Surrounded by Soap and Squam Love

The Squam Art Fair was lots of fun last weekend, although it went by way too quickly! Look how cute our sheep soaps were in their display:

Surrounded by Soap and Squam Love | Woolen Diversions

The sweetest, soapiest flock.

I wasn’t totally sure it would make financial sense for Sweet Sheep to go to Squam since it was a short show that involved a 6 hour round-trip drive, a pricey vendor fee, and paying for accommodations. But the Fiasco and I figured ‘what the hell!’ and we made a little weekend of it. Right after we set up our booth, a very nice woman came up to us and said something along the lines of “I’m not sure where you came from but it was probably a long trip. Take a moment, go down by the lake, catch your breath, find your center” and my immediate thought was OMG CAN I PLEASE LIVE HERE FOREVER?

Surrounded by Soap and Squam Love | Woolen Diversions

Sereeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeene.

That moment by the lake was lovely, and I wish I had more of it. Things were pretty lovely inside the vending space, as well. Funnily enough, there were not one but two other vendors there from Rhode Island, both members of the Rhode Island Spinners Guild: Katy, who makes great buttons, gauges, and other knitterly accessories for Katrinkles, and Allison, who owns Shetland sheep and sells fiber and knitting kits for Frogmore Farm.

All the vendors present were selling unique and beautiful things. There were some great upcycled fabric items, fun twisted pottery, beautiful photography, and incredibly gorgeous bags by Lisa of Red Staggerwing (I couldn’t resist taking home a wristlet).

But the best part of the weekend, for me, was getting our tired-and-achey selves up the side of a small mountain for a gorgeous view across the Squam lake region.

I wish there had been ever-so-much-more of that, but alas, we had to return home. Now I am up to my elbows in work deadlines (oh joy) as well as soap deadlines, as I’m in the midst of filling a few large orders. I am looking forward to someday being able to sleep again. Maybe this weekend?

Finally, I’m happy to announce that if you live near Santa Clarita, CA you can shop for Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe products IN PERSON at Creative Ewe yarn shop! Christian, the new owner of the shop, is super enthusiastic and was wonderful to work with, I’m willing to bet that great things are in store for the shop! If you’re ever in the area, be sure to check it out.

Five Things Friday

Since I have absolutely zero FO’s and no actual knitting or spinning progress to show you (actually less than what I showed Wednesday since I bit the bullet and frogged back that green sock), I figured I’d share 5 random things that are making me happy today.

1) I’m really intrigued by this Kelbourne Woolens Mystery KAL:

Image copyright Kelbourne Woolens. Click for blog post.

I’m not usually a fan of mystery KALs, and I need another shawl (ok, project) like I need a hole in the head, but I like the the patterns that resulted from the previous two MKALs (here and here) and I’m intrigued by the yarn they’re promoting: The Fibre Company Meadow, a laceweight blend of Merino wool, llama, silk, and linen. Also, hyndrangeas are my favorite flower. I think I’m grasping for excuses here…

2) This recipe for a Paleo rhubarb clafoutis is absolutely scrummy, and super simple to make. Most Paleo-fied desserts are shockingly high in fat and calories, but this one is comparatively easy on the metabolism. You mix eggs, almond milk, almond meal/flour, coconut sugar, and fruit (I’ve used both rhubarb and strawberries) and bake it into a delicious little bread-pudding-like treat. The recipe serves 8, and each serving contains 173 cals, 10g fat, 17 g carbs, 11.5 g sugar, and 6.5 g protein. I occasionally double the serving and have it for breakfast topped with blueberries. Yum!

Photo from FastPaleo.com

3) This article from Cool Green Science delves into the details of why being in nature makes us happy. The isolation of people, especially kids, from nature is something I really worry about as an ecologist/conservationist/Earth-conscious human and I’m stoked that people are doing work to provide hard evidence about why it’s important for us to have regular experiences outside of climate-controlled walls and glass windows. In particular, the article writes “Numerous studies suggest that recent increases in the levels of mental disorders globally are tied to increasing urbanization and people’s decreasing exposure to nature.” Now doesn’t that sound like something we should care about?

