Conversely, I have blanked people I have known for years until they are up close and personal… social distancing notwithstanding.

Shortsightedness coupled with absent mindedness can be entertaining – I have taken my glasses off to put face cream on, wandered off, distracted and forgotten where I’ve put them and been too short sighted to find them… I solved that problem by having tactical emergency glasses placed around the house at strategic key points, rather like fire extinguishers, so I can go to one of these points, collect a spare pair of glasses then return to search and locate my original pair…

My shortsightedness was first discovered at the tender age of four – I couldn’t see what the teacher was writing on the blackboard from my desk, so conveniently placed at the back of the classroom, so I had to get up, walk to where I could see the blackboard, memorise the chunk of writing, return to my seat and copy it down. Did wonders for training my memory but understandably irritated everyone else to the point where my my teacher told my parents. I have no idea why they hadn’t noticed, but anyway, off I went to the optician’s and my world was restored to clear and wonderful focus. I could see! Every blade of grass, every whisker on my cat’s face.

And then it began… “Specky four eyes!” and other imaginative insults since I was the only kid in the class who wore glasses. However, I persevered, as being able to see kind of outweighed the stigma, but it was interesting to see how the insults changed as I got older. “Men never make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Really? I’ve had my share in the past…

But I reached the age of 18 and made my first foray into the world of contact lenses. Again, fabulous to be able to see, although you do feel as though your eyes are very wide open… But I discovered too that contact lenses could present their own problems. Ever tried taking a contact lens out when you’ve been drinking? After clawing desperately at your eyeball for half an hour you give up and fall asleep only to wake up in the morning with it immovably shrivelled onto your corneal surface…

Back to glasses then. I have very specific design requirements when it comes to my glasses – I don’t like heavy frames, the colour has to be right, likewise the shape to hold the specially thinned lenses, and they have to withstand other outside forces too. My optician once asked me, appalled: “Are these teeth marks on the arms?!”

“Um, yes… the cat got hold of them while I was asleep…”

But my current optician is a lovely, kind and endlessly patient man, and my present pair of glasses had been recognised by him as the perfect pair for me. He put them carefully aside until it was time for my next appointment, whereupon he produced them with an air of quiet satisfaction:

“Samantha, I saw these and thought of you…”

“Come Fly With Me…”

Wonder what he’s humming while he washes his hands… “Fly me to the moon..” “I believe I can fly…”

Now. I know flies are an irritation and a nuisance and not the most hygienic of creatures either – but they are, if you look at them, little marvels of Mother Nature’s engineering…

The true flies derive their name from the Greek, “Diptera” meaning “two winged” and have compound eyes, which roughly means that their vision of Life appears to them in mosaic form … fascinating… yet also despite having compound eyes, flies are actually short-sighted. I feel a certain kinship with them in that respect.

Our winged friends make themselves particularly noticed during the summer months. To try and deter their presence in her house, my mother bought one of those fly curtains which are basically coloured strips of plastic hanging from a rod you fix above your door frame thus hindering the access of flies and other unwelcome visitors.

I was only too happy to assist my mother with fitting it to her door frame, and then we stood back and admired it. I agreed she was indeed fortunate to find one in black and white which matched the colour scheme of her kitchen. Then, as we stood and watched, a fly flew in through the hanging strips of plastic with the absolute precision of a computer aided jet fighter pilot, made a swift circuit of the kitchen and exited again with deadly accuracy through the millimetres-wide gap in the hanging plastic strips of the fly deterrent curtain. I looked at my mother.

“*%$@!!”

On another occasion, my home was fly-free, or so I thought, and I was quite happily pottering about upstairs tidying when –

“zzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!”

I was joined by a large and cheerful housefly. It buzzed in self-importantly:“Hi! And how are we today?” – smacked its head against the mirror, then commenced that infuriating desperate scramble up and down the window that they do…

I don’t like killing things mindlessly, so seizing my opportunity I opened the window and used the blinds to waft the fly outside to freedom … I resumed my cleaning…

“zzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!! Hi! And how are we today?”

