Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Greek stuffed peppers, for OC

I mentioned this in chat ages ago, and just remembered that I promised to post it!

So here we go. This is very simple, healthy, and probably my favourite veggie meal ever. It serves 2.

2 bell peppers (that's just the normal peppers you get in the supermarket), whatever colour you like - I tend to use two different colours
100-150g halloumi cheese
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 tbs pine nuts
1 tbs dried oregano
1 tbs dried mint
Olive oil

1) Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.
2) Cut each pepper in half lengthwise through the stalk, and remove the seeds and white stuff. Leave the stalks on, as they look pretty. Pop them into an ovenproof dish, cut sides up.
3) Cut the halloumi into small cubes, and divide between the pepper halves.
4) Sprinkle the lemon zest, pine nuts, oregano and mint over the cheese.
5) Pour over the lemon juice, and drizzle some olive oil on as well.
6) Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, until the peppers are tender and the cheese has browned a little on the top.

Serve with rice cooked in vegetable stock, and a green salad. There you go, 3 portions of veg with no effort at all!

I love the way the halloumi keeps its shape when cooked - it doesn't melt like normal cheese. It's also excellent sliced then grilled or fried until brown, and you can even make kebabs with it. But it doesn't make good cheese on toast. ;)


I kept having pain dreams last night. I don't really remember what they were about, just that I kept trying to do something and it kept hurting, even though it wasn't supposed to.

I semi-work up a couple of times in the early hours, and semi-consciously almost thought, "Right, I'll try not to dream that again."

Then not long after dawn I woke up properly and my neck was killing me. I guess I'd slept on it wrong or something. So I slathered on some ibuprofen gel (getting loads in my hair in the process, dammit) and tried to settle down again.

I did go back to sleep, but every time I turned over (and I turn over a lot) the pain woke me up. Consequently I slept late and got up at midday feeling crappy.

The ibuprofen didn't help much.

And my neck still hurts. It's the muscles/tendons on the back left side of my neck, between my spine and my left ear, right from the base of my skull into the shoulder blade. I can lean my head forward a little, but movement in other directions is severely restricted, especially to the left - it seems like the muscles there just won't work, it's not just a case of being painful.

I'm a bit of a baby about pain really. I'm used to constant discomfort and low-grade aches with fibromyalgia, but anything worse than that sees me complaining and attempting to elicit sympathy from all and sundry. Hence this post I guess.

Someone pass the codeine please.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The best houseguest ever

I'm planning a proper post about the Halloween party later, but I just thought I'd tell you about one of the guests.

I hadn't met Louise before - she's the partner of my friend Daniel. They both came to the party and stayed overnight on a mattress in the computer room.

When they arrived (early), she thanked me for inviting her about 3 times, and insisted on helping me with the food and decorations. And she brought me a little goodie bag containing some seashell chocolates and three little bottles of wine.

We collectively went to bed at about 5am after the party (I'm not sure what time it actually was because the clocks went back, so it was either 5am or 4am or something, it confused me).

Me and Michael got up about midday, and were shocked to find the kitchen had been cleaned. The rubbish was bagged up ready to put in the bin, all the glasses and punch bowls had been washed up, and the plates and dishes put in the dishwasher and rinsed. The surfaces had been wiped down, the floor swept, and all the Halloween confetti I'd scattered about the place carefully collected up. We thought we'd had a visit from the cleaning fairy.

Turns out Louise had got up early, cleaned, then gone back to bed.

I thanked her for the cleaning, and she said something like, "Don't be daft! It was the least I could do."

WTF??? Now that's not normal. I mean the cleaning was one thing, not in the least bit expected and very much appreciated, but the fact that she thought she could have done more surprised me a bit.

Plus she's absolutely lovely. Dan's found himself a good one there.

So yeah. Best. Houseguest. Ever.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Nice birdy visitors

Maybe it's just because I've been watching more, but my garden seems to have had more avian visitors than usual recently.