4) On that note, I’m going camping this weekend and am ridiculously excited about it! Even though it’ll be chilly at night, I can’t wait to be OUTSIDE, in the WOODS, for multiple days IN A ROW, with actual honest-to-goodness, in-person FRIENDS! (That sentence, right there, is a reminder of how isolated I usually am from friends, the outdoors, and leisure time.)

5) And finally, I leave you with this random photo of my fluff-tastic Darwin, posing in an awfully majestic manner.

My fuzzy little man.

Have a happy weekend, friends!

WIPWed #81 : Bits & Bobs

Not much has changed in my knitting situation since Monday’s sock-filled post, but I have made progress on the second leg of my Tropical Travelers and put a bit more time into the Fiasco’s neglected pair.

WIPWed #81: Bits & Bobs | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Socks That Rock Heavyweight, colorway Tea & Alchemy

I’m now up to the heel flap and will get to it when I have time to focus/remember what I did the first time (siiiiiiigh). I also spent a happy evening last night plying up most of the rest of the 17 oz of Ashland Bay Falkland wool that I’ve been spinning on my Lendrum.

WIPWed #81: Bits & Bobs | Woolen Diversions

I love my skein winder from The Woolery.

After 1.5 hours of plying I was just too sleepy to finish, so hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in some time to finish the last bobbin’s worth tonight. I’m be excited to get something with some color on the wheel!

Image from the @hotdudesreading Instagram account.

Can I just say how amused I am that the @hotdudesreading Instagram account is a thing? Go check it out… I’ll wait. It’s fairly new, but already has 93,000 followers (and counting). Speaking of books, I’ve had to take a break from reading the Outlander series. After powering through the fourth book (Drums of Autumn) at breakneck speed, I realized that I was perhaps a wee bit addicted. I spent every spare moment over the weekend with my nose buried in my Kindle and it just began to feel a little unhealthy (not to mention emotionally draining, those books are roller coaster thrill rides, lemme tell you). So I switched my focus to what is likely not any healthier but at least a change of pace: The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart.
WIPWed #81: Bits & Bobs | Woolen Diversions

Current reading.

I’m not a big drinker at all, but I’ve recently discovered the allure of the fancy cocktail. When I visited my friends in NYC over Christmas, we went to a French restaurant and an upscale bar where I had, by far, the most delicious drinks of my entire life. The one at the French restaurant involved rosemary and rose wine (as far as I can remember) and something I drank at the bar contained egg whites, which made for a delightfully frothy drink. As with everything that catches my attention, I wanted to know MORE. I didn’t want to just drink what was put in front of me, I wanted to know the why’s and the how’s and the history behind it all. Since my dear friend Katy knows me so well, she gifted me the book above for my birthday (along with Shake, a super hipster but super awesome cocktail recipe book) and now I can’t stop reading. It proceeds alphabetically through all of the plants, spices, seeds, fruits, nuts, and various other plant parts that have been ingredients in pretty much any kind of alcohol, ever. She provides a little botanical information about the species as well as the history of its use by humans and its effect in various drinks. (In that way, it reminds me quite a bit of Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire, which details the mutually beneficial relationship between humans and four domesticated plants: potatoes, apples, tulips, and cannabis.) For an information sponge like me, it’s pretty awesome, and I’m fiercely looking forward to hosting a cocktail party during which I not only mix you a delicious drink to cure whatever’s ailing you, but also spout Fun Plant Facts at the same time. BWAHAHAHAHAHA. I’m so fun to party with, guys, for reals. #Katycreatedamonster

yarnalong_gsheller_aquaI’m linking up to this week’s Yarn Along at Small Things as well as Stitch Along Wednesday at the Life and Yarn or Yarn and Life blog. Have a lovely week, all!

WIPWed #64: De-Funking

Sometimes I find myself bogged down in the day-to-day of everything. Things become overwhelming, I start feeling impatient, and nothing I do seems to work out as planned. I don’t have any answers for how to feel better about all of that stuff, but I do know that coming home to a bunch of yarn-y goodies is a quick way to snap out of a funk.

Indie Untangled Swap | Woolen Diversions

Indie Untangled Summer of Love Swap

I participated in the Indie Untangled Summer of Love swap and my package arrived on exactly the right afternoon. My swap partner went with a beach-y theme and gave me delightfully beach-scented wax tarts and soap, beach reading material, and frozen drink mix. She also included some tasty healthy snacks and beautiful little fish box. She added some yarn from her stash as well as this gorgeous skein from Canon Hand Dyes:

Canon Hand Dyes | Woolen Diversions

Custom-dyed Canon Hand Dyes yarn!