The bloody thing had flown straight out of the window, gone downstairs and round to the back of the house, found the back door open and flown right on in again…

Despite my annoyance, I did find it quite funny and to be fair, these little creatures oft-maligned still have their place in the Universe as one of the tiny cogs that deal with the various aspects of decomposition. Mother Nature’s solid waste technicians if you will.

And they are the source of a joke that I originally heard as a child and still find (shamefully) funny now…

What do you call a fly with no wings?

A walk…

Sourdough…And Surprises!

And this is how it all began…the surprise being that it actually worked!

I am joining in with Chef Shoko of http://The Canadian Cats and Da Phenny over at http://easyweimeranerwordpress.com and this is my offering..

There seemed to be a thing here for making sourdough bread in the wake of the pandemic as yeast took on the scarcity of unicorn tears. I was footling about on the internet and I saw someone say how you could harness natural yeast, feed it with flour and water and lo and behold you have your very own thriving, bubbling yeast colony, ready to add to a multitude of wonderful recipes. If the first bit works…

The jar on the right (George) is ready to use, you can tell from his bubbles, and when you open the jar, there is a pleasant, yeasty smell.

Now. Generally I am fairly easily discouraged when it come to my baking ability, but I persevered with this because the whole idea of making something out of nothing appealed to me…

I followed a basic recipe where you use 400g flour – so far I have only used bread flour, to roughly 7 and a half fluid ounces of water, with 12 – 14 g of starter.

A useful hint is to “autolyse” the flour and water – basically just stir them together and let it sit in a warm place for an hour or so…this lets the gluten in the flour absorb the water and do its stretchy thing.

Then you can mix in your starter, cover it up and leave in a warm place to prove. You don’t get as much rise as you would with traditional yeast, that’s why it’s left longer. Some people leave theirs up to three days, I find overnight is generally good.

Now you can start playing…through trial and error I discovered bun tins work best for me, also, grease and flour your tins before use, that way it comes out easier.

This was one of my earlier attempts. Not long enough in the oven…

Sourdough bread is more close textured than usual bread, something to do with the gas given off by the yeast and expanding..

I should also mention it’s a wetter dough too but don’t worry about it, just flour your hands and pull it about to shape, or scoop into tins – whatever. You’re aiming for a stretchy dough that is almost translucent. I had to enlist the service of Mr.CC as I have pulled a muscle weeding..

And there you go. I have discovered you can add stuff before you bake like poppy seeds…I must also say sourdough has a unique chewy crust, so to get this, put a little dish of water in your oven to make a steam effect.

These are poppy seed and cranberry…Don’t forget, a wetter dough means a slightly longer cooking time. I seem to be averaging 35 minutes with these little buns. Test by tapping on the bottom – if it sounds hollow it’s generally done. I tip mine out and let them have two minutes extra just to make sure they are cooked inside.

Then enjoy! They freeze well too and I promise you will feel positively prehistoric in your baking triumph!

“Tulips From Amsterdam”…Well, My Garden…

Isn’t it funny how standards just gradually slide… away…. I say this because I have spent the last four days in my gardening trousers and dressing gown. I did get some funny looks when I ventured out, but..strange times.

We have been lucky with the weather so I have been out in the garden. I love renewing my acquaintance with the flowers of every season as they come through and at the moment it’s tulip time.

Ice cream anyone..these ones remind me of raspberry ripple!

I will spare you my rendition of “Tulips From Amsterdam” by the immortal Max Bygraves, but my grandad used to sing this song to me when I was a little girl, and it’s one of my earliest memories, walking round the gaden with him and admiring the silky petals and vibrant colours of these popular flowers.

These orange ones are fabulous, paired with the white…

Grandad had a fondness for the red tulips, I always thought the black stamens resembled spiders’ legs, but when I grew up and got my own garden I planted some tulips bulbs of my very own as a matter of course.

One for you Grandad…

Now. Although tulips are generally associated with Holland they actually originated from the Ottoman Empire – modern Turkey – where they were cultivated from a native wild flower for the pleasure of one particular sultan in the 16th century.