A couple of pairs of greenfinches have been coming to the feeders for peanuts, and I've occasionally seen goldfinches too. Usually all I see is blackbirds, sparrows, starlings, robins, collared doves, wood pigeons, crows, rooks, jackdaws and dunnocks. Not the most exciting of garden lists really.

Tuesday I heard a little cheepy sound I didn't recognise, so I grabbed the bins and had a look outside, to find a female pheasant at the top of a bush.

Friday saw a passing flock of about 20 long-tailed tits (hardly ever see them in the garden) stop briefly at my feeding station - one or two of them had a brief peck at the peanuts as well.

Then I noticed a group of about 8 blackbirds feeding on the fallen apples in the orchard, one of which looked rather pale. A closer look revealed it as a song thrush (another bird I rarely see).

And one that had gone, a tiny goldcrest flitted around the biggest apple tree for a good 10 minutes before I lost sight of it. Such a lovely little bird.

Saturday lunchtime we had a somewhat more flashy visitor, this gorgeous great spotted woodpecker. We had a couple of GSW visits earlier this year, but I haven't seen one since. I hope it becomes a regular - it seemed to be jamming bits of peanut into the bark of the tree, so hopefully it'll be back to claim them later.

And today I glanced out of the window and just happened to look twice at something I thought for a second was a collared dove. But it was brownish, and had a hooked beak, and the tail was wrong. I only saw it for perhaps a minute before it flew off, and Michael managed a quick picture of it. I reckon it was a male sparrowhawk, despite looking brownish (could have been the bad light). It didn't have the "moustache" face markings of a kestrel, and I got the impression of it being orangey underneath when it flew away. And rounded wings.

The black-headed gulls are back for the winter now too. They fly over a lot as my house is on their way from the old village green, where they tend to congregate, to the fishing lake at Holmebrook Valley Park. They make me smile, daft noisy squabbling creatures, but somehow still graceful and beautiful.

Taking a breath

Well, it's been a busy few weeks.

As I've mentioned before, we were aiming to get the house looking like someone owns it (technically looking like we own it, rather than looking like the colourblind tasteless bodge-it merchant that used to own it, owns it) before the Hallowe'en party (which was last night).

Which actually did happen. Here's some before-and-after type pictures.

The walls in the living room, before we decorated. It's okay I guess, in a council-house sort of way. I never liked the dark wood though, it looks pretentious in a 1960s house.

We leave the fireplace dark, but paint the skirting boards and dado rail white. I also clean the carpet and got new curtains. We're waiting for the new sofa to arrive, once it does I'll do proper pics of the room.
A corner of the dining room, and some of my recipe books. Note the awful silver wallpaper and silver dado rail. Yuk. We decide to strip the walls and paint them.

The walls are stripped, and we realised how bumpy they are. Nightmare! My dad comes in and skims them.

Note the tasteful wallpaper over the patio doors, which had just been papered over with the blue/silver.

After some deliberation, we decide on this laminate flooring, and me and my dad start to install it.

Dining room nearly finished, we carry on into the kitchen (they are separated by an archway), and ultimately the utility room.

Kitchen gets floored. The fridge moves into the dining room until the floor in the utility is finished.

Summer tries to find a space to lie down out of the way. Daft dog.

Dad very selfishly goes on holiday, leaving me to finish the utility room floor all by myself.

Summer tests the new floor.

I paint the walls cream, and the silver radiator in sensible old white.

Now onto the hallway/landing/stairs. And perhaps the most distasteful décor in the entire house, with the possible exception of our bedroom.

We rush around and find paint. I start painting the walls. I decide I don't like the new paint. So we get different paint which is much darker than I wanted, but I really like.


I'm going to put up more photos later... this post is big enough already!

And the party was good by the way. :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pimpin' ma bro again

This is funny. Don't think I need to say much else.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I'm so childish

I have to suppress a snigger sometimes when I sing in Latin.

Mostly it's the word fac.

The "a" in fac is pronounced pretty much like the "a" in "father" (not quite, but close). The "f" is as in English, and the "c" like in "cat". It means something like "do it!"

