Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My hair

My mum gave me a pair of Nicky Clarke hair straighteners the other day. She'd bought a set with brushes and a hair dryer and such, and had tried the straighteners but didn't like how she looked with straight hair.

I'm hoping they'll work as well as the ghd ones my hairdresser used to give me hair that actually looked good.

My hair is the bane of my life. Some of you have seen it, you know what I mean. It's wavy and frizzy and thick and coarse. On a good day I can almost get it to curl or wave nicely, most days I look like Hermione Granger (in the HP books, not the films - Emma Watson has nice hair). I can't brush it, because I just end up with huge huge frizz. Instead I use a wide-toothed comb after I was it, apply copious amounts of Frizz-Ease and curl-defining cream and let it dry naturally. I can spend ages on it and it doesn't look much better so I can't be bothered.

But anyway, I'm having a go with the straighteners. Blowdrying doesn't work well for me, because I end up with, you've guessed it, a bunch of frizz. So I just left it to dry naturally and brushed it out (I was going to post pics to show you what I'm dealing with here, but I chickened out - besides, it wouldn't all fit in the picture) and I've covered it in serum and some stuff that's supposed to straighten it. Yeah right. And now the straightening process itself can commence...

*30 minutes later*

Yes! It works! It's not quite as good as when the hairdresser did it, but it looks pretty good. Next step is to trim my split ends - I also need to get my hair coloured again as it's grown out a lot since last time. Think I might go lighter.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Chicken in lemon and garlic

I love books. Especially cheap books. And I'm always on the lookout for recipe books, since I'm so food-obsessed.

So I was happy to pick up some cheap books yesterday! Two small ones (Greek and tapas) with 100 recipes, £2 each. A different tapas one, £2.99. And a gorgeous book on feeding birds and what trees to plant and such, with great pictures, £5.

As soon as I spotted the tapas ones I had to have them, because tapas rules. I love that you order maybe 3 or 4 dishes each, and share. It means you can try stuff you wouldn't normally order in case you don't like it, plus you get to experience loads of different tastes. Yum.

And inspired by my new books, I attempted possibly one of my favourite tapas dishes - see title. As is quite common for me, I used the recipe for inspiration and modified it a fair bit. And it turned out good. So here it is. This serves 2 as a main dish, or 4 as part of a tapas meal.

4 chicken thighs, skinned (you could use two breasts (or breast halves if you're American), but to me the dark meat tastes better and has a better texture for this dish - breast is too dry)
3 tbsp olive oil (Spanish would be best)
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced (I use the stuff from a jar because I'm lazy)
250ml white wine (medium or dry)
Grated rind of one lemon
Finely pared rind of one lemon
Juice of the two lemons
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaved parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 tbsp fresh thyme
(You could use all parsley instead of the other herbs. Whatever, it would work fine)

1) Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion gently for 5 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.

2) Add the chicken and turn up the heat a little. Fry for 10 minutes until browned, turning occasionally.

3) Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender - you may need to add water if the pan gets dry, but you want the wine to have mostly evaporated by the time the chicken's cooked.

4) Add the grated lemon and the juice, and heat through. Let it bubble for a few seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley, then transfer into a warmed serving dish. Sprinkle with the pared rind.

I served this with brown rice cooked in chicken stock, steamed asparagus and a mixed leaf salad. Boiled baby new potatoes, roast potatoes, French beans and spinach (just wilted) would all work very well too. Or just a green salad and crusty bread. Yummy and healthy, but be warned, this will cause some serious garlic breath.

The book says you could use rabbit, turkey or pork instead of the chicken.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A little from Column A...

