Saturday, August 25, 2007

Another meme

How to make a silverleaf

3 parts mercy

5 parts silliness

5 parts joy
Stir together in a glass tumbler with a salted rim. Add a little cocktail umbrella and a dash of emotion


Personality cocktail

Again stolen from Sayre. I love cocktails!

Hehe, I said cock...

Friday, August 24, 2007

My favourite lunch...

...just happens to be rather healthy.

Two wholemeal pittas, warmed until they puff up (I always have pittas in the freezer), filled with houmous, raw peppers and raw baby leaf spinach.

Only 300 calories, load of vitamins and fibre and other such good things, plus it tastes wonderful, especially with roasted veggie or lemon and coriander flavour houmous. I tend to buy mini three-packs of flavoured houmous from Sainsbury's beause I like to have a different flavour every day.

What's your favourite lunch?

I'd love your opinion

This one's been bothering me for a while.

A couple I know are getting married. I used to be pretty good friends with him, less so with her because we have very little in common. We're not such good friends now - I think we've grown apart as people are wont to do. But we still speak and see each other occasionally, and of course they've invited me and Michael to the wedding in the autumn.

I found out just after they announced their engagement that they are getting married in a church. Okay, so what's the big deal?

Well it makes me a little uncomfortable because they aren't churchgoers. I'm not 100% sure about her, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't believe in God. Either way they never go to church.

Until they went to talk to the vicar about the wedding. Turns out that the church insists that if you want to get married there, you have to attend services for six months beforehand.

Cue the happy couple going to church every Sunday.

For some reason, this feels way wrong to me.

I know that loads of people get married in church because they "want a church wedding", God having nothing to do with it. To me that's like tying the knot at Old Trafford if you're not a football fan. Whatever - I can get over that, simply because it's quite common, especially back when my parents got married, as a church wedding was the done thing (although my parents got married in a registry office - as they're both agnostics at best they thought it would be hypocritical to do the church thing).

It's the going to church for six months when you don't believe that really gets me. It feels like lying, like taking advantage of people. Actually it is lying. Pretending you've "got Jesus" to a whole congregation of people - well, wrong is the only way I can describe it. It's taking the piss out of something that's a central part of people's lives.

It would be similarly wrong of me to get myself a bat mitzvah just because I fancied some presents and a party.

What annoys me most though, is the occasional comments from the pair of them, to the effect that going to services is a pain in the arse, but something that has to be done. Now you all know I don't do religion, but even I think that "because you have to" is a pretty piss-poor reason for attending church. And anyway, it's something they've both chosen to do to get what they want - STOP FUCKING COMPLAINING ABOUT IT.

I'm actually considering not going to the actual wedding service, just because I disapprove.

What do you think? Am I making sense? Am I being childish? Do I have any right to comment, since I often sing in church with my choirs, yet I'm an atheist?

I'd love to know what you think about it (especially those of you who are religious).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My brother...

... is kind of weird. If you'd told me 10 years ago that one day I'd think he was weirder than me, I wouldn't have believed you.

Of course now I'm a lot more conventional than I was. And he's essentially now occupying my old niche of "weirdo of the family".

He's 22. Lives in Derby studying psychology and making music and abusing various substances. He's a vegetarian and a pagan and an insomniac and pretty much a communist (although he'd deny the communism because he's probably got a different name for it). Plus he has dreadlocks and piercings and generally looks like a hippy. His screen name is Spudfairy. No need to ask why, because I'd tell you.

Worryingly we are very similar in our liberal attitudes, and awareness that we both need more out of life than most people, our sense of humour, our sense of not being accepted into general society (which neither of us sees as necessarily a bad thing), our desire to make the world around us a better place. We're both into psychology and creating music and reading.