Say it to yourself. Go on.


It's especially amusing when you have to sing it loud.

I remember Fraser conducting Ladies' Choir the other year (we were doing Pergolesi's Stabat Mater if I remember correctly), and telling us something like, "You just have to go fac, fac, one after the other. See who can make their fac the loudest." He then followed it with, "Imagine you're singing fuck. But don't sing that."

While I'm here, and in Latin mode, I thought I'd share this page with you. It made me laugh. And add a Latin phrase to my blog description.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Maybe you're wondering...

... how the MFC rehearsal went?

Maybe not. You're going to find out anyway.

After only 4 hours sleep, we got up at 5 and Michael very kindly drove me to Derby. I caught the first train (to Birmingham) and settled down to study my score while listening to the homework recording CD which I'd loaded onto my mp3 player. I thought it was probably a good idea to do this because I hadn't managed to look at the last three movements at all. It was hard to stop myself humming along (well humming what I thought the notes would be, to check how good my pitching is).

I managed to do everything expect the last movement, then decided to stop as I was losing concentration and wanted to be fresh for the rehearsal.

I bought two books and a piece of carrot cake in Birmingham while I waited for my connection (the next train I caught went to Hereford, which made me think of Boo). The cake was okay, but the topping was far too sweet and I didn't eat it. I always think carrot cake is better plain or with a cream cheese topping made with just a touch of honey rather than something sugary.

So yeah. I got to Worcester and registered and was issued with a name badge with a red dot on it, to indicate that I was an MFC n00b. I met up with a few people I knew from SingSoc, and got cornered by an old woman who talked at me and whom Pete described as "not only mad, but evil". I talked to quite a few people during the day, and everyone else was really nice.

The rehearsal itself was good. Hard work, but fun... and it was worth it to hear how good we sounded! I'm completely loyal to SingSoc and I think we sound great, but close to 250 voices together is something else. And it's always weird but fun to work with an unfamiliar conductor - Malcolm Goldring's an experience, certainly! In a good way.

I discovered that I was foolish to neglect the last movement. It's hard. It starts off fine, but then it's all over the place and will need me to put in some serious work before Saturday.

Had lunch at a pub with the SingSoc people (Sicilian chicken for me, which was pretty good) then the men went back. As us girls had an extra half hour or so we had a wander around the shops, and I bought some funky jewellery - two necklaces and a pair of earrings that match one of the necklaces.

I was pretty tired and achy most of the afternoon, but I was expecting that to be honest, with lack of sleep and the early start and all the singing. Singing all day is physically hard work - I know it sounds like an easy thing to do... you just sing, right? Well it's not. It's exhausting, mentally and physically. I do think that I'm improving because my voice itself wasn't tired at all and could have happily sung the whole piece again with the high notes and fff (that's very very loud to all you non-musicians) bits and everything even if my body and brain didn't want to!

I had cake in the afternoon too, a big piece of home made chocolate cake with my cup of coffee. It was nice, but didn't taste of chocolate at all to me, it was sort of anaemic. I like to use loads of cocoa in mine. But it gave me the energy to finish the afternoon.

After we'd finished, I went back to the railway station. I shocked myself by not getting lost (and I didn't in the morning either). And I found that there was a simpler way to get home, i.e. the reverse of the way I got there, rather than the route the transport website gave me. Consequently I got back to Derby an hour earlier than I thought I would.

On the train I sat next to a nice older man who it turned out was going home to Belper (so a fellow Derbyshire person, who would be on the next train with me too). We chatted for a bit then sat and read in companionable silence until Birmingham where the train terminated.*

As we pulled into the station I heard shouting, and swearing, and a dog barking furiously. And saw five or six policemen on the platform, at least two police dogs, and a load of shouting and swearing blokes, who I guess were football fans. There was a fair bit of pushing and shoving and more shouting - by this time we'd moved to the next platform to wait for the train to Derby but we were just across from them and could see everything. I'm not sure what was going on, but the police got loads of them back on the train we'd just vacated and it left, presumably taking them back to wherever they'd come from. One guy was held up against the wall by a policeman and held there for ages until he calmed down, and was eventually lead away, I guess arrested. It was kind of exciting.