This year’s Suffragette Corner….

The word ‘tulip’ comes from the word for ‘turban’ or ‘material’, I think, but the shape of the petals and their silky texture always remind me of harem pants…the bulbs were imported from Turkey to Holland where they became so popular and sought after they created their own economic bubble.

I love the purity of white flowers…

They were even used as currency at one point, although I am pleased to say I buy my bulbs at a much more reasonable price, but you can see why they were – and still are – just so popular! Look…

These frilly edged ones are known as parrot tulips, the purple ones are as rich as velvet…

“Stay At Home…”

Firstly I must say that I hope everyone is safe and well. I confess I thought this staying at home thing would be easy, plenty to keep me engaged… here is a little break down of my past week.

Day 1:

Make list of everything that I need to do, then notice the sun is shining so get sidetracked and go outside where I end up moving three azaleas and planting some radish seeds.

Day 2:

Look at list. Make cheesecake. Eat cheesecake while binge watching so much “True Blood” and “American Horror Story” I feel my brain has turned to mush and will probably slide out my nose if I bend over.

Day 3:

Look at list. Think about doing at least one item on the list. Go outside. Find garden gnomes and instruct partner to repaint said garden gnomes. Argue over what to call garden gnomes. Him: “No, you can’t call them all Dave!” Me: “But why not? They all look like Daves!” Settle on compromise of calling one Dave and the others after the cast of “True Blood”. Dig large hole at the bottom of the garden and eye partner speculatively till he retreats nervously indoors.

Dave…

Day 4:

Look at list. Throw list away. Make trifle. Eat trifle. Go upstairs to tidy bedroom, have a little sit down on the bed and fall asleep, only to wake up and find not only have I drooled in my hair but I missed “Gardener’s World” too.

Day 5:

Decide to go out. Make comprehensive list of everything we need. Go to shop. Discover list is at home and return with pickled beetroot and cat food, neither of which were on the list.

Day 6

Go through music on phone. Play “Crank That ” by Soulja Boy Watch “Crank That” video on YouTube. Learn steps of dance to “Crank That”. Practise steps in front of mirror. Show assembled cats my version of “Crank That” by Soulja Boy. Run after cats as they flee in horror from my “cranking back”.

“Perhaps if we keep very still she’ll just run straight past us…”

Day 7:

Tidy wardrobe and throw old clothes away. Realise you don’t know when you’ll be able to get out and buy new clothes so retrieve previously discarded clothes, carefully replacing errant woodlouse outside.

Seriously though friends, I write to raise a smile in these difficult times – it can help, as does gardening. If you don’t have a garden, try growing something from your fruit or vegetable scraps – I have a thriving celery plant that has its origins in a large supermarket..The sense of achievement is lovely, as is the sense of looking after something living and growing.

Check out some book lists – various libraries around the world are offering thousands of books to download for free. Do something physical – not necessarily “Crank That”.. – just something to get the blood moving.

My version of a sourdough starter…

Eat if not well then at least inventively… A few ideas at any rate. And of course, look after yourselves.

Happy New Year!

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Perhaps a little late, but here we are – 2020, perfect vision, a new decade, the Roaring Twenties again… and I find I have taken the roaring part quite literally to heart.

Regular readers may recall I was searching for that little je ne sais quoi, the little added extra, a flourish, if you will, to add as I get off the bus and run away. The running away part is definitely catching on, I’m pleased to say.

On my journey into town the other day I noticed several ladies leaping off the bus and running onwards to their next destination. Not so much men though…come on chaps! Where’s your spirit of, um, adventure!

Anyway. I was with Alex in Asda, just before Christmas, actually, and it was packed. Thronging with desperate last minute shoppers – “Well, why won’t she eat that? She ate it last year!” – “Please stop doing that, Mummy’s very tired and Santa won’t come if you carry on being a little s&*t!”- and all I wanted to buy were the staple supplies of any conscientious cat owner, three different types of wet food and four packets of treats for the Girlies’ stockings, and I found myself welling up with frustration at the mass of humanity seething around me.