We disagree on religion, as I'm an atheist. I'm much more cautious about such things as drug-taking (haven't done anything other than very occasional grass since I was a teenager), he's much more of a worrier. I care about damage to the environment and extinction of animals and destruction of ecosystems, he cares about exploitation of people. I'm not a fan of bitter, he doesn't like white wine. He winds my parents up, I calm them down. He phones me for advice, I give advice. He's considered cool in his circle of friends, I'm the old-but-nice one who can cook and has nerdy hobbies like birdwatching and roleplaying and takes care of hedgehogs. I'm a scientist with creative tendencies, he's an artist with analytical tendencies. My eyes are blue, his are brown.

Despite all that, there's no doubting that we're related - everyone comments that although we don't look much alike you can tell we're brother and sister.

I'm talking about my brother because I've just watched all of his YouTube video blogs, finally. I laughed a lot. He told me months ago that he plans to become a minor internet celebrity, as his blogging persona. Have a look, seriously. You'll either think they're really funny, or not funny at all - I have to just note that he isn't really like that!

And while I'm here I'll pimp his music too. His band Turning Hollow is on MySpace, and his new collaboration with our mutual friend "Mystic" Mike is on there too.

So yeah. My brother. He rocks. More than me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

This explains a lot

Wow! My post rate sure is up right now!

I might even post something clever or funny or thought-provoking at some point. Anytime soon...

I just wanted to share this with you, a meme I stole from Sayre.

You Were a Fox

A good observer, you often watch others while remaining unseen.
Cunning and courageous, you also have a gentle side.

I like foxes! I'd like to give a fox a big hug. But I don't think the fox would like that much, so I'd settle for feeding it or something.

Weight/fitness stuff

I've mentioned a few times that I'm trying to lose weight, and get fitter. Basically by exercising and trying not to eat too much crap.

I'm not on a special diet, just trying to keep a sensible balance - and to me, sensible includes cake, biscuits and ice cream! In moderation, of course.... As for exercise, I'm currently doing 5 sessions a week. 3 with EyeToy:Kinetic (which will increase as I get fitter - it's moved me up to a higher difficulty level this week), one long dog walk with Emma, and one dance mat session with Emma.

This week is week 4. I haven't had an official weigh-in (without clothes, on my scale rather than the doctor's) for a couple of weeks, but I'm pretty sure I can see a difference in my stomach and lower back. Both are much more squidgy, and my stomach in particular has a lot more loose skin. It's not pretty. Hopefully it'll go away. Hopefully. There's pretty good muscle underneath.

I'm a strange shape really. Most of my fat's on the torso, with some on the thighs. Apart from the fat, I have legs like a footballer, very muscular. With little ankles. I have similarly slim lower arms, and tiny wrists which just make the rest of me look fatter. I blame my mother, it's her genes that did this!

Anyway. I used this site to give me an approximate measure of my body fat percentage: 25%, which pleasantly surprised me as I thought it would be a lot higher - I must have more muscle than I thought. That means I have 49lb of fat and 146lb of lean (muscle, bone and water). I'd like to get to around 20% body fat, so a quick calculation tells me that if I don't gain any muscle (unlikely) I'd need to lose 12.5lb or so. Call it a stone.

Makes me feel better. Even though, if I lost a stone, I'd still in the "overweight" region according to the BMI charts.

Some customisation

Right. I've been playing.

I've spent a fair bit of time recently messing with my blog template, and adding some stuff. Here's what's new...

* The new custom header, with the dolphin
* The favicon (little icon next to the URL in your address bar), a little silver leaf
* The labels cloud, which should work like my old labels list - the bigger the text, the more posts there are with that label
* The 5 most recent comments should now show on the left hand side of the page
* There's now another sidebar, on the left - hopefully this will make my sidebar stuff a bit more accessible

I'd love to know what you think - feedback is good. I was worried that the main text might get a bit lost, but it's looking okay to me. But it is 5am and I haven't been to sleep so I don't value my own opinion very much! Anything you think I should change?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Both ways fruit cake

When I was a kid, we always used to visit my Auntie Lorna and Uncle Keith for Sunday tea.