The Belper guy told me that his day had been exciting already - he'd been in a meeting in Hereford and someone had a suspected perforated ulcer and vomited blood all over the newly-carpeted meeting room and was rushed to hospital for an operation. Yikes!

So yeah, the rest of the journey was uneventful. We chatted some more, read some more, and Michael picked me up from Derby. Train journeys are always better when there's someone nice to talk to.

We drove back and I talked pretty much non-stop in the car, because I was still a bit hyper from the rehearsal. We picked up a Malaysian takeaway which was yummy (I'm just about to go and finish the leftovers!) and chilled for a bit. And that was my day. Knackering, but fun!

I can't wait for next week... if you're anywhere near Worcester Saturday night, come and see us. The Stabat Mater is AWESOME, I love it, and we sound fantastic even if I do say so myself. Plus we have the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, which is reason enough in itself to see us.

*This phrase always makes me think of the Arnie film, and I imagine a train engine gone bad, shooting at another engine and wearing shades. "I'll be back... but I'm currently running 30 minutes late due to a signal failure. On behalf of Midland Mainline I apologise for this delay and any inconvenience it may cause you."

Friday, October 05, 2007

More transport issues, and some fame

I knew it was a stupid idea to leave sorting out transport for the Midland Festival Chorus rehearsal until this afternoon. In my defence I have been unnecessarily busy, especially this afternoon (I was producing a PowerPoint presentation on how music affects emotions).

It was also stupid to assume that getting a train there and back would be easy enough to do. It's only Worcester, 100 miles or so.


I checked train times (using the Transport Direct website which is very useful), and found that to be in Worcester for 9:00 I'd have to get to the train station at about 5:00. Then coming home would take 5 hours, with 4 changes. For fuck's sake, it's a hundred miles! It would take 2 hours to drive! I'd get home not long before midnight. Now call me weird, but if I get up at say 4am, I'm pretty much dead by mid-afternoon, never mind midnight.

I've played around with the options on the website and found that if Michael can take me to and from Derby, that makes life a lot easier. We can leave at 5:45 and I can catch a train at 6:30 from Derby, change at Birmingham New Street and be in Worcester at 8:40. Coming home, I change trains twice, and should be back for 22:20. I can live with that I think. I'll take a book or something.

I did check with a few people who I knew would be driving from Sheffield, but no car space was available. Oh well. Public transport it is then.

And in other news... it's a small world. I had a brief chat with another mature student in a lecture on Wednesday. I told her I'm repeating because I was ill last year, and that I have fibromyalgia.

She looked at me for a second then said, "Do you live in Chesterfield?" Slightly confused, I replied in the affirmative.
"I've read your blog! I saw it last year but I haven't been able to find it again. Your hair's different." (She was right, it's brown now and was tied back.)

I was shocked, really. How weird is that? I told her the address so she could find me again. So hi if you're reading. I don't know your name, but hi! :)

And here's a quick recent pic of me, taken with my new phone. Just because my hair looked good on Monday, and that's not normal. Plus I looked like a twat posing in Western Park with my phone and it amused me.

We're on YouTube!!!!!

I'll do a proper post later. But for now I have to share this with you...

This is Socii Cantorum, one of my choirs. Just a few extracts from our last concert in May. I'm clearly visible on occasions (and in case you get confused, we do move part way through) and I have two comments to make. One, I don't look as fat as I think I look, must be the black. And two, I have a bloody big mouth.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The continuing saga

Nic commented on my post yesterday... "it can only get better from here in mate!"

If only that were true.

Admittedly, I had a good evening. I fed the ducks, walked to choir rehearsal, enjoyed catching up with everyone, did some silly exercises and didn't do too badly with the sight singing. Had a fun time afterwards in the pub, but then things went wrong again.

This time through my own stupidity.