So I'm in a weird mood today. Various things have wound me up, but only because I wasn't particularly happy to start with. Here's a selection of the stuff that's bugged me, in no particular order.
  • A woman who sat behind me on the bus into Sheffield and kept farting. I couldn't hear it but I could smell it - and call me strange but inhaling someone else's digestive gases isn't at the top of my list of things I like to do on public transport. Hell, inhaling my own digestive gases isn't in the top 20. I'd have said something but I wasn't sure it was her until she got off and the smell stopped. I know we all do it, but we don't need to do it every 5 minutes on a bus.
  • The fact that I never realised that there is such thing as a DayRover bus ticket, which allows me unlimited travel in Chesterfield and gets me to Sheffield as many times as I want in a day and only costs £5. If I'd known about it before, I could have saved a fortune.
  • People with their mp3 players on too loud. Here's the deal. If I can hear the words and I'm 4 rows away, it's too fucking loud.
  • Going to see a university counsellor today. Because I'm basically not coping well with the whole uni thing, and the whole fibro thing. Pisses me off that I need to talk to someone about it. I'm an adult dammit, I'm supposed to be able to sort my own shit out.*
  • Crying three times in the counselling session over practically nothing.
  • Hot weather. I know it's not really that hot, but I don't like it. My feet and ankles and wrists swell up and I'm uncomfortable and I can't sleep and I have to put suncream on just to walk to the shop. I suppose it's more the humidity than the heat that bothers me. Either way, it sucks.
  • Blood tests. Having to starve myself for half of the day for blood tests.
  • Losing the blue tit last week. He was doing very well, started eating by himself and flying well and I was thinking about how to start the release process. And on Thursday he wouldn't eat and in the afternoon he got very weak. I tried to persuade him to take bits of food but he was too far gone and died in my hands. It was very sad.
  • Seeing a gorgeous little rabbit in the pet shop yesterday and wanting him and Michael saying that he didn't want me to buy him, even though he can't use the "you have too many pets" defence now as I only have the Summerdog (and technically Basil's a pet now too, but that's still only two).
So yeah. And in the interests of positive thinking, here's some things that don't suck.
  • Being motivated to exercise is easier when you have a friend to exercise with. Me and Emma are trying to loose weight and get fit(ter) together. To start, we're going for a long walk on Monday evenings with the Summerdog and doing an exercise DVD on Thursdays. So far, I'm coping, even laughing at myself for having no co-ordination and failing to do both the legs and the arms at the same time. I'm also cooking healthy (but yummy) stuff and eating loads of veggies and cutting down snacks.
  • After the counselling thing I actually felt better this afternoon.
  • Seeing a couple of young blue tits outside on my peanut feeder, making the "feed me!" call that I'm now intimately familiar with. It was a little bit sad but made me feel better because at least there are some out there that have survived. And I gave mine a chance he wouldn't have had otherwise.
  • Casually glancing at the fat cake feeder hanging from the bird table on Wednesday evening and being shocked to see a gorgeous male great spotted woodpecker. It's only the fourth one I've ever seen, never seen one in the garden at all. I'd been thinking I could hear one for a few days, weirdly enough, but decided I must be mistaken. And seeing it again the next afternoon.
  • Going back to the pet shop today and buying the rabbit anyway. Michael's not really happy, but I think he'll like the bunny when he gets to know him. The bunny is lovely. :)
Yeah. Like I said, weird mood.

*Yes I know we all need help sometimes, and there's no shame in that. But it doesn't stop that part of me thinking I'm being pathetic.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Blogging For Sex Education

I thought this sounded interesting.

So here's my take on it.

I've done some reading about this the last few days, and a few issues I haven't considered before were raised. Like the idea that kids get most of their sex education from porn.

This is something that hadn't occurred to me, but it makes sense. The first time I saw a penis was at the age of 15 and it was in a porn magazine of the kind aimed at women, that my friend brought to school. She had an older boyfriend and he bought it for her. We all had a good gawp at it, and I seem to remember being kind of fascinated but also shocked that anyone would want to look at it! It didn't look anything like the diagrams in textbooks (it wasn't in cross-section, for a start! And although I didn't realise at the time, it was circumcised) and the guy was ugly, obviously picked for his one "talent". Of course, I knew about "girlie" magazines like Playboy and I'd seen topless women on Page 3 and although I knew that the boys were probably looking at such material, I didn't realise that women would enjoy it too.

I don't remember talking about sex much with my friends. Kissing, and who we fancied and who was going out with who, yeah. Sex, no. Even though some of my friends must have been having sex, particularly the ones with serious boyfriends. I knew a fair bit because I read a lot. The sex education we got at school consisted of a video for us girls (probably sponsored by Tampax or someone), animated in pencil crayon sketches of kids of varying ages diving into a swimming pool and ovaries and sperm and the like, a sort of "this is what will happen to your body" kind of deal, followed by a discussion about periods where we asked the teacher questions (mostly stuff like "When will I start my periods?" and "I've started, when will I get regular?"). No-one asked about sex. I guess they were embarrassed, not about asking the teacher, but about admitting their ignorance in front of the other kids. I guess the boys had a similar experience, except without the free sanitary towels. We also learned about pregnancy and the menstrual cycle and contraception in science classes, and in RE we learned about views on sex before marriage, and the teacher (a Christian) told us it was wrong and that we should wait until we were married. Your parents had to sign a consent form for you to have any kind of sex education.

I learned more about sex from teen magazines than from either school or friends. I'd scour the problem pages of Just Seventeen and the like, even though I wasn't having any of those problems myself I stored up the advice in case I needed it in the future. Just in case by some miracle a boy wanted to sleep with me and I got pregnant and was too scared to tell my parents, or my boyfriend wanted me to "wank him off" and I wasn't sure I wanted to, or a boy "fingered" me at a party then told everyone at school.

But what I really wanted to know at 14 was, how will it feel? How will I know when I'm ready? Will it hurt? What if I'm no good at it and he laughs at me? What if it's all over in 30 seconds? What if I say no and he doesn't listen? And no-one ever told me any of the answers.

"Losing it" is something that's a big deal for kids. For girls, there's two kinds of pressure. It has to be special, memorable, important, with someone you love (or are at least dating), otherwise you're a slut. But it also has to be gotten rid of ASAP because "virgin" is an insult, and because the consensus is that the first time's the worst and painful and you have to stick with it until it starts getting good. I know this, along with a natural apprehension of the unknown, created some tension in me, and when the opportunity presented itself (so to speak) at 16 I was too scared to take that step even though part of me wanted to. When I finally did it (at 17), I was so drunk I don't even remember starting. I became aware of what was happening part way through - I suppose since I was in no state to give consent it was technically rape, but I don't see it that way, he wasn't exactly rational himself. Afterwards I wished I hadn't (the fact that he was my friend's boyfriend also complicated matters), but I also felt relieved. Now I'd got it over with, I could get on with the rest of my sex life.

