Monday, December 01, 2008

Sparkly pretty things

Finally got round to adding some new jewellery to Etsy.

I have more to add, but I haven't taken pictures of them yet.

I'm actually quite pleased with the way I'm progressing as a jewellery artist. The owner of the lovely bead shop in town has been asking me to take some polymer clay beads in to show her for a while now, and when I actually managed to remember to do it she seemed very impressed. In fact she wants me to run a bead-making class! How exciting!

I can definitely see the improvement in my work since I started back in August.

Unfortunately I haven't sold all that much yet. I'm blaming this on my lack of business skills, having never run a business before. Anyone have any tips on marketing and such? I've been thinking about doing a jewellery blog showing each piece as I make it, the stages I go through, etc. - any other ideas?

Friday, November 28, 2008

More on the charity single

Check us out here! There's even a video where you can see me in all my curly-brown-hair-and-glasses-standing-next-to-the-blonde-soloist glory if you're paying attention.

And now my hair is much darker, with some red though the top of it.

Right, now I'm off to finish my wings for tonight. They will look awesome.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Something interesting at last

Spent this morning doing something pretty cool and exciting.

Recording a charity single!

I'd explain it but I can't be bothered, so just read this article instead.

Tomorrow I'm having my hair coloured (probably red, but haven't decided yet).

And Friday I'm out with some of the girls from choir. We'll all be dressed as fairies.

And I now have a new little studio/workshop as I've taken over our tiny third bedroom with my polymer clay/jewellery stuff, which means we can actually use the kitchen table again. Yay!

Well it's not as boring as last week, anyway...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Body, don't do this to me

Been feeling rubbish the past 10 days or so.

Pretty much the usual I guess, tired, everything too much effort, not getting anything done, not feeling like doing even fun stuff, not sleeping, not taking care of myself (which I'll admit, usually means not showering/cleaning teeth as often as is necessary, and can also mean eating rubbish or not eating enough), not wanting to see people or talk to them, being very boring, and generally wandering round like a zombie.

I missed three rehearsals in as many days simply because I couldn't face the thought of dealing with public transport, being sociable, sight-reading and then more public transport. Not to mention the almost impossible tasks of showering, washing hair, removing unnecessary hair from face (what's the deal with that anyway? Hormones, what the hell did I ever do to you?), choosing what to wear, and organising the myriad of bits and pieces that I can't leave the house without nowadays (pencils, water bottle, sheet music, snack, diary (which I don't even use) notebook, and occasionally knitting).

And that's not like me, I never miss rehearsal no matter how crap I feel. It's always been like the one thing I can keep up with no matter what. But not now, apparently.

There have been a couple of times this week when I've been feeling miserable and thought, "Hey, I know this feeling... I DO NOT want to be depressed again thank you very much". It's not like wanting-to-cry-all-the-time depression, or a feeling-like-I-want-to-die-but-being-too-exhausted-to-actually-go-through-with-suicide depression (been through both and neither are fun), it's just ordinary run-of-the-mill I-can't-do-this-anymore-continually-unhappy-for-no-obvious-reason depression.

And yeah, I'm feeling sorry for myself.

And why on earth have my eyelids suddenly turned against me? I wake up every morning with sore eyes because my blepharitis is back - sometimes my eyelids are actually stuck together. And the creases of both lids have sore flakey itchy patches of what I think is seborrhoeic dermatitis. It's driving me crazy. It's been bad enough to crack and break the skin and make closing my eyes difficult (it's improved since then). You know your eyes are really sore when even baby shampoo stings (washing the eyelids with diluted baby shampoo is the usual treatment). I don't wear makeup often but since I can't right now, I want to, dammit.



Plus my ears as well as the skin behind them right into my hair, and to a lesser extent the whole of my scalp, are all flakey and horrible. If I scratch, it weeps and then crusts over. Not pretty.



Is it the weather (miserable)? Or just generally feeling run down? Or am I reacting to a load of evil chemicals in the environment or something?


Damn. I need to think of something fun to do, quick.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Ouch

Concert went well, we sounded good.

Pete's advice about singing high notes worked, because the high Fs in Messe Basse didn't bother me (and I usually crack or squeak a bit). But working really hard in rehearsal on Thursday, singing for two hours (or something like that) at Meadowhall on Friday, then rehearsing hard all afternoon Saturday was obviously pushing it a bit when my throat hasn't been right all week, because by the time we moved onto the Requiem I was having problems.

The third movement, Dies Irae, is fairly loud and shouty and it was at that point I felt my voice going wrong. Most of my low notes were fine. The high notes were a bit strained, but okay. Middle range? Rubbish.

For those of you who aren't singers, you basically have two parts to the voice: head voice, and chest voice (there are other ones, but those two are the main ones). I'm not going to expain properly what they are, but on the higher notes you use head voice, and the lower ones you use chest voice. If you sing up or down a scale you'll find your voice "breaks" at a certain point as you change over from one voice to another (for me this is around the B above middle C, which is pretty normal for an alto - a soprano has a higher break). As you train your voice you learn how to blend the two voices together over these notes to hide the break - so as I sing upwards and approach the B I can gradually increase the proportion of head to chest so by the time I get to the D I'm pretty much completely using head voice. Make sense?

So what happened to me was, I lost the ability to blend. My sweet(ish) choirgirly high notes were fine, and my rich low notes were fine, but if I sang upwards I'd crack, and if I sang downwards I'd go all quiet and breathy. Which was pretty useless since the majority of the Requiem's in my middle range. Oh well.

And I woke up this morning with a really sore throat - hurt to talk and swallow, and my tonsils are swollen.

So I've avoided talking as much as possible, and tried to drink lots. I have a rehearsal tomorrow, and I'll probably end up sitting there and not singing because I don't want to damage my voice any more.

I'm actually scared stiff of getting vocal fold nodules and not being able to sing for a long time. Better to rest now I think, rather than lose my voice altogether. Hopefully I'll be all recovered soon.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Concert!!!

Mozart Requiem tonight. Should be good.

And we sang carols at Meadowhall yesterday, for their turning-on-Christmas-lights thing.

And I was amused to be pretty much the only girl there who wasn't all excited to see Vernon Kay, who pushed the lights-on-button. They think he's gorgeous, and of course he's famous(ish), but I just find him a bit annoying.

And we were on the local news.