It was the traditional English working class Sunday tea, with sandwiches - open sandwiches made with bread cobs (or bread rolls if you're not from round here), crisps, boiled eggs, pork pie, sausage rolls, salad, trifle, stuff like that. And always cake.

We brought the cake, every week. From the age of about five, the cake was my Sunday morning job. I'd do all the measuring and mixing and mum would do all the oven bits. From seven I could do the whole thing myself.

It was my great-grandmother that taught my mum, and she taught me. And the love of baking has stayed with me ever since. I've always liked the enjoyment it gives people. Plus - cake, yum!

And so back to Sunday tea. Usually I'd make a fruit cake, because that's Uncle Keith's favourite. He'd eat huge slices of it at tea, and if there was any left he'd take it to work to eat with his lunch.

I remember Mum finding a new recipe for fruit cake in a magazine. Basically you just mixed everything together and chucked it in a tin. I thought this was cheating - cake tastes better if you've had to work hard to make it! I'll admit though, that method is much easier and quicker and still tastes pretty good... so I'm going to share both with you.

6oz sugar (brown is best, but white is also fine)
6oz butter or margarine, softened
3 eggs
6oz mixed fruit (raisins, sultanas, currants, candied peel)
2oz glacé cherries, halved
2oz chopped mixed nuts
12oz self-raising flour
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon

The Hard Way

You'll also need 1 teabag.

1) Make a cupful of strong tea, and leave to cool. Soak the fruit and cherries in the tea overnight, stirring a couple of times. Drain the fruit well and reserve the tea.

2) Grease a 1lb loaf tin and pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

3) In a large bowl, cream together the butter/margarine and sugar until slightly paler.

4) Beat in the eggs one at a time, getting as much air in as possible. It isn't as critical as when you're making a Victoria sponge because a fruit cake will never rise as much, but a little effort will make a difference. Don't worry if it curdles, it's not the end of the world! Happens to me all the time.

5) Put the drained fruit in a sieve over the bowl, add a few tablespoons of flour and shake until all the fruit has a covering of flour (this apparently stops the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the cake as it cooks), then add it to the mixture. Sift in the remaining flour, the nuts and the spices.

6) Fold everything into the mixture with a metal spoon. You'll need to use some of the leftover tea to get the mixture to the correct consistency, that is so a lump of it falls off a spoon with minimal encouragement.

7) Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

8) Cool in the tin on a wire rack.

The Easy Way

You'll also need milk or orange juice.

1) Grease a 1lb loaf tin and pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

2) Melt the butter/margarine.

3) Put all ingredients into a large bowl and mix until combined. You'll need to use milk or juice to get the right consistency, as above.

4) Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

5) Cool in the tin on a wire rack. See? How easy was that?

I recommend this in the afternoon, with a nice cup of tea. I like to spread the slices with a little butter.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Facebook pimp...

If Kate can do it, so can I!

I like Facebook. It's like MySpace but without the pretentiousness and kids and crappy music every time you load a page. I could rant on about the type of people that use MySpace, but I'll save that for another post. I find it really useful to keep up with my friends and organise events and stuff.

So yeah. If you use Facebook, feel free to add me. If you don't... why the hell not??

Friday, August 17, 2007

The verdict

EDIT: Just realised this never got posted, for some reason it just saved as a draft. So I'm posting it now.

Got my test results back. Turns out my hormone levels are okay, which means I probably haven't got polycystic ovary syndrome. My fasting blood sugar was borderline.

Doc says she thinks my health problems (insulin resistance, high blood pressure, unwanted hair and irregular periods) are all related to my weight, and if I lose weight I'll see an improvement in all of my symptoms. She's pretty sure that everything will disappear if I get to a sensible weight.