As far as I'm concerned, sex education in schools should teach the following:
  • What happens during puberty. Periods (and how to deal with them), changes in the body, wet dreams and the like.
  • How babies are made (and that contraception stops them getting made).
  • People have differing views on sex for pleasure, sex for procreation, contraception, abortion, marriage, etc., possibly linked to religion. Arguments for and against each.
  • Masturbation as a normal and healthy activity, but including views against it.
  • STIs and pregnancy. Dispelling the myths, like you can't get pregnant during your period, the first time, or standing up.
  • Conception/contraception in detail.
  • Where to go for contraception/advice etc.
  • Porn is an unrealistic portrayal of what sex is like.
  • Rape/sexual assault/abuse.
  • Assertiveness training/self-defence for girls, and how it's okay to say no if you mean it (and that you shouldn't say no if you don't mean it).
  • "No means no" training for boys. Respecting that women have a choice.
  • For both sexes, this could tie in with how to stay safe on the streets, keeping your drink safe from being spiked, that kind of thing.
  • Sexual harassment and what is not acceptable (also ties in with racism/homophobia/bullying/intolerance/etc.)
  • Abusive relationships and how to deal with them.
To be honest, I'm against sex ed being taught in isolation. I think it would be better as part of a wider class which you could call Life Skills or something like that. It would promote sensible discussion and critical thinking and acceptance that other people may have different opinions and values to you and that it's okay to think differently, and responsibility for your own actions.

I also wanted to give my view on porn. I don't have a problem with porn per se, as long as it's not non-consenting, like animals, children, rape and so on. I'll admit to owning some "mainstream" porn (not that I "use" it much) and I'll also admit to having starred in a commercially available non-mainstream film (it was girl-gets-covered-in-food porn, and I thought it was funny). Porn is there to arouse and stimulate and to masturbate or have sex to, and that's fine with me.

My problem is that porn isn't representative of sex in general. Okay, some people do live like porn stars, but the majority don't. If your only sex education is porn, it's easy to believe that every guy can expect girls to service him constantly and wants to fuck as many women as possible, and that every girl is always hot for sex with people she barely knows, will do anal and blowjobs and threesomes and is essentially a dirty little bitch. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with anal or blowjobs or threesomes, but not everyone likes to do such things.

Neither am I blaming porn for rape, but I do think that the portrayal of women as sex objects, constantly available and begging for it, can't help but contribute to the all too prevalent view that men can take what they want because all women want it anyway. There's enough gender differences in the world already - from birth we are treated differently, conditioned to fulfil gender stereotypes. Boys don't cry. Girls are allowed to be upset. Boys fight. Girls talk. Boys blame others, girls blame themselves. Boys look out for number one, girls care for others.

These differences are understandable from an evolutionary point of view. It's natural for these differences to manifest, but as a society we shouldn't be merely a product of our evolutionary heritage - we should be able to rise above our genetics and be intelligent, tolerant, thinking, responsible people. Maybe we don't have free will (I don't know if we do or not) but we sure as hell should act as if we do.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Back to the point. Kids will be exposed to porn, and unrealistic expectations of sex. So it's up to society to educate young people and give them a more balanced view of all aspects of sex. We need to promote a culture where people can talk openly and without shame, and get the information that allows them to make their own informed choices.

I'm fully in approval of giving kids free condoms. Before anyone asks, I don't approve of under-age sex but I do think that the age of consent is somewhat arbitrary - some are mentally, emotionally and physically ready at 15, some aren't at 20, but of course a line needs to be drawn for legal reasons. As I see it, kids are gonna have sex anyway, so we may as well make it easy for them to be safer about it. After all, what's worse? Your 15-year-old daughter having protected sex, or your 15-year-old daughter pregnant and infected with HIV?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Little blue tit is doing well.

He can now fly okay over short distances but spends most of his time on a perch cheeping away. He has at least 3 different calls, meaning (as far as I can tell) "I'm starving!" "I've just landed on a perch" and "where is everyone?"

He looks much more like an adult bird now, he's losing the funny grumpy expression as the beak becomes more normal.

And he's starting to take little bits of food by himself. Today I've noticed him trying to pick up (dead) mealworms that I've dropped to the bottom of the cage when feeding him with the tweezers - he isn't very good at it yet though! I'm deliberately making him wait for a while before I feed him because that's what the parents would be doing now, reducing the amount of times they feed the chicks.

Most of the time he'll fly to me to be fed too rather than making me go to him, which will be very helpful when he goes outside.

One thing that concerns me is that his feathers look a little greasy - I don't know much about keeping birds as I haven't done it before, but a quick Google told me that he most likely needed a bath. He has a dish of water in his cage but shows no interest in it so I used a spray bottle to gently mist him, which he didn't seem to mind. Anyone know about birds? Am I doing the right thing here?