But it's still too early for Christmas carols - it's not even my birthday yet!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Typical

I'm having unmistakable symptoms which signal the beginning of a sore throat, possibly with accompanying cold:

Difficulty swallowing
Headache
Aching eyes
More than the usual muscle pain/discomfort
"Tight" feeling in the neck/throat
Sleeping more than usual/tiredness
Difficulty concentrating/thinking/remembering anything
Pain on high notes

Which is just what I need when I have a concert on Saturday.

If you're around on Saturday evening you should come along - Mozart's Requiem and Faurés Messe Basse and Cantique de Jean Racine (all of which I like). 7.30pm, Firth Hall, Western Bank, Sheffield. Should be fun.

I must be ill. It's 9.30 and I want to go to bed - that's very much not normal.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

You know, I learned something yesterday


Went to a singing workshop yesterday, run by my conductor Pete and our accompanist Robert, both of whom are singing teachers as well as conductors.
The first half was Pete teaching us how to breathe, warm up, etc. (most of which I already knew but always useful to be reminded), how to sing with different parts of the voice, how to sing louder, and most importantly of all for me, how to sing high notes without that horrible closed up squeaky nasy-sounding effect I usually get on anything higher than a top F (and sometimes get on lower notes than that).

Sometimes I do high notes quite well. There are times in rehearsal when we're warming up by singing scales which get successively higher, and I can manage to keep up with the sopranos almost all the way. I mean it doesn't sound nice, but I can do it.

But with the tips and techniques Pete gave us, I reckon I've added a whole lot of notes to the top of my range, which still sound good - and it was easy. Apparently it's always been there, I just didn't know how to do it before. Watch out sopranos! I might test myself later and see how high I can actually get, because it's always good to know.

Oh and I added a tone to the bottom of my usual range as well, but I don't know how I did that. Now I can sing almost all the notes in the tenor range (I can sing down to a low E, and the bottom of the tenor range is a D), and I've reached my actual physical limit. Cool.

The second part was Robert teaching us sight-reading, with a lot of useful short-cut type techniques. Now when I joined SingSoc 3 years ago I was awful at it, but I've definitely improved a lot since I joined (particularly when a certain alto who always got everything perfect left and I could no longer just listen to her and sing what she was singing).

I think my main problem in the past has been over-reliance on my ear, which has always been very good. I always learned everything by ear because I could - however in a choir you often don't get anything played to you unless you get it horribly wrong.

We went thought loads of exercises yesterday, of the type you get when you take instrument/voice exams at Grade 4 and above. The first ones I didn't find too tricky because they were just pitching notes - this gave me confidence because I thought I'd struggle.

I did struggle on the next bit though, when we moved onto actual pieces of music - I had trouble with doing pitching and rhythm at the same time. I blame it on being tired after all that work though, because I usually manage better than that with more difficult music. I'll try the exercises at home and see how I do when I'm not exhaused

In general, I feel much more confident. I mostly held my own with people who had much more musical experience and knowledge than me (if not singing experience) which means I'm better than I think I am.

And I also learned something important about sight-reading - I perform much better when I relax a bit, and stop working so hard. There's a part of my brain that knows all this stuff fairly well, and I should just stop thinking so hard and let that bit do the work for me.

Friday, October 31, 2008

More on the synesthesia thing

So I've been thinking about this some more tonight, especially as a friend of mine told me she's read my last post and that she has coloured numbers.

I was discussing the number form/coloured numbers thing with Michael when I came home (he has a day form too, and an alphabet form) and realised that there are some numbers and letters which have an associated colour in my head. I didn't know I did this.

It isn't at all strong, and I don't "see" the colours in the way that I "see" the positions of days - I just have a "feeling" that certain colours go with certain numbers and letters. I don't feel uncomfortable if those letters/numbers are printed in the wrong colour, but if I was to choose colours for them to be printed in, I'd tend to pick the same ones every time. I can easily ignore it since it isn't that strong.

A is red. C is yellow, D is green. F is purple. G is brown. H is green. M is dark blue. Lower case n is green, but upper case N doesn't have a colour. S is white.

1 is white. 2 and 3 don't have colours. 4 is dark red, 5 is a mid blue. 6 is pinkish purple, 7 is green, 8 is blue (but a lighter blue than 5), 9 is pink. Bigger numbers don't have colours either, but the digits that make them usually do. (The colours I've used here aren't the exact shades by the way, just the closest ones I could find on the text palette).

Some musical notes have colour as well. It's not the actual pitch that gives it colour (they don't change colour if someone plays the music in a different key or whatever), just the position on the staff. Some correspond to the colours of their letter, like the yellow C. But some are different, like the D under the staff (brown).

Interestingly the E on the bottom line is blue, but the E on the top space is white. A is red like the letter, but the As above and below the staff (not shown) aren't coloured. The F way below the staff (the lowest note an alto can reasonably be asked to sing) is dark green, the F in the bottom space much lighter mint green and the top line F isn't coloured. The higher D (second line from the top) is dark purple.

Weird, isn't it?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The shape of time

Well I said I'd draw my day and month forms, so here they are.















Apologies for the poor quality, i used my new digital pen and I haven't had chance to play with the software much yet.

The colour of my life at the moment...

... is red.

I've been trying hard to find a particular yarn for a custom order. One of my return customers wants four knitted hedgehogs made in "Santa" colours - a bright scarlet red with white.

Now I have probably 6 or 7 hedgehog-friendly yarns in red, but all bar one tend towards crimson and more purple kinds of red. Typical. Actually it's probably that way because I prefer purple to orange, so I've picked out reds that reflect that.

I'm also making red beads at the moment, because I've sensed an opportunity to sell jewellery to the girls in Ladies' Choir. We wear black in concerts, and try to wear red jewellery. Several people have mentioned that they don't have anything red - so that's where I come in! I have three necklaces ready so far, hopefully should get a load more done over the next few days.

Bear with me - this seems irrelevant but it's not. Sometimes I look up something on Wikipedia, and while I'm reading the article I'll open up links that interest me in other tabs. When I finish the article I close the tab, and move onto the next tab, and do the same thing. It's kind of like surfing, except I end up in loads of different places at once. Often I just mean to look up a couple of subjects, and end up spending hours reading page after page - I call it "falling into a Wiki Hole" (see also Wookey Hole - nothing to do with Star Wars - and K-hole).

