The Art of Laying a Formal Dinner Table

Throwing a dinner party at home is at once a challenging and intimidating task for most people. Whether it is for close friends or semi-formal work colleagues, or (the most terrifying of them all!) for your boss and his wife, stress levels in the average host or hostess are understandably high. Everything about you – your home, your decor, the food and layout of the dinner table and the mix of guests who make up the dinner party – is under the scanner.

So, it is important to get the basics right if you want your party to be a wildly successful one.

Let’s start with the most crucial part of the proceedings – laying the formal dinner table. Get it right and half the battle is won!

Start with the tablecloth, a must for an aesthetic look. Ideally, place a silencer on the table and lay a clean, crisp and ironed tablecloth over it. Stick to neutral or pastel shades – nothing too bright or offensive. The napkins can be in bright, contrasting shades. If the table is large enough, place a polished silver candle stand in the centre or a crystal vase with fresh flowers.

Depending on the number and type of courses you have planned, set the crockery and cutlery accordingly. Make sure you have the basics – a knife for bread, a knife for food, a food and pudding fork and a spoon for pudding. The rule of the thumb here is to lay the spoons, forks and knives, working them from the outside inwards, following the sequence of the dishes. So, if the first course is soup, then the soup spoon should be at the farthest right corner. Alternatively, if the first course is a starter which calls for a knife and fork, then a smaller fork and knife for this purpose should be placed on the outside, with the fork placed vertically on the far left of the plate and the knife on the far right side.

As far as plates are concerned, the minimum requirement is a small or medium sized plate for starters or a bowl for soup (if that is the first course). Then comes a large plate for the main course and a suitable dish for the dessert. The bread and butter plate (if it features on the menu) is placed on the left hand side of the place setting. You can lay the napkin on this.

Glasses. No matter what the menu, there should be a minimum of three glasses at each place setting. One goblet for water, one large wine glass for red wine and one smaller wine glass for white wine. In addition, there can also be a straight glass for a stronger spirit. These should be placed at the top right hand side of each place setting. To serve the drinks or water, decanters are always a better option than cluttering the table with bottles.

Get it right and sit back and play the perfect, unruffled host or hostess. Let the good times roll!

Cockatiel Hens Lay Eggs Even Without Fertilization

I have a friend that said birds do not ever lay eggs unless they have been fertilized by a male. But I told her that birds often lay eggs without a male bird on the premises. She said that was not true. So, I decided to write about how cockatiel hens lay eggs, even without fertilization.

To understand egg laying, we need to understand the hormonal cycle of a cockatiel hen.

There are countless single pet cockatiel hens that begin laying eggs without a nest box or even a suitable mate. A bird that is very bonded to it’s owner might consider her human friend as a suitable mate.

Cockatiels are indeterminate layers, meaning they will often continue laying eggs until their clutch is completed. This means that if you remove the hen’s eggs right after she has laid them, her hormones tell her to keep laying eggs until she has a clutch underneath her.

The hen will begin to experience a surge in her female hormones based on a number of conditions. These conditions range from abundance of food and water, the availability of a nesting site, the presence of other breeding pairs in the vicinity and a suitable mate (who can be you). Increased daylight, dark corners of the cage, dark corners under the bed or in the room may also begin the hormonal cycle.

It is instinctive behavior for the hen to hold back her droppings for longer periods of time while sitting on her nest. When she gets off of her nest, she will have a larger than normal amount of droppings which are a mixture of feces, urine and urates mixed together. This will give the appearance of diarrhea, but is normal for the hen after she has been holding her droppings in her cloaca while sitting on her nest.

Once the hormones begin their cycle, a number of events will occur. The pelvic floor muscles of the hen starts loosening up to facilitate the passage of an egg. The pelvic bones also become somewhat looser. The pelvic bones of a reproductively active hen can feel a bit farther apart with a little “give” to them. When the hen is not actively cycling, everything tightens up.

During the hormonal cycle of the cockatiel hen, she begins to drink more water because the process of developing an egg requires allot of water that forms the albumen or egg white.

She will then seek for a nesting site which could include a deep food dish or a sleeping hut where she will stay most of the time preparing for the eggs she will lay.

She may become obsessively territorial about her nest. Instead of being her normal friendly self, she might hiss and lash out at anyone that comes close to her nest. This behaviour is caused by your precious friend’s hormonal cycle to protect her nest.

Egg laying in cockatiel hens uses a large amount of calcium which is drawn from the bones to help strengthen the egg shell during formation.

To stop this hormonal cycle from occurring, try decreasing the amount of daylight for your friend. Move the bird cage to a different setting, rearrange the toys or add toys to distract your hen. Try some new foods and dietary changes, for this can help her hormonal cycle decrease as well.

A trip to the avian veterinarian is highly recommended to reassure the safety of your beloved cockatiel hen.