I couldn’t help it. I let out a little roar. Alex looked at me, concerned and more than a little alarmed at the unusual noise I produced. So I did it again. And was mildly gratified as one family shot me a wary look and moved to another queue…

I opened my mouth again, preparing.

No Mum, don’t! Look! We’re here now!” Alex interrupted hurriedly, and we paid for the shopping and left.

Then I added in a roar as I ran away from the bus and actually found it quite liberating… Alex was … horrified. Then my mother came for dinner the other week, and afterwards, Alex, his boyfriend and I walked her to the bus stop.

Having seen her safely aboard, I began to run off. Puzzled, Alex’s boyfriend gamely followed me, as did Alex with a look of grim resignation on his face.

Why are we running?” his boyfriend enquired.

No reason,” I replied, then I gave a bit of a roar too.

Ah! I see!” he said, giving a bit of a roar too and throwing himself wholly into the spirit of things…and although Alex ran with us, he declined to roar…

So. Happy belated New Year, everybody, and may you enjoy the new “Roaring Twenties” in every sense of the word!

                                                                                  *

Look what’s happening next week – we have a guest! The lovely Marje from Kyrosmagica is coming for a chat (and maybe tea and cake) to kick off her blog tour with us and tell us about her new book!  We’re looking forward to seeing her and hearing all about it as it’s a magical mix of short stories, poems and photographs… and perhaps even a cat!

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Organite And Organisation.

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That came out of nowhere… readers – they got me. Just when I thought I had successfully escaped the onslaught of germs a chest infection crept up and got me, gleefully destroying all my carefully laid plans, trampling all over my neatly written lists and positively p—-ng all over my timetables for blog posts, shopping, relative visiting…

Oh well. Man plans and God laughs. Perhaps I should invest in some more Organite. This combination of resin, crystals and natural materials is reputed to help balance and strengthen a person’s energetic field, giving protection too against EMF’s.

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Thank you Liz for the models x

Organite can also help to intensify meditation, boost plant growth and disperse negative energy, giving strength and purpose to intentions and visualisations. Orgone energy was originally discovered in the 1930’s although the idea of a Universal Life Energy is obviously not a new one.

Everything – from a teacup to a tangerine to a terrapin – is made of energy. Wilhelm Reich established the idea of orgone in 1930’s although in Chinese traditional medicine it is known as “Qi”, in Ayurveda it’s “Prana.” Reiki, of course, uses these energies to help heal and repair imbalances in the body.

Organite can come in any shape, as long as it contains a mix of organic and non-organic materials to simultaneously attract and repel the bio-energy. It generally contains a mix of flowers, crystals, metal shavings – all encased in a petro-chemical resin. Then these shapes can be used in healing and maintaining good health. Different people respond differently to Orgone as some feel it immediately as a warm tingling sensation where others may notice an improvement after sustained use.

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Basically though, Orgone can help with better sleep, higher energy levels, balanced moods, increased resistance to illness and spiritual and psychological growth so Life can progress in an orderly and organised fashion. Allowing for cats, of course…

On the night before Christmas Eve, Charlie was thoroughly over excited and spent her time chasing either Ting or Tooty up and down the stairs to the extent they were sick…Lily became strangely obsessed with the parsnips, who were just sitting innocently on the side minding their own business till she started rolling on them…Charlie had to sit on my knee to open her present and got thoroughly over excited again on Christmas Day and when my mother joined us for dinner Ting decided she would rather spend the day in silent contemplation in my bed.

Tooty disappeared on private business – I think she moonlights as a spy, possibly – and despite feeling like I’d been kicked in the chest by a rhino I managed to cook the dinner, make a beautiful pumpkin pie and an extremely nice trifle thanks to a recipe by the amazing Queen Mary of Berry.. as well as managing to enjoy half a glass of red wine and my rescued parsnips – which were very nice, roasted with herbs, salt and covered in gravy…

So. Now I just need to extend this organisational ability a little further…polish one completed manuscript, finish a second, catch up with my WordPress friends, redecorate the bathroom and – breathe!