I fell into one when looking up the word red, just to check out if there were other good words I could use.

Somehow that lead me to the page on virginity, but that's not what I wanted to talk about.

While on the synesthesia page, I made a not-really-very-surprising discovery. I have a form of synesthesia. I'm not going to explain what synesthesia is, follow the link!

I have number form synesthesia, specifically for days of the week and months of the year - each day or month has a position on a circle for me.

Days follow this pattern: the week forms an oval shape, wider than it is tall. Wednesday is exactly at the bottom of the oval, Saturday and Sunday at the top. The days run anti-clockwise so Monday is on the left and Friday on the right, and the weekdays are closer to each other than they are to the weekend.

Strangely, the months run clockwise, unlike the days. The year is a circle, not an oval, but the months are unevenly spaced. December is at 9 o'clock, April at 12 o'clock. July is 3 o'clock and 6 o'clock sits just between October and November. And for some reason, I can't help by think of December as the start of the cycle (it's in the same position as Monday).

Maybe I'll draw my day/month forms so you can see more clearly what I mean.

If I know that Tuesday is the 13th for example, and want to count forwards so many days, I see the oval in my head as I count, and the numbers fit into the form in the right positions for the days. if that makes any sense.

I discussed this with my mum fairly recently, and was surprised to find out that she has the same thing, except her days and months both run clockwise and Monday and January are at the top. Whick is kind of logical, because she's reflecting the clock face.

Anyone else experience this? Or something similar?

Monday, October 27, 2008

The non-sexual crush

So I sort of have a bit of a crush on someone.

Someone I'm not sexually attracted to at all.

It's a sort of wanting to impress them, being more interested in whatever they're talking about than you usually would be, being more aware of them than others in the room, caring what they think of you kind of deal, rather than wanting to sleep with them.

It's weird.

I've noticed that when this happens to me (not that it happens very often, not since my teenage years), it's usually a woman that's the recipient.

Now I am sexually attracted to women as well as men, but don't identify as bisexual mostly because I'm not interested in romantic/sexual relationships with women - in general they are just too complicated, with all that expecting you to be a mind reader and saying one thing and meaning another and insecurities that you get so often. Note that I'm not dissing women at all here, neither am I saying that all women are like that. Those that are? It's a social conditioning thing. But I digress. Plus, penis = good.

So anyway. This crush is a man. I've known him for a while, although I don't know him very well.

I've been trying to figure out what it is I like about him, and what he has in common with my previous crushes - and I've come up with a little "crush wishlist".

1) Funny. Makes me laugh, in a clever not-just-endless-fart/penis-jokes kind of way. Which also leads to...
2) Clever. But not obviously cleverer than me. Not that I've administered IQ tests - he could very well be more intelligent than me but he doesn't act it, and that's the bit that matters. Clever enough to be intellectually stimulating, but not clever enough to be threatening or make me feel stupid.
3) Slightly vulnerable. Guess that's the maternal side I haven't got coming out.

This probably explains my little list of People I Don't Fancy But Would Still Sleep With, which notably includes Alan Davies, Bill Bailey, Billy Connelly, Rich Hall, and Jennifer Saunders. Okay, so I do sort of fancy Jennifer Saunders, but not enough to discount her from this list.

What is it about funny people? I don't get it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Well surprise, surprise. Blogger's being a twat again.

Bastards....

I've been trying to comment, on my OWN BLOG, so I can reply to the comment's I've gotten recently.

Apparently that's just asking too much.

Despite being logged in, my blog looks like I'm not, i.e. it says "sign in" or "create blog" at the top rather than "new post" or similar. When I click to sign in, I go straight to my dashboard, which I'm signed in to. But if I try to comment, the page just refreshes and my comment vanishes.

Pippa says the she's having trouble commenting here as well, so it's not just me.

So you were going to get actual content, but instead you get yet another moan. For which you can thank fucking Blogger.

And I'm out.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

You'll be pleased to hear...

... that I've accepted the support job.

It will actually be more like 15 hours a week but as Sarah says, some weeks it will be 8, some closer to 20. Depends what she needs at the time.

So, I have basically two choices regarding uni - if I can persuade them to let me back in a part-time flexible kind of way.

Either I work part time and study part time (can possibly manage that), or I take the year off from studying and just work for Sarah, then reconsider next year.

If the job works out for both of us, I could potentially do it for 3 years (the length of Sarah's PhD) - I've told her I'm definitely available for at least one year.

Just realised that I actually have a third option - if uni insists that they can't make adjustments for me (and if it turns out that they can do that legally), I could study by myself this year. Although it wouldn't actually count for anything, then I could lie to my doctor to get them to provide me an "I'm all better" note and go back full-time next year having already got most of the material under my belt, and just spend the year revising and doing essays and exams and practical work. Much easier.

So yeah, a lot of stuff to think about.

I'm waiting to hear back from the Disabled and Dyslexic Students department anyway, see what they have to say about the uni thing.


And on a completely unrelated note, tomorrow I will finally reveal the mystery bird! So this is your last opportunity to guess...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

To make things slightly more complicated...

... I've just been offered a part-time job.

Which sounds really good.

Basically it would involve me being a PA for my friend Sarah, who's doing a PhD in speech therapy or linguistics or similar (I forget the exact details), and who's completely blind. I'd be her reader, recording printed text onto CD, and assist with things like references from printed books. Also as her guide when she goes to conferences and such (she has a guide dog but the dog doesn't help when Sarah's in an unfamiliar place - you can't ask a dog to tell you where a particular room is for example). And I'd format her written work on the computer, making sure that tables were the right size for the page, stuff like that.

I'd be trained in the International Phonetic Alphabet which is used a lot in linguistics, and how to use the recording equipment, and how to make the various vocal sounds which aren't used in English. (Very useful for singing actually, since we sing a lot in different languages.)

Hours would vary week by week, but would average maybe 6-10 with most of it being done at home, so I could work at 3am if I wanted to.

Since I have an interest in linguistics and the work's flexible and I already get on well with Sarah, it would suit me pretty well. And I should be able to cope, it's not like a massive workload or anything.

As to how this would fit in to studying, I'm not sure.

Plan at the moment is to contact the Disabled and Dyslexic Students department at university and see if they can help me at all with tackling the Psychology department. Because I still think that they have a legal requirement to give me a bit more than "sorry, we can't help".