But, not every hen that is cycling lays eggs. In some cases the egg yolk is harmlessly reabsorbed prior to ovulation. The yolk can end up loose in the coelom (body cavity). It is called internal laying when the yolk is released into the coelom instead of the oviduct.

Rarely, the yolk is absorbed into the bloodstream which can result in yolk stroke, a dangerous and life threatening situation.

It is very important that you get your hen checked regularly at your local avian specialist. Hormonal treatments can be used to stop the cycling of your precious cockatiel hen.

The Echidna is an Egg Laying Mammal

The two species of Echidna are two of only three egg laying mammals known. The egg laying mammals are members of the Monotremes, an order of mammals different from either the placentals or the marsupials.

The Echidna is Australia’s most successful mammal.

Echidna fossils indicate that this animal was around 120 million years ago. This is a long time. Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils indicate that this animal originated about 68 million years ago. That is, the Echidna developed about 52 million years before the Tyrannosaurus. The Echidna then survived whatever killed the dinosaurs and has lived another 65 million years since.

This does not imply that the Echidna has not evolved in this time, but suggests that it has been a successful basic shape through vastly changing conditions. Echidnas live up to 45 years. They can breed at about 6 years old. Studies on Kangaroo Island suggest that they only breed every three to seven years, so the Echidna is not a prolific breeder.


The shape of the Echidna makes the usual mammal mating position impossible. The female lays down a scent trail and each male that finds it follows the female. There can be as many as ten males following the female. When she is finally ready to mate, she digs the front part of her body into the ground. All the males try to dig under her. If there is more than one male this results in a doe nut shaped hole. The males try to push each other out of the hole, pushing nose to nose. When only one is left, he will have dug slightly under the female and he turns on his side and puts his cloaca into contact with the female’s cloaca. The male can then extend his four headed penis and complete the mating. The mating is not completely face to face, but is more like this position than the usual mammal mating position.

If only one male is present, the hole for mating will be a straight trench.

The female lays her egg about 22 weeks after mating. It is not known definitely how the female gets the egg into its pouch, but it seems most likely that the female bends enough to lay directly into its pouch. The pouch of the Echidna is just an arrangement of skin folds. The male has a “Pouch” as well, and it is difficult to determine the sex of an Echidna.

A baby Echidna is called a Puggle. The Puggle may only weigh about 3 grams (a tenth of an ounce) straight after hatching but can increase to 180 grams (6 ounces) after 60 days.

Bringing Up the Puggle

The baby Echidna lives in its mother’s pouch for about seven weeks, feeding on the milk from the two milk patches in the pouch and growing very fast. When the Puggle’s spines start to harden the mother Echidna transfers the Puggle to a nursery burrow. She returns every five to ten days to feed her Puggle. After about five months the mother stops going back and the young Echidna is by itself. The Echidna is unusual among the mammals in not appearing to instruct its young.


The Echidna’s main food is termites. This insect is very common and widespread in Australia. Echidnas will also eat ants and other invertebrates including worms and grubs.


There were not many native predators of the echidna. Wedge-tailed Eagles will sometimes eat an Echidna, and Goannas can eat the Puggles while they are in the nursery burrow.

However there are several introduced predators of the Echidna. The first one was the Dingo. This was a domestic dog brought in by the aboriginal people of Australia many thousand years ago and went wild. More recently there have been other dogs, but worse than these are the cats and foxes. Some of these introduced predators have learned techniques for dealing with this prickly animal.

Echidnas are very fast diggers and on soft ground will escape their predators by digging. On hard ground the Echidna will roll up into a ball, wait and hope the predator will go away. The spines of the Echidna are not as fearsome as those of the porcupine, but still quite sharp. Humans should not handle an Echidna without suitable protection or knowledge. Puncture wounds from the spines can get infected. Also, Echidnas should not be relocated without good reason. The animal could be a female that is feeding a Puggle in a nursery burrow. Moving the adult to another area could result in the death by slow starvation of the baby.

As well as this, the mother may try to get back to its baby and be killed on the road.


Echidnas live in a very wide variety of places such as the dry interior of Australia, the tropical rain forests and even the cities. The basic requirement of Echidnas is termites.


In Australia there are sometimes devastating bush fires that kill thousands of animals. The Echidna cannot run fast. When there is a fire they usually only succeed in getting about a metre (3 feet), but they do this in the right direction. They dig straight down and usually survive even a very bad fire.


The Echidna’s brain’s prefrontal lobe is larger in relation to the animal’s size than any other animal, including human beings.

Types of Echidna.

There are two species of Echidna: the Short Beaked Echidna, Tachyglossus aculeatus which lives in Australia including Tasmania, and in the New Guinea lowlands, and the Long Beaked Echidna, Zaglossus bruijnithat lives in the New Guinea highlands.

There are five sub species of Short Beaked Echidna including the Tasmanian sub species which is bigger than the mainland ones and has fur longer than its spines.