But here’s to 2020 friends – love to you all and thank you from the bottom of my heart for sticking with me! xxx

In Sickness…Theirs…And In Health…Mine….

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I don’t know how the present weather is affecting the rest of the country, but here in the East Midlands, the rain has not only flooded the surrounding farmlands and countryside, but also seems to have created a fetid fug of soup like flu symptoms that just seem to be trapped in the bowl created by our natural geology, just circulating endlessly…

Now. Don’t get me wrong, I am not unsympathetic to people who are ill… but I do feel quite strongly they should keep their germs to themselves. It started with a hat trick of grandmas… my mother, a confirmed and dedicated smoker, generally has a smoker’s cough, but on this particular day it seemed a little more…vehement than usual.

You’re going to be ill, aren’t you,” I observed, with trepidation.

My mother is a retired nurse and a Yorkshire woman to boot, consequently she is as stubborn as hell and the worst patient ever.

No, don’t be – hrgghhh! – stupid Samantha – bleughhh-ahh!- I’m fine!”

The dogs laid back their ears and retreated to the kitchen. I did likewise.

Then my partner’s mother had the flu jab and promptly caught flu. I had just run home from getting off the bus, contemplating how to add an extra flourish to my run away with a squat, or a forwards roll, perhaps, when-

SAM! SAM! MAM’S NOT WELL!”

What do you mean?” I enquired, more than a little alarmed because she is getting on a bit and has had a few health problems.

“’ER EYES ARE ROLLING AND SHE’S BREATHING FUNNY!”

I decided this necessitated further investigation and trotted round, curbing an arbitrary impulse to attempt a vault over the gate, and ran upstairs to have a look at her.

Are you all right?” I enquired cautiously, poking my head round the door.

Hrrhhha wahhggrr!”

Ah. Let’s sit you up a bit…”

I helped her sit up and her chest eased a little and I sent my partner back to our house for eucalyptus oil.

A cup of tea, essential oil inhalant and a laugh later, I am very pleased to say she was looking a lot better.

Then, although not known to me personally, I heard that Alex’s partner’s grandma was ill too – I spent some time with the Wishing Tree in my garden, asking for help and healing from the Appropriate Places.

Then I went to my mother’s yesterday for dinner, we were watching “Countryfile” and I asked her for the television guide so I could check something. She sneezed in it, closed the pages and offered it to me.

No, I’ll let you keep that,” I said politely, as the dog sneezed in Mum’s face, triggering another coughing fit.

I returned home to be greeted by the mournful face of my partner, mouth breathing, wheezing and coughing… I thrust paracetamol, honey and echinacea at him, seized my sage and thyme infusion and ginger capsules and fled upstairs.

So. I have been taking powdered ginger in capsule form for about a month, I gargle with sage and thyme infusion, have a spoonful of honey every day, a pack of sanitising wipes to hand and I have anointed myself liberally with patchouli and lavender essential oils, hoping that their overpowering scent will fox any particularly persistent germs.

Just in case though – I have my lovely doctor on speed dial…

*

On a serious note, friends, look after yourselves in this season of illness, and I hope you’ll join with me in wishing my wonderful friend Jean at The Canadian Cats all the very best for a speedy recovery back to full health. Get well soon, Jean, love from all of us here xxxx

A Bit Of A Re-Blog…

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I just seem to have had one of those weeks where I have run out of time, not been able to catch up with anything and I have been using the same shopping list for the past ten days…consequently we have plenty of cat kibbles, a bewildering preponderance of frozen peas, pepperoni and vegan pizzas and an advent calendar for Charlie. The others don’t bother so much but Charlie loves the daily thrill of opening the little doors…

Anyway, I was trying to catch up with my NaNo when I found this little story from a few years ago, and it made me feel a little sad at how bleakly it read, although the original idea was actually sparked by a charming dinner service I saw in our supermarket, with all manner of fanciful beasties…have a read and see what you think, friends, and I will try to be more organised and catch up with everybody…

Alice Updated.