I'm so not happy. In fact I'm downright pissed off.

I emailed my university department today, explaining the difficulties I've been having with the fibro, and saying that I didn't think I'd be able to cope with going back to uni full time.

The reply I got was pretty much, "Sorry you're ill, unfortunately we can't offer part-time study, try Open University - you can't come back until you get a medical certificate saying you're well enough to do the course".

Now I know I'm pissed off right now and probably not thinking straight, but surely that's discrimination?

Don't they have to make "reasonable adjustments" to make sure I'm not disadvantaged compared with other students, since the problems I'm having all come from my disability*?

Which won't go away?

Would it be unreasonable for them to allow me to work at my own pace, provide me with copies of lecture notes and allow me to access actual lectures from home (via web cam or video recordings for example)? To give me extensions on essays? To give me just a little bit of fucking support?

Needless to say, I'm tired and I don't know what to do.

* I still can't quite think of myself as disabled. Although I am. Disabled to me is using a wheelchair or crutches, or having dyslexia, or being blind or partially sighted, or something of that magnitude. I don't look disabled and I don't have specific impairments that are obvious to people - maybe it's because I don't have a "traditional" disability that I have such difficulty in self-identifying as disabled. Or "person with disabilities", since I'm all for the person-centred label.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

First jewellery sale!

Michael took a couple of pieces (heart pendant and earrings) to work with him on Friday to show some of his colleagues. And he sold them!

And the lady wants a matching bracelet!

And another lady has commissioned a pendant "to wear on holiday". I'm going to be sneaky and make matching earrings and bracelet as well, because I'm pretty sure she'll buy them too. Because I'm awesome. :)

I'm off out tonight, Charlotte's 21st birthday party. Should be fun...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A house guest

So I'm in the dining room making polyclay beads a little while ago (I know, it's really late, but my sleep is fucked up still), when I spot something out of the corner of my eye, in the kitchen. Not that my eye was in the kitchen, the thing I saw was.

Anyway, in front of the sink cupboard was a mouse. A pretty big, healthy-looking one. It had a look around. It sniffed the air. Then it disappeared, presumably under the sink cupboard.

So I got up and grabbed our multi-mouse no-kill trap from upstairs, baited it with peanut butter (that got Summer's attention), and set it on the floor by the sink. And went back to the beads.

A little while later the mouse (well could have been a different one I guess, it was a mouse anyway) strolled on past my chair, along the wall. Behind the rabbit's cage and round the other side back towards me. I tried not to move, because despite not really wanting mice in my house, I'm interested in how they behave. I often spend time watching them eat the food I put out for the birds. Cute little things, but destructive and rather unhygienic. Rather like children.

Anyway. This mouse either didn't clock me, or just didn't care that I was there - it practically ran over my foot at one point. Then it headed out into the hallway and I lost it.

Presumbably it went into the understairs cupboard.

Which is an absolute tip.

It's full of the vacuum cleaner, tools that are so essential that they don't live in the garage (like the big torch), dry dog food, dry cat food (for Basil the hedgehog), rabbit food and wild bird food. All in open bags. The little mouse must be having a field day in there!

Annoyingly this means I now have to clear out that cupboard and buy storage containers for the food and probably throw a lot of it away because it will be contaminated with mouse doings. Because mice are continuously urinating.

There must be a market for incontinance pads for mice.

Typical, when I have stuff I really need to do tomorrow, I've got to deal with the black hole under the stairs which may now be home to countless mice and spiders (not that I mind either, but still...) and possibly a small third-world country. When i should be making cute little cakes with glitter to take to the Activities Fair on Thursday, so we can bribe freshers into joining SingSoc.

That and doing something which I can't tell you about til Sunday.

Oh and while I'm here, are there any birders who want to play Guess Which Completely Unexpected Bird Turned Up In My Garden Last Week Which Isn't A Garden Bird And I Think Must Have Been Having A Rest During The Start Of Its Migration - before I post pictures of it?

Hell, non-birders can play too if the want!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

You may have noticed...

... stars! At the bottom of my posts! So you can give me feedback!

I noticed that Blogger have just made this feature available and I liked the look of it. However I've found a better one... with customisable colour and size and a widget which tells you which are your top posts (since no-one's rated me as I write this, it isn't showing up, but eventually you'll see it in my right sidebar as "Stuff you like").

Have a play! But remember that once you've rated a post, you can't change your mind or rate it again, unlike the official Blogger one.

What's annoying me today? Why, it's Blogger!

I decided to create a blog to go with my Etsy shop, a sort of "this is how I made this" kind of deal. So I thought it would be a good idea to keep it separate from this blog, because it's probably not good for business for customers to be able to get from shop blog to here (via my profile), where I rant and swear and express opinions and generally behave unprofessionally.

I sign up for a new Blogger account for the new blog. I create a new blog, silverleafshinystuff.blogspot.com. Matches the url of the Etsy shop, yeah? Easy to remember.

All is good. But as soon as I create the blog, I realise that I'm signed in with my old account. No problem, I think. I'll just delete it, and re-create it with my new account.

But apparently things just don't work like that. Once a blog is deleted, that url becomes unavailable for other accounts, so I can't claim the address I wanted.

At this point I check out the help files, which say I should be able to recreate the blog using the original account and go through a process (which I won't bore you with) to transfer ownership to my new account - but it doesn't work. silverleafshinystuff.blogspot.com remains unavailable, whichever account I try it with.

The help forum is littered with others who have had the same sort of problem, mostly who've deleted blogs accidentally and want them back. Some seem to attract the attention of an admin-y Blogger employee type who had flicks a switch somewhere and gives them their blog back. Others get ignored. I don't know why.

And Blogger's help system is impressively frustrating and circular. You end up trying the whole process again, ticking different boxes in the hope that eventually you'll get to a form you can fill in and send off, rather than being cycled back to the forum or help files. Guess they make it difficult deliberately to stop lazy/stupid people from asking Blogger to fix their tiny little problems that they could easily deal with themselves, but it does make it very annoying for those of us who know what needs to be done but can't do it ourselves and just need to basically tell someone what the problem is.

I've now filled in three different forms, and emailed twice over the last couple of weeks. Absolutely no response. Not even a standard "We're busy and can't deal with you now, but we have your email and we'll get onto it as soon as we can" response. I have no idea if they've even got my messages.