My swap partner had Amy custom dye a skein of yarn in all of my favorite colors, and she totally nailed it! I hear this special Indie Untangled colorway will be available at the pre-Rhinebeck Trunk Show. I’m super psyched about this yarn. I’ve been wanting to try the self-striping Canon Hand Dyes yarn for a long time and have been stalking destashes to no avail. I can’t wait to knit this skein up.

BMFA RWC fiber | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Rockin’ Whorl Club Ecru Merino/Black Tussah Silk

I had another surprise waiting for me yesterday, as well: the August shipment of the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin’ Whorl Club. This fiber is 80% ecru Merino / 20% black Tussah silk and it is just lovely. Tina dyed jewel tones interspersed with the naturally salt-and-pepper fiber. She named it Nanu Nanu in honor of Robin Williams. I love it. She told a story in her dyer’s notes about how her mother used to say things along the lines of “you are only as bored or as happy as you want to be” and she mentioned how spinning is her way of slowing down time and grabbing at that happiness. It was a little nugget of wisdom that I really needed to hear.

Three Waters Farm BFL | Woolen Diversions

Spinning some BFL dyed by Three Waters Farm.

So I dusted off my wheel (literally) and sat down to deliberately spin for the first time all summer. I took some of my favorite fiber and about 30 minutes to just enjoy myself. I highly recommend fiber therapy.

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Nature therapy.

I also recommend nature therapy. Over the long weekend I went camping with the Fiasco and a couple of friends and it was glorious. We unplugged from our computers and phones and just enjoyed each other’s company. We went to a Renn Faire, biked through the woods, swam in a pond, and ate s’mores to our hearts’ content. It was an excellent way to wind down the summer and it was something my soul really needed.

How do you de-funk-ify yourself, when needed?

Pura Vida! Part 2

When I last spoke about my Costa Rican honeymoon, we were preparing to leave Alajuela (in the Central Valley) and travel 4-5 hours to Cahuita, a quiet little town on the Caribbean coast. Like last time, I’ve created photo galleries so that if you hover over a picture its caption should pop up, and if you click on a picture it will take you to a large-sized version of the photo. Onwards!

Our entire first day consisted of travel, more or less. It was fascinating to watch the landscape change from mountainous and crowded to more pastoral and full of pineapple, palm, and banana plantations. We stopped at the Del Monte processing facility on our way. The workday was over so there wasn’t too much to see, but it was interesting anyway. When we finally arrived at Coral Hill Bungalows, we were thrilled. The owners were incredibly friendly and helpful, the bungalow itself was gorgeous, and it had a lovely front porch. And the fresh fruit and pastry breakfasts were delightful, I had the best croissants of my life there. I highly recommend this location if you’re planning to travel to Cahuita! We were happy that the longest stretch of our trip (4 days) was spent there. Just be sure you go to the correct Playa Negra when you’re looking for it, our driver went to the one in Puerto Viejo accidentally at first! Our first full day in Cahuita happened to be the Fiasco’s birthday, so we headed to the bus station to visit a very special place.

You know this is the only part of this post that anyone will care about: SLOTHS! We visited the Sloth Sanctuary because the man wanted to see sloths on his birthday, and see sloths we did. Apparently Buttercup has her own TV show and is kind of a big deal. Part of the tour involved a canoe ride down the river (for which the torrential rain stopped and the sun came out just in time) where we saw an abundance of wildlife: bats, lizards, birds, and of course, some rehabilitated sloths. There are two species of sloths in Costa Rica: the two-fingered sloth and the three-fingered sloth. Surprisingly little is known about their reproductive habits, for one of them we have no idea how long gestation is and cannot tell when a sloth is pregnant until a wee little sloth pops out one day. As a biologist, I find it fascinating how little is still known about basic life history of some species. (Which makes me particularly worried about the rate of extinction, the idea of losing things we have yet to discover or understand is extra horrible.) And then there were baby sloths, which are just about the cutest things ever.