I'd planned my route. Bus from near the pub to the city centre, and a short walk to where I'd catch the 22:50 bus back to Chesterfield which conveniently runs almost past my house, getting me home at around 23:45.

Unfortunately I completely misjudged how to walk to the city centre stop, and consequently failed to find it and so missed the bus. In a slight panic I phoned Michael, who checked on the internet and informed me that there was a train leaving at 23:40, so I walked to the railway station.

In all the stress, when I got to the station I had to buy a mint Aero bar from the vending machine.

Michael picked me up from Chesterfield station at midnight, by which time I was completely knackered. My shoulders and neck ached, and I felt exhausted. Michael had kindly brought me a cup of (decaff) coffee to drink in the car, which helped a bit.

I pretty much went straight to bed when we got home, after making the executive decision that getting up at 6:30 for my 9am lecture would be a bad idea in my current state. So I didn't go.

I can't help but feel that it doesn't bode well for the future.

Michael suggested that I might like to come straight home from choir rather than going to the pub, but I'm not convinced that would help. I'd still only get home around 11, and the chances of me getting to sleep before 12 would be minimal.

I'm going to see the disabled student student support people tomorrow, to see how they can help me. Hopefully we'll be able to sort something out.

And on the plus side, I've seen loads of birds in the garden the last few days. Great tits, blue tits, coal tits, blackbirds, sparrows, starlings, a few goldfinches and greenfinches which I'm excited about because I don't see many, and a flock of around 20 long tailed tits flew over the other day. The escaped parakeet is also around - I haven't heard it for a while and I was beginning to think it was dead, but it was on my bird table the other day eating rice. It has a ring, so must have escaped from somewhere. I hope it will be okay.

Right. Breakfast and some work for me I think.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Not a good start

I started back at uni today. Scary.

2 lectures, one 11:10-12.00, one 12:10-13:00. A lab class 14:00-17:00. And Small Groups rehearsal tonight.

To get into uni for 11 I had to get up at 9, catch a bus into town at 9:50, a bus into Sheffield at 10:10, then another bus at 10:45 to the psychology department.

After a night of what must have been back-to-uni-anxiety dreams, I did get up at 9. I did everythng I needed to do and was waiting for my first bus at 9:45.

Which didn't arrive.

In a slight panic, I waited in case it was late. Because the next one (they are every 10 mins) would have only jsut got me there on tme, and I'd have had to run and/or hope the Sheffield bus was late. A bus actually turned up at 10:15. Therefore I missed the Sheffield one.

I settled down to wait for the 10:40 Sheffield bus. I'd be half an hour late for my lecture, but at least I'd get there. I decided I'd take out some cash while I was near a machine, and that was when I realised I didn't have my card with me. Bollocks.

I couldn't remember whether I'd picked it up or not, so I had to go home to check, just in case it had been stolen on the bus or something. Besides, I only had a couple of pounds on me and I needed money for lunch and the bus.

So I got back on the Newbold bus and went home. The bus takes a circular route, so a journey into town for me takes 10 minutes, but the journey home takes 20 - I quickly worked out that in order to get to my 12:10 lecture I'd have to catch the same bus I was already on.

It was actually possible, because I did it. I got off at the village, which is a 10-minute walk from my house. I power-walked to my house in about 8 minutes, grabbed my card (which was on my bedside table after all), and ran back to the bus stop on my road. Caught the same bus, which slightly confused the driver.

And all my other connections went fine, and I was there for my second lecture at least.

At least I'd bought a £5 all day ticket thing so my extra journeys didn't cost me any more.

And I've discovered an advantage to repeating - I already know exactly how to do an analysis of variance (ANOVA)* from last year, in contrast to my fellow second-years who looked rather confused. Same thing in my lab class, I'm pretty competent at putting formulae into Excel, and everyone else... apparently isn't.

I just need to make some friends now I guess.

Right. I'm off to sit in the park for an hour to look at birds and eat houmous with veggies and pittas. And strawberries. Then choir!!! :)

*It's a statistics thing, in case you care. I'm sure you don't.