It's just not good enough. Surely they must have enough employees for someone to compose a form email which gets sent out to everyone who mails support@blogger.com?

I want to print business cards, and promote my shop. But I can't do that until I know what url I'll be using for the blog, and I won't know that until Blogger contact me.

I'm actually considering creating it on Wordpress or similar instead - I just don't want to do that because I'm used to Blogger and I'm lazy and I know where all the buttons are here. It's comfortable. And I'm too cheap to get a custom domain.

Come on Blogger, sort it out! I have potential customers I need to hassle!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Know what else is annoying?

Because being annoyed is my theme at the moment...

Clichés.

Seems no-one can open their mouth recently (especially on TV) without spouting a whole load of tired old phrases that have been so over-used they've lost all meaning. They might as well have said nothing at all.

Just a few examples: I'm over the moon, it's a dream come true, I'm doing this [i.e. trying to win a competition/sporting event] for my kids/mother who brought us 12 kids up single-handedly, it means the world to me, we'll just see what happens, at the end of the day, I gave it my best, if X happened it would just change my life.

Can't people be just a little bit imaginative??

Michael's often said that if you use a word/phrase (he's referring to swearing in particular, but the point still stands) all the time it loses power. Like if everyone said "fuck" in every sentence it would stop being offensive. I don't 100% agree with him, but in general he's right. New language please.

And while I'm on the subject of 100%...

Evidently when people trot out their clichéd phrases, they also lose the ability to understand basic maths.

I'm so sick of hearing "I'm going to give it 110%!"

Er, excuse me? You mean 110% of your effort/time/strength? I think you're misunderstanding a basic fact here.

100% is EVERYTHING. All of the money in your purse is 100%. Every book in your house would be 100%. And every last drop of effort you possess is, guess what, 100%!

Perhaps people get confused when they hear that, as a made-up example, the price of oil has risen 200%. This just means that the original price has tripled - and all of the new price is still 100%. Because percentages are relative, not absolute.

All this is quite apart from the fact that if you actually managed to put 100% of your total energy into some insignificant sporting event, you'd drop dead - because you'd have used up all your body's reserves (including that stored as muscle and organs). There would be no oxygen or glucose available for your brain (if the brain had mysteriously managed to not be converted into energy, that is).

You often see people on shows like Gladiators (okay, I know, if I watch Gladiators I deserve what I get - but I kinda like it) who are understandably very tired after they've finished whatever the last big challenge is. And they say things like, "Well, I did my best, I couldn't have done any more, I gave everything", but if their baby son was trapped in a burning building and they were the only one that could save them, they'd somehow find a bit more speed, be able to run a little further.

Apparently I'm also a maths Nazi.

Tune in next time, when I rant about how people completely fail to understand probability!

Or maybe I'll post pics of my garden and a recipe or two. Vote now!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Don't buy Spore

Because it's eaten my life in the 3 days I've had it.

Dangerous game. It's quarter to seven in the morning, and I haven't gone to bed yet, because "I'll just finish this bit..." then "Wow, how cool! I'll just have a look at this other bit..."

Damn my lack of willpower.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Not quite so crappy

Okay, I'm better than I was. Not so tired, and I've actually been able to make beads rather than just moping around. I'm considering a "how I made these" sort of blog. Wonder if anyone would be interested?

So anyway. I'm currently being wound up by bad English/grammar/punctuation. Not that mine's 100% perfect, but I'm pretty good generally*. It's not that difficult, surely.

Adverbs. When a descriptive word is applied to an action word (verb), almost all of the time it ends in LY. Like a person is graceful, and moves gracefully. Cold wind, wind blows coldly. Can someone please explain this simple rule to Tempest from the new Gladiators, who said on at least 4 occasions the other night, "She did amazing." By the second time I was actually talking to the television.

"LY! AmazingLY! It's an adverb, you silly woman!" or words to that effect.

Misuse of the reflexive. I'm so so sick of hearing, "I spoke to yourself last week", by people who are obviously trying to be polite and don't realise that the word you is perfectly polite, and in fact correct. Similarly, "Who's in charge of this department?" "That would be myself." You use the reflexive when someone's doing something to themselves, i.e. they are both subject and object of the sentence. Such as "I'm proud of myself" or "She accidentally hit herself with a hammer".

And for this next one I blame Facebook. Over the last few months a lot of people I used to know at school have friended* me. Fine. And like a foolish person who doesn't check out Facebook more than a couple of times a week, I subscribe to the feed of my friends' status updates and read it in Bloglines along with all the blogs I like, so I don't miss something important.

Which means I'm getting stuff like this:

"*Insert name here* is guin 2 sheff 2mrw 2 spend sum money"

Not even going to comment. But this kind of thing didn't happen when Facebook was just students, let me tell you. I was going to trawl around and fine a few others for you to enjoy/laugh at/cry over/fail to read at all, but in the end it was just too annoying.

And old school friends (in general)... aren't they DULL?

* I know my writing style isn't textbook, but that's for effect. Not sure what effect, admittedly. Like when I start a sentence with a conjunction such as but or and - I know it isn't correct but I like to do it anyway. I'm a rebel like that.

And I also miss out punctuation because i'm lazy. Like the comma that should come before a set of quotation marks in some sentences. He said, "I is crap at grammar."

*As far as I'm concerned, friend is now also a verb...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Can I have my brain back please Mister?

You know, I haven't been feeling right for weeks now. Months, if I'm honest.

Actually scratch that. For the past maybe 12 years I haven't been completely well - sure there have been periods which can last months where I'm pretty much functional, but there have also been times where I've been in a fair bit of physical pain, exhausted, miserable, clinically depressed, unable to do anything, and (for a rather, er, interesting month or so) actually wanting to die (which I don't refer to as "suicidal", but only because I didn't have the energy to even consider how I'd go about it).

But mostly I'm not at either extreme.

I've definitely posted about this sort of thing before. I'm pretty much "out of it". I don't much care, everything's too much effort. I'm tired. I mean, really tired. I can't think about more than maybe two easy things at once - so knowing that I have to mail something today and that I haven't watered the greenhouse yet takes all my available brainpower and I can't do anything else. Anything that involves multiple steps or processes just isn't possible right now.

As an example, Michael's just come in as I was writing this. He asked how I was. It took me a good 15 seconds to work out an appropriate way to respond (and it was only "Mmmmfffh" in the end).