We made friends with a neighborhood dog, whom we dubbed Sweetheart. He accompanied us on our walks every single time we left our bungalow, I don’t know how he found us! On our second day, we decided to make the most of the one truly sunny day of our trip and visit the Cahuita National Park for a short hike and a swim. This park is an absolute must-visit. The beginning of the trail is easy to hike, mostly a wide, flat sandy stretch. There is wildlife everywhere (more on that later) and easy access to long  stretches of unoccupied beaches. At a couple points along the trail you need to wade through a shallow river, and eventually we had to stop hiking because the trails were essentially 4″ deep in mud (yay, rainy season) and one of us had a little hissy fit about that (not naming names). But it all worked out for the best, since we spent an enjoyable afternoon rolling around in the bathwater-warm waves. As a native Long Islander, the concept of warm water at the beach is completely foreign to me! It was beautiful, though. Leafcutter ants, by the by, are some of the coolest insects ever. They actually practice agriculture! They cut leaves, carry them back to their nests, and use them as a culture to grow a very specific type of fungus that they eat for food. Seriously guys, biology is fascinating.

That’s all I have time for today, but I’ll finish summing up our time in Cahuita in the next post! What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or learned about in nature? Has anything else been inspiring you lately? Share with us!

IS

Exactly Like That

You know when people say something “feels like being hit by a truck?” Well, that’s exactly how our post-honeymoon life has felt, especially since we were literally hit by a moving truck our first morning back in Rhode Island. Not fun, guys. Thankfully we were moving slowly and nobody was hurt but filing police reports and dealing with insurance claims is not a particularly pleasant way to transition back into ‘real life’.

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The Fiasco inspecting the (hopefully) minor damage.

Blargghhh. In other news, our Costa Rican honeymoon was fabulous. It was truly incredible. Neither of us had ever been on an international trip before so it was extra exciting, full of adventure, and a real learning experience. Maybe that’s not what most people want for their honeymoon (relaxing, sunny, and decadent comes more often to mind) but it was perfect for us.

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View of the Central Valley.

There were lovely mountain views.

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A gorgeous plant.

There was incredible plant life of all shapes, sizes, and forms.

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Typical Costa Rican casada.

There was lots of delicious food.

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Adorable snuggly sloth.

There was an abundance of amazing wildlife.

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A glimpse of the Caribbean Sea.

And there was just a bit of sunny splashing in the Caribbean Sea (it was the rainy season, so sunny days were unfortunately rare).

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Honeymoon selfie!

The morning we were leaving I cried, I just didn’t want to go. The country is beautiful, the people were so friendly, and each day brought something new and wonderful into our lives. Now that I’m home, I’m trying not to be overwhelmed by all the little stressors that seem to be piling up around us. I’m trying to get back into the groove of things, to appreciate how much our cats missed us (lots of kitty snuggles), to prepare for upcoming Sweet Sheep shows, to take stock and prioritize, and to figure out how to best relate our adventures. I think I’ll replace my typical Inspiration Saturday posts for the next few weeks with posts about each of the three parts of our trip, to spread things out a bit and more quickly resume normal knitting and spinning-related blogging in the meantime. How does that sound?

I hope you all have been well! I’ll be playing blog catch-up for a while, but I’m looking forward to getting back in touch with the creative world again. This summer has passed by like a speeding train which means that fall is just around the corner, which always brings with it lots of knitterly goodness, so who wouldn’t be excited about that? I’m doing my best to take things one thing at a time and remember what they say in Costa Rica: pura vida (pure life)!

WIPWed #47: Progress?

Hello readers, happy Wednesday. I appear to have only knit on thing I can show you this week (some other secret things will have to wait). Due to spending time at an actual, in-person knit night with a couple of my friends over the weekend as well as watching a painful, 2.5 hour debate last night (science vs. creationism… sigh), I’ve covered quite a bit of ground on my Kelp-y Kelpie shawl.

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Brooklyn Tweed Loft in Sweatshirt. Click for project page.