So I've been in to see a nurse today to be weighed and get advice and so on, I'll probably go every couple of weeks just so we can keep an eye on things. Nurse asked me about whether I eat 3 meals a day (I do) and whether I exercise (yup, starting to), gave me a leaflet about eating 5 portions of fruit and veg a day (easy) and some sample meal plans (boring).

I weigh 13st 13lb (which to be fair is down 2lb since last time I got weighed), and at 5'6" that makes me clinically obese.

Weight loss it is then.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Don't know if you've noticed...

... the little icon next to my URL in the address bar?

I've just learned how to change it. :)

Those of you using Bloglines or similar won't see it - click through to have a look.

I'm quite pleased with myself. Because I've actually done something at 3am.

Now I'm off outside to see if I can see this meteor shower thingy.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A whinge, really

I exercised yesterday. This is not unusual, I try to have two long walks and a dance mat session every week.

But yesterday I broke out EyeToy:Kinetic for the first time in 18 months. Did the warmup, then onto the "cardio" - hitting blue balls and avoiding red ones. I'm not competitive, but I do like to win when it comes to computer games, so I really pushed it. 3 minutes in I was knackered, and after the full 10 I was puffing and panting and my legs really felt it. Then a 3 minute "combat" game, hitting yellow balls while trying not to get hit by red ones... and I completed level 10! Abdominal toning next, some of which I can't do properly yet because my shoulders aren't strong enough to hold my full body weight for long. A cooldown and I was finished - I'm very impressed with myself for working so hard.

But today I'm suffering. I've obviously done too much and some muscles are very tired and achy, particularly biceps and quadriceps (front of the thighs). I'm supposed to do another workout tomorrow, so I'll have to be careful how I go with it I think. And tonight I'll cover myself in achy muscle gel!!

I also want to complain about having to fast for another blood test. I had a note from one of the nurses saying she'd like me to do another fasting blood glucose test because she couldn't find the results from the last one. Now I actually saw them on the computer last time I was in, so I don't know what was going on there! I was going to refuse, but since I was going in today to have my hormones checked I thought I might as well have the fasting glucose done while I was there.

It's no fun, fasting from 10pm until 11.30am the next day. I know it's not much to complain about, but I'm not used to not having breakfast and a morning snack, and it messes me up to have to miss it.

Spent this evening continuing a game of Don't Rest Your Head which is seriously head-fucky. Last time we played I was pretty sleep-deprived, which helped me get into character but sure didn't help me make decisions. Tonight I'd slept more and it was easier in that respect. But it's still like a nightmare you can't wake up from. I like it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Another visitor

Michael spotted this fella when he let Summer out at about 10.30pm. It's a tawny owl.

It was on the poles on top of the bird table, only a few feet away from the back door, and paid no attention to Summer at all. Didn't seem to mind the flash as Michael took a few snaps of it either. I was watching from upstairs, but when I came down it flew off onto the trellis archway further down the garden.

Beautiful creature. I've never seen a wild one, but been hearing them calling the past few weeks. Never thought I'd get one visiting my bird table!

While I'm here, I thought I'd also post a pic of the new bunny, imaginatively named Neo. Because he's new.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Another parakeet sighting

Woke up to hear the 'keet screeching out front. I tell you, he can screech. When I went outside with the bins, he was sitting on the top of a telegraph pole.

Apparently he didn't like me looking at him and he flew into a neighbours garden, where I've heard him a few times since then. At least he's okay. And I'm pretty sure now he's a Monk parakeet (or Quaker parrot, since they are the same thing). Pretty bird.

In other bird news, we had a trip to Old Moor yesterday, first time in ages. 36 species, highlights included a great crested grebe catching fish right in front of me, two yellow wagtails (a life tick), a gorgeous juve great spotted woodpecker on the feeders, and a family of newly-hatched tufted ducks crossing the road just before we got to the car park. Two of them couldn't manage the kerb on the other side of the road, so I jumped out of the car and tried to help them. They kept jumping and failing and falling on their backs, poor things. I got one right way up and it got over, and the other legged it down the road, and eventually got up too. I don't think I helped very much, but I felt better that I'd at least tried! We did see the family later on the water, the female and 8 tiny ducklings. Cute.