Feels like I'm running on fumes, when I never had a very big petrol tank to begin with. Guess my fuel economy's gone to shit. And now I have to stop with the car metaphor because I just don't have the mental capacity to follow through with it.

I really hate being stupid, because I'm not. I have an IQ of 138* and I've pretty much aced every exam I've bothered to work for (and some I haven't). I'm sick of being this pathetic shadow of myself that just sits around all day not being able to do anything fun or useful, who can't remember to shower or clean her teeth, who doesn't answer the phone in case she has to make conversation with someone or they ask her to do something.

You know what? I'm fucking sick of it.

And even worse, I have no idea what to do about it.**

There has to be some way out of this. Because if there isn't, I'm really fucked. I can't live like this.


* I don't believe that IQ is an really accurate measure of actual intelligence, but a near-genius IQ has to indicate that my brain's pretty good, if only at doing IQ test type puzzles.

** I'm even considering the doctor again, if you can believe it. Even though they are pretty much no help at all, and a doc visit invariably leaves me feeling frustrated and miserable because I need them to help me and they, well, can't. Maybe it's depression talking, but I can't see how exercising and losing weight are sensible things to suggest to me right now. Why not ask me to fly to the Moon? With a 10-ton weight strapped to my ankles? Gimme some drugs and make me better. That's your job.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I fail, at least in some ways

Firstly, apologies for not posting about Scotland much much sooner.

I do have sort of an excuse, trust me.

Firstly, our router decided to die and wouldn't let me get online. Weirdly, wireless worked so I could get online using the Wii but that isn't really at all convenient, not having a keyboard and all. And unfortunately my desktop doesn't do wireless.

It took a couple of weeks to get a new router (actually we fitted a wireless card into my machine first, but still), and by that time I'd a) almost forgotten about blogging, b) got out of the habit of even going online and c) got very distracted by my new project (since I can only actually do one thing at once).

Which leads me nicely into....

... I now have an online shop, selling my own handmade jewellery! So I've been very busy making stuff and photographing it and getting it listed, and doing money type stuff which I'm not good at. The more observant of you will have noticed the advert in the sidebar showing some of my items for sale - please click through and have a look at the other stuff too, and let me know what you think!

I'll try to get to the Scotland stuff soon. Sorry.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Oh well

Blogger being a twat, and I'm tired. Pics tomorrow. Bah.

Some info before I post properly about our Islay trip

So I'll be doing a separate post for each day, and changing the post time so they publish as if I've posted on the actual day rather than now, if that makes sense. This means they won't be at the top of the blog - the easiest way to look at them will be to click on something relevant in my label cloud on the right-hand side (the bit with all the random-ish words in) such as "Scotland" or "Islay". If you're using an RSS reader (all one of you) then I guess they'll just arrive as I post them.

This map might help if you're wondering where the photos were taken, or where the hell I'm talking about. If I can be arsed I'll put together my own map, showing the places that are relevant.

I've listed the birds I saw over the entire week, starting once we got to Kennacraig. As it's a week list, if I saw the same species on several different days I've only listed it the first time I saw it. Don't go thinking that I only saw one swallow or something on a particular day. Mammals similarly.

And in case you're wondering, my parents took care of Summer and Basil. Summer's caravanning with them in Wales as we speak - they went on Wednesday and won't be back for almost 2 more weeks. I miss her. My dad made sure Basil had plenty of food and water until we got back Saturday night. And Kay bunnysat Neo for me - a good time was had by both by the sounds of things!

Right. Off to upload photos.

Right. Off to upload photos of Saturday.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

On my way home

I'm on a train somewhere not far outside Edinburgh, using free WiFi. Cool.

I did try to email using my phone but didn't seem to get a really good signal all week... enough for calls and texts but not email, apparently.

We've had a great time and didn't want to leave, but it will be nice to be home - hopefully the garden won't have suffered too much in my absence. Hopefully.

I'll do a proper holiday report later, when I'm not using an impressively slow connection and Michael's laptop which only has Internet Explorer. Hate.

Hope you didn't miss me too much!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Woo hoo! Scheduled post! I'm posting and I'm not even here!

By now I should be on Islay, relaxing after a hard day's travelling.

If I can get to an internet connection I'll post a quick update sometime during the week, if not I'll post via email on my phone. Yay smartphone.

Sayre, recipe's on its way. Might take a week or so, but I'll definitely post it. Hope you still have eggplant left!

Kay, please don't change your name, sex, nationality and skin colour and steal my bunny.

Have fun without me!

xxx

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Holiday plans!

So as usual, something I promised to do, I haven't done (i.e. posting photos of Scotland last year).

If I have chance tomorrow I'll see what I can do, but not promising anything as I'm expecting to be busy.

Saturday we're off to Islay again, because we liked it so much when we were there last year, and thought it was a shame that we only got to spend two days on the island.

So now we're having a week - well actually 6 days and 7 nights, because travelling there takes a whole day.

Here's a rough plan of the travel arrangements for Saturday.

7.00 Taxi to train station.
7.30 Train to York.
9.00 Train to Haymarket (Edinburgh).
12.00 Train to Glasgow.
13.30 Coach to Kennacraig.
18.00 Ferry to Port Ellen.
20.30 Pick up hire car at Port Ellen, drive to accommodation.
21.30 Arrive, decide whether or not we're too tired for a quick walk, and collapse.

Sounds a bit gruelling, but it'll be an adventure. The reason we're doing the public transport option is that Michael didn't fancy driving for 12 hours in one day. Can't say I blame him.

Islay's a beautiful place, full of wildlife and whiskey. Not that I care much for whiskey but the distillery we went to last year was very interesting.

I'm planning active stuff, walking and birdwatching and pony trekking and so on, along with some whiskey-related activities for Michael.

Only problem is I'll miss Summer, as she'll be camping with my parents. We're away a week, they don't come back until we've been home two weeks! What will I do without my dog for three weeks?

Anyway, still have loads to do so I'd best be off. Wish us good weather and lots of interesting animals!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What's for dinner?

Garden veggies!

Peas, the first few little French beans, Charlotte potatoes, beetroot, and carrots. Plus some lavender and mint.

We had salmon fillets pan fried with lavender and a little lime zest (worked well), boiled potatoes with mint and butter, and gently boiled beans, peas and carrots. Lovely fresh summer flavours.