Since this is a knitting blog I won’t go off on a whole big rant but I will say that there is a lot of angst knit into that bit of shawl from watching those “debates”. Religion (or any other purely belief-based mode of thinking) has no place in a science classroom. Evolution is the underlying mechanism throughout all of biology and children deserve to be taught the way the majority of the scientific community understands the universe and its laws. ‘Logic’ is not a natural law, ‘viable’ does not mean what Ken Ham seems to think it means, and words and language and their interpretation — no matter what book they are found in — are a human construct. There are differences between assumptions and inferences, hind-casting past events based on current observations is an actual, doable process, and any philosopher of science will tell you that a scientific theory is not a viable or useful theory unless it is based on current observations AND can be used to make predictions about future observations. And I’ll stop there.

To make up for the lack of knitting and profusion of science-y angst, here’s an update on my current spinning projects, as well.

Loop! Bump

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Loop! Bullseye Bump. Click for project page.

I’m nearly to the end of this pretty gradient bump of fiber, just the aqua and the grey to finish, but I may have to abandon it for now to do some birthday present spinning for my mom. There’s some sparkly alpaca she requested and darn it, she’s going to get it!

Quiviut/Alpaca:

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North Light Fibers Quiviut/Alpaca. Click for project page.

This is the most delicate spinning I’ve ever done. Itty bitty fluffy fibers in the softest cloud imaginable form a thin, fuzzy single on my smallest spindle. I’m enjoying every minute of this one, picking it up here and there. The Namaste Skinny Mini case that I picked up at Stitches is the perfect size to carry this spindle and a bit of fluff (just keep in mind it is a very small spindle, weighing about a 1/2 ounce).

Rockin’ Whorl Club Camel/Merino/Silk:

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BMFA Camel/Merino/Silk, colorway Spring Dreamin’. Click for project page.

And last but not least is my lovely Rockin’ Whorl Club fiber. All these warm tones are not usually my colors but I’m really loving them during this white, snowy winter. This fiber just makes me happy. I have a BMFA gift certificate I’m debating how to spend and buying some more of their luscious fiber is probably going to happen. The hard part will be deciding which fiber? which colorway? SO MANY CHOICES. That’s part of why I love the club so much, something gorgeous just shows up at my door every other month, no need to debate!

That’s all I have this week. Check out more WIPs at Tamis Amis.

IS #32: Into The Woods

Happy Saturday, all! This week’s inspiration is nature/the outdoors/the woods because as you’re reading this, I’ve happily unplugged from my computer and have gone off camping for a few days. I love camping and once a year just isn’t enough, but I cherish what I can manage to squeeze in. Cross your fingers that the weather holds out! Here are a few fun woods-related knits I found on Ravelry.

Copyright throughtheloops on flickr

This is the Wood Hollow Vest designed by Kristen Kapur. I love the heathered, textured, cable-y goodness of this vest and it makes me think instantly of fall. I’d love to make one and wear it myself but I have yet to find a button-down collared shirt that fits me in any way and can’t think of what else I’d layer it with. I feel like the design is a but formal-looking to wear just over a tee…

Copyright knittysticks on flickr

These fabulous things are the Maine Woods & Rivers Mittens designed by Pat Higgens and are offered for free. They have such a great colorwork motif and nice details like the double layered cuff and the corrugated ribbing. They look nice and cozy, too.

Copyright Kalurah on Ravelry

This interesting, oversized hood/cowl combo is Through the Woods… designed by Kalurah. It’s completely charming and probably super warm, I’m just not sure I could picture myself actually wearing it… at least not for the short walk from house-car-office. Maybe if I were back in college or living somewhere where I had to walk long distances outdoors in the cold more often than not.

Copyright Emily Ross on Ravelry

And of course there is an explosion of leaf-related patterns on Ravelry but one of my favorite bits of slightly subtle leafy goodness is the Haruni shawl designed by Emily Ross. I started and frogged this one long ago during an overambitious Malabrigo March. I should probably revisit it as it’s a gorgeous design.

What’s your favorite nature-reminiscent pattern? While we’re at it, know of any good campsites or hiking trails in New England?

Also inspiring: this is my 300th post! That’s a lot of blogging! To celebrate, all of my patterns are 30% off on Ravelry with the coupon code ‘300wow’ until next Saturday. Just a little inspiration special for my lovely blog readers, but feel free to spread the word to other bloggers who may not have found me yet! 🙂

Inspiration Saturday is for sharing whatever has been sparking your creativity this week. Please link along below!

All Caught Up!