And my hips are almost completely better.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A visitor

I've been hearing an unfamiliar screech noise outside for a few days now. Usually early in the morning, when I'm mostly asleep. I remember thinking that it sounded a bit like a small parrot, and wondering if once of my neighbours had got a lovebird or parakeet or similar.

And as I was watching a flock of juvenile starlings in my garden this morning, I happened to look over to the trellis archway just to the right of the small lawn. Some starlings, a collared dove and... something else. Something that looked green.

So I grabbed the bins and had a look at it. It's certainly nothing that's in my field guide! It's shaped like a ring-necked parakeet, with the long tail and parrot beak, blackbird-sized, but the colour is different. It's more of a minty green with white underneath. Very attractive, but I couldn't really appreciate it as I was desperately trying to think of how to catch it, because it's obviously not a wild bird and I can't see it surviving long.

Then it flew closer to the house, screeching. It landed on my bird table, and I braved going outside just in case it was tame and would let me approach it. I spoke to it and it looked at me with its head all on one side, listening. I took a few steps outside and then it flew off.

Help me out here Jan? I know you've done this before!

I'm going to put the rat cage I used for Porno bird out there, with food in. Can't think of anything else to do...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Nothing good again I'm afraid

Maybe a !!!TMI WOMAN STUFF!!! warning is in order.

This is embarrassing. But I'll tell it anyway.

I have unnecessary hair. Dark, manly hairs which grow on my chin, breasts and stomach. Not many of them admittedly, but enough to annoy me. Enough on my chin to take a good 5 minutes to tweeze them out every morning (and usually I end up getting bored and my hands ache so I shave off the last few). I've also noticed an increase in the area covered by my pubic hair. The problem's been getting steadily worse for the last couple of years.

Since I was going to the doc today anyway with my hips (which she isn't worried about unless they don't get better), I thought I'd mention it. I told her I thought it was a hormone imbalance, as I also usually have a couple of spots on my chin. She asked about my periods, and when I thought about it I realised that I'm quite irregular.

I was regular of course when I was on the pill, which I started taking at 17. At 20 or so I switched to the Depo Provera injection, which stopped my periods entirely. It's been maybe 3 years since I stopped taking Depo, and I'm pretty sure I've only menstruated this year. Once in April, once in June and now. Which is not normal.

Doc's thinking I might have polycystic ovary syndrome because I have most of the symptoms, particularly irregular periods, increased hair growth, "central" obesity (I'm apple-shaped), oily skin, seborrheic dermatitis, insulin resistance (well I most likely have that), and prolonged periods of PMS-like symptoms.

So I'm having more blood tests, to check out my hormones.

I don't know whether I'm happy or not. It could well be another thing that's wrong with me and can't be fixed. :(

On the other hand, it would give me something to moan about, which is always good.

EDIT: While I'm in menstrual mode (so to speak), I want to take the opportunity to pimp the Mooncup (silicone menstrual cup). This is my second period using it and I'm finding it very comfortable and convenient, and I'm being environmentally friendly. Plus I'll never have to worry about whether I have enough tampons on me and where I can buy more from if I need to again.

Seriously ladies, if you bleed, you need one. And no I'm not PPPing. I just like the product.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Now my other hip hurts too. I'm off to see the doc in the morning.

Also, I really have to buy the BirdVoicePEN, as spotted in the RSPB's Birds magazine. It's exactly what I need, seriously. Basically it's an mp3 player and either a guide or a set of stickers - you point the pen at the sticker for whichever bird and it immediately plays the song or call, whichever you've chosen. I guess it works on similar microdot technology to the digital pen I used to have (well I still have it, but it broke). Very clever idea.

I must have a spare £115...