Don’t worry, you’ll make friends once you’ve settled in.”

Don’t forget to work hard, we know what you students are like, out drinking all night!”

These words fell on frightened ears as her parents left her. They left her, in the hall of residence in a nameless, faceless block in a city she didn’t know and she was afraid.

It was bleak, it was dark, it was autumn and she longed for the golden days of summer when she had been at school. The city was brutal, it was dark and it rained. She didn’t know where she was or how she felt to be so tenderly abandoned. She was not equipped for this.

The gentle county of her youth, her kind teachers and thoughtful friends, the lessons, the plans, the routine, these were things she understood.

Scornful tutors mouthed incomprehensible words in echoing lecture theatres and people laughed. She couldn’t eat, she didn’t know how. And yet, and yet, she was touched with kindness as others saw her and were drawn to this sad, lonely girl, “Alice of the Otherworld” as the darkness called her.

Here, come out with us, have a drink, you’ll feel better!”

The tall dark boy with knives in his eyes laughed like a maniac and pushed the glass towards her.

She drank, and was transported. Down and down she fell, tumbling down a smooth golden tunnel that smelled enticingly of childhood and weepingly of home.

When she opened her eyes, she was lying in a field. The day was golden and dusted with sunshine, the old oak tree she reclined against felt warm and comfortable, as comforting as her bed at home.

She sat up and her hands touched grass, grass that slithered through her fingers as soft as silk and as warm as blood. A winged rabbit fluttered by, its delicate wings etched in green, flushing pink as it startled at her presence and shied away.

And as she looked, and looked again, what at first she took for flowers beat their wings and flew away in a chattering flock, and she heard the swallows singing at home as they prepared to fly to Africa.

She sighed and laid down again. This was not home, but it would do, the echoes were familiar and some of it was comforting. She drew this atmosphere around her, like her duvet at home, and shut her eyes.

*

Ally! Ally! No! Ally, wake up! You bastard, what did you give her?”

The dark youth smiled uneasily and slid away, as her head lolled and a trickle of thin, yellow vomit escaped her smiling mouth, while the one who would have loved her grabbed his phone and cried.

Murder By Moussaka…

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Not moussaka… 

Now. Regular readers might remember I have a few issues around the subject of food. Don’t get me wrong – I love food, am an avid watcher of cookery programmes and enjoy myself cooking and baking when I have the opportunity.

No… it’s the reverse. The older I get, the more foods I find that dislike me. The other day I went to my mother’s for dinner – I am aware that she thinks my food foibles are pretty much in my head, but I also get extremely anxious whenever I discuss food and what I can and cannot eat with her. She comes from a generation where you show your love and appreciation by eating whatever is put in front of you, clearing your plate and asking for more… it took me twenty years to pluck up the courage to tell her I detest Brussels sprouts…

Look!” she said, gesturing proudly and a little defiantly towards the oven – “I made moussaka!”

Ah.” I said, a little hesitantly. “Does it have-”

Only the tiniest amount of cheese in the sauce, but you can’t expect me to eat it otherwise!”

I subsided, duly chastened and already worried… my stomach rubbing its nasty little paws in anticipation.

Mother served the moussaka, and it lay there, on my plate, plumptious and tempting. Savoury layers of aubergine and courgette, chinks of onion, like little pearls, interspersed with nodules of seasoned brown mince, glistening like the sweat on a lover’s brow, and over all this, billows of creamy white sauce, smooth, subtly beckoning, flowing sensuously over everything…

Reader – I ate it.

And managed to make it all the way home before the roiling indigestion, knotting stomach cramps, nausea – well, you get the picture.

Lying pale and limp on my bed, surrounded by sympathetic cats (well, vaguely concerned if I’m honest) I got a text from my mother.

Hope you enjoyed dinner – see you tomorrow xx”

I can only conclude she was setting up her alibi…

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A butterfly. Butterflies are good.