Alrighty, I’ve already shown you some photos from Cheekwood Gardens as well as photos of my totally-necessary-and-wonderful-sourvenir yarn and the Nashville Zoo. Here are just a few remnants from last week’s vacation (two weeks ago already?) to round out your vicarious adventures.


There were some neat sculptures along a wooded path in Cheekwood Gardens. Here you see my Fiasco befriending a tortoise sculpture, my mom demonstrating the power of another sculpture, my favorite sculpture showing a body/tree trunk, and my Fiasco and Dad trapped with T-rex arms in chairs too small for their shoulders (just because it’s adorable).

By the end of a week in Nashville I was more than a little sick of country music but here are photos of the outside of the Grand Ol’ Opry, a stylin’ dress from within the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Elvis’s totally reasonable gold-plated, diamond-dusted vehicle.

I lived in Florida for a year in between my undergrad and grad school days, during which time I made a very dear friend Candice, shown here with her fiance, Greg. I had only been able to see her once in the past 5 years so it was awesome to get to see her again, however briefly! We headed to the woods for a hike where we saw rivers, old Native American forts, and idyllic farmhouses.

The Fiasco and I took advantage of our time alone on the trip to see more streams, happy smiles, neat water-carved rocks, and big ol’ trees with gnarly roots.

Finally, for no reason whatsoever other than it seemed A Thing To Do In Tennessee, we visited the Jack Daniel’s whiskey distillery. The Fiasco dislikes whiskey and I only vaguely remember drinking some that was passed around at a party once so it’s not like we were big fans but now I’m curious. We couldn’t taste any at the distillery because it’s located in a dry county (ironically hilarious!) but the tour was still pretty interesting and it was free so I’d recommend it if you have an hour. I couldn’t take photos of inside the main parts but shown above is the visitor center, the Fiasco sniffin’ some filtered whiskey, the place where they burn sugar maple wood to make their filtering charcoal, our tour guide Dusty sitting in front of the water that is used to make the corn mash whiskey is distilled from, a cool chair made of old whiskey barrels, a bald cypress tree because I LOVE cypress trees and I miss them (they don’t grow in the north but I did my undergrad thesis on them and think they’re awesome, and yes I go to a distillery and take photos of the trees), and finally, a photo of the barrel house which was pretty impressive inside. Did you know that whiskey has to age 4-6 years before it’s ready? Now you do!

Phew! That got a little rambly towards the end there, didn’t it? Hope you enjoyed it anyway and are having a fabulous holiday weekend!

You Animal!

It’s either the biologist or the child in me (most likely both) that makes me really love zoos. I feel like I should hate zoos or feel more guilty about these wonderful “wild” animals being held captive for our viewing pleasure. However, zoos have played important roles in conservation and in many cases if the animal wasn’t in a zoo, it would be in danger of poaching or extinction through more widespread, long-term, and very real threats like climate change and habitat loss. So really, in light of how the planet is pretty much going to break down and go haywire someday, keeping a few well-cared-for gibbons in an enclosure designed specifically for their needs doesn’t seem so bad.

Man, that got dark (I should probably lay off the dystopian novels). Here are some animal photos from the Nashville Zoo to cheer you up!

We saw very athletic gibbons, playful cloud leapords, the rare and unusual ostrich flower, and the original angry bird.

We saw a pair of supremely happy tortoises, a curious porcupine, swift-footed meerkats, and graceful flamingos.
And there were domestic animals! A dead sunbathing alpaca, goats-in-a-bucket, goats-about-to-headbutt-overeager-little-ones, and the rare conservation breed of sheep, Cotswold.

They had one of those enclosures where you can go in and feed I-totally-forgot-what-kind-of-bird some nectar, I love those things. This photo shows me, my little-cousins-who-feel-like-siblings Megan and Austin, my kinda-freaked-out-Dad, and my dear Fiasco.

And some final photos, on top is my aunt and cousin Austin with their buddy the giraffe and a photo observing my family observing the giraffes. Bottom left is my Fiasco attempting to convince Austin to eat a bacon-cheddar-flavored cricket (yes, cricket). Bottom right is the Fiasco’s face after Austin wisely refused and he ate the cricket himself. Mwahahaha oh man, it cracks me up every time.

I hope you enjoyed our little trip to the zoo! What’s your favorite zoo animal?