In the process of harvesting I discovered more of Summer's weirdness.

Picture me with a wooden bowl which I'm filling with peas. I worry when I'm pulling the pods off that I'll pull off half the plant with the pod so I pick two-handed, one hand supporting the stems. I put the bowl on the floor.

So I'm reaching though the trellis (which is there so I can train the pumpkins and buttercup squash up it - didn't really think it through) to grab the peas. And the bloody dog's putting her nose into the bowl of peas and grabbing some and eating them with obvious enjoyment.

I mean, raw peas! And while I was shelling them she was sitting by me looking expectant, so I let her have a few empty pods. Typical bloody Labrador. She likes raw broccoli and carrots too.

We have an orchid in the orchard. Not on purpose, it just turned up there, looks very pretty. Michael has pics of it which I'll have to steal from him. And I saw a frog earlier, and we had a couple of nuthatches the other day (along with 20 or so regular bird species). And there are loads of common red soldier beetles which I've never seen before (they like to eat aphids and other small insects so they are good guys). Guess my somewhat laissez-faire attitude to weeding is paying off for the wildlife.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Yeah, so my motivation is a little lacking

I've realised I never posted pics of our holiday to Scotland last year. And I really meant to.

I'll try to get them up ASAP because it would be a bit ridiculous and confusing if I posted them after our next holiday.

Just a short one

Bah. I suck at this regular updatey thing. So bullet points, here we go.

* I've fallen into bad sleep habits - staying up til 4am then sleeping til 1pm. Doesn't agree with me, and I need to get back into a sensible routine.
* Garden is good. Pictures will come soon, hopefully.
* Michael's been less good. He's had a stomach virus since Sunday morning and still isn't feeling right. I'm feeding him bland foods and making him drink lots of water.
* We're off to Islay the weekend after next, for a week. Yay! Islay is beautiful. More details on that to follow.
* Mario Kart Wii is taking up way too much of my time. Anyone else have it and want to add me as a friend?
* I've just sourced loads of books I've wanted for ages on Green Metropolis, which is an awesome site where you can buy and sell second-hand books. Everything's £3.75 plus varying postage (standard paperbacks are free postage), with 5p from each sale going to the Woodland Trust to plant trees. Great idea, plus they have books I want!
* I'm hungry. Pasta, I think.

Because everyone else seems to be doing it

14

As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Poor (Failure)

Take the test!


Can't say this comes as much of a surprise to me! Not only am I a modern liberated woman, I'm also not particularly domestic. And I'm lazy.

Poor old Michael, eh? Now he won't want to marry me!

Coming soon - A real post!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Carrot wars and rainbows

I'm growing two types of carrot in the veg plot at the moment. I bought the seeds a few years ago to sow in pots, therefore I picked varieties that I could harvest as baby carrots.

Not knowing then of course that you can use any type of carrot as baby carrots, you just pull them up before they're fully grown. Ah well, I'm better informed now. Still with our clay soil it's a good idea to stick to the shorter ones anyway.

So I grabbed some of each for dinner today, to do a taste comparison. Boiled for just a couple of minutes, then served with a little butter and parsley.

In the blue corner... Parmex. In my stupidity I didn't get a pic of these guys, so here's one from Thompson&Morgan instead. They can afford the bandwidth.

Designed to be very stumpy and ball-shaped. Mine are slightly more traditional-carrot-shaped than that (although the smaller ones are pretty round), maybe an inch in diameter and a little bit longer than that with a pointy end.

And in the red corner, the catchily-named Amsterdam Forcing 3-Sprint. Looks basically like a normal carrot. I did get a pic a few days ago.

The Parmex pic makes them look really dull (since it's obviously photoshopped), but they are a lovely orange colour, with a great perfumed carrot smell when you pull them up.

My prediction before the trial was that Amsterdam Forcing would taste better, based on the intensity of fragrance.

Michael had no such preconceptions, but we both agreed on our favourite... sure enough, the Amsterdam. Tastes sweeter and more "carroty", and the texture is better too, firmer. We have a winner!

* * *

Thinking about carrots made me remember that you can get purple carrots*, and I thought I'd have a look for some kind of mixed pack of seeds of different colours. I was disappointed. All I could find was mixtures with orange, yellow and white. Almost all were F1 hybrids (bah).

So instead I bought separate packets of red, purple, yellow and white from eBay, at a total cost of about £4.50. I'm intending to mix them with the Amsterdam Forcing I already have and sow them all together to create my own rainbow carrot mix. I'll happily swap some of them if anyone's interested.

And completely randomly, here's a dish I prepared a few days ago using garden veg. It's a stir-fry with chicken, noodles, purple kale, spinach, chard, rapini and mangetout peas. Wasn't bad at all.

*Carrots also come in yellow, white, purple and as I discovered today, red! How pretty!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Nothing very exciting

Yesterday was very windy, and some emergency plant support measures became necessary. Luckily there was only one casualty, a courgette plant that got decapitated when the stake it was tied to blew over. Peas and potatoes and sunflowers got battered about a bit, but they'll survive.

Today the new little purple-podded pea and pole bean plants got planted out, in containers because there's literally no room in the raised beds. One of the containers is an old plastic storage box with holes in the bottom. (Gotta love recycling!)

After deciding that liqueur making sounded fun, I raided the 'net for recipes and started off 4 different liqueurs - lemon, lavender, kiwi and lemon cream. Some more will happen as soon as I buy more vodka. It really is easy, just soak fruit in vodka for however long, add sugar syrup and strain and bottle and keep for a while, then drink. The lemon cream is very quick - it's in the freezer right now and it's really good - I found the recipe here.

Next step is to start making wine again too. I've started off some ginger beer. No, it's really not all Famous Five, this is serious stuff at about 5% alcohol (10% proof). If Julian, Dick (snigger), George, Anne and Timmy had been on this ginger beer I think the books might have been a little different... something like Five go to Al-Anon or Five wait for 7 hours in A&E after some drunken snooping goes horrible wrong. Or something.

Here's what I've harvested from the garden so far...

* Salad leaves
* Mangetout peas (just a handful today)
* Carrots (finger sized baby ones, because they needed thinning, plus baby carrots = so good)
* Oriental veg mix (eaten in a stir fry today)
* Spinach/leaf beet/chard

Potatoes and dwarf beans are in flower, and tiny courgettes, pumpkins, cucumbers and French beans are appearing. Also the tomatoes have buds.

I'm tired and need to sleep.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

On yumminess

So I couldn't resist picking and eating one of the yellow pea pods the other day. It was probably half sized, not even the size of a mangetout, but I was too curious.

Straight off the plant and into my mouth.

You know what, I never knew peas were so yummy!

I've had so-called "fresh" unshelled peas from the supermarket and they were good, but this was something else.

Crunchy and quite sweet with a lovely sort of resistance when you bit it and a flavour which frozen or tinned (yuk!) peas can't even hope retain. Of course it tasted like peas, but it also tasted a lot like raw skinless peanuts, for some reason. Delicious. Can't wait to be able to pick a proper batch to stir-fry, but I have a feeling they might just end up raw in a salad, they're that good.

In completely unrelated news, I really fancy making liqueurs this year, with fruits and flowers spices and such. Looks easy and fun, and tasty.

Yesterday I had a go at making elderflower cordial (that's a non-alcoholic drink for you Americans, which we dilute with water), since I have 3 or 4 elders in the hedges around my garden. It's steeping in the kitchen. Tonight I'll strain and bottle it - hopefully it will be really good and I'll have to make loads more. I've done lavender before, but never elderflower.

I can see myself at the end of the year with a kitchen full of jams and jellies and chutneys and sauces and cordials and liqueurs... anyone fancy saving jars and bottles for me? I'll swap them for finished products!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pea!

First pea pod emerges. :)

And yes, it's supposed to be yellow.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Feta and tomato pasta plus

Bout time I posted a recipe.

The title doesn't really say it, but I can't think of something more imaginative or descriptive. I used chicken but it would be equally nice without it (or with Quorn or whatever) if you fancied a veggie version.

Anyway, this serves 2.

1 chicken breast (optional), skinless and boneless, cut into small pieces.
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper (or whatever colour you like), in 1cm squares
1/2 courgette, in 1cm cubes
8 sun-dried or semi-dried tomatoes in olive oil, cut into small pieces
1 or 2 medium tomatoes, cubed
2 or 3 good handfuls of fresh young chard leaves or spinach, torn in half
75g feta cheese, broken into pieces
2 tbsp fresh oregano or marjoram leaves, or 2 tsp of dried (use other herbs if you like - mint, thyme, parsley or basil would all be good)
10 black olives, halved
150g dried pasta (I use a chunky sort of pasta rather than spaghetti or tagliatelle, but use what every you like)

1) Put the pasta on to boil, according to packet instructions.

2) Heat 1 tbsp of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes in a medium saucepan or frying pan and fry the chicken pieces (if using) with the garlic until mostly cooked. For the veggie version, fry the garlic for a minute then move to step 3.

3) Add the pepper, courgette and sun-dried tomatoes and fry until the veg is slightly softened and the chicken is golden. Add the fresh tomato and continue to cook until the tomato is mushy.

4) When the pasta is nearly done, add the chard or spinach and herbs to the sauce and stir until just wilted.

5) Add the feta and olives and stir, then drain the pasta.

6) Place pasta and sauce in the empty pasta pan and stir to combine.

Serve with a green salad. Should taste like summer in the Mediterranean.

How lovely!

A nice little package arrived this morning...

Purple podded pea seeds! And climbing beans! 20 peas, 10 beans... plenty for me to sow this year so I can save the seeds and have a great crop next year. Thank you Celia!

How exciting!!

I'm going to have a go at pea breeding... should be interesting. I just fancy a play really.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Notice anything new?

Like, my header?

Now try refreshing the page.

Hopefully you'll see a different image.

Theoretically you should see one of seven images...







...which will change randomly every time you visit the page.

Cool huh? Well I like it anyway.

Yum - and today is day 76. I counted.


It's pretty awesome to be in the middle of cooking a meal and decide you want, say, salad leaves or spinach or some fresh herbs, and just go outside and collect them.

Yesterday we picked baby spinach, leaf beet and rainbow chard (there isn't really enough of any one of them to make a meal on their own yet) to eat with dinner. I simply washed it and wilted it in a hot saucepan (I hate overcooked spinach), squeezed out the excess water and added a little butter and some black pepper.

It tasted completely different to the stuff I buy in bags from the supermarket - very tender but with a nice crunch to the stems, a lovely earthy and slightly sharp taste. As fresh as possible, and no nasty chemicals. And weirdly none of that not-so-pleasant "furry teeth" feel I associate with spinach.

I wonder how much of my enjoyment is due to the fact that home-grown stuff does taste better, and how much is due to my pride in the fact that I grew it myself?*

*Not massive amounts of pride admittedly, because chard and leaf beet and spinach are all really really easy to grow. I just sowed the seeds and watered them and they did the rest.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Garden update, day...er... I've lost count of what day it is

Had a nice day today, spent the afternoon in Weston Park in Sheffield with some choir people having a picnic and playing frisbee and enjoying the sun.

We took Summer, and she enjoyed meeting Pete's dog Fitz again (they met carol singing last year, although neither of them sang for some reason). Bless.

Have some garden pics. Excuse the poor quality, I used my phone - you get the idea though.

The greenhouse, which currently contains squash/courgettes (which need to go outside), tomatoes, peppers, chillies, melons and cucumbers. And spiders.

Potatoes, with sunflowers visible to the right. Completely recovered from the frost, just a few slightly browned leaves.

Carrots, beetroot, sweetcorn, salsify, spring onions, fennel, edible wild plant mix (yum), cucumber. Some lettuces and salad mix on the right.

Salad mixes, currently occupying the spaces allocated to tomatoes (in the greenhouse at the moment). The spirally poles will support the tomatoes. Not visible is the new asparagus I sowed, because it hasn't germinated yet. Fingers crossed for it.

Nasturtiums (for leaves and flowers for salads, to attract beneficial insects, and for butterflies to lay eggs on so they leave my brassicas alone), purple sprouting broccoli, red cabbage, romanesco cauliflower, calabrese, squash/courgettes.

Peas, which I think are beautiful. Just visible in front are dwarf French beans, and not at all visible behind are more dwarf beans, pole beans, pumpkins, buttercup squash and melons.

Onions, rainbow chard, garlic, spinach. Not visible is the quinoa behind the chard. You can just make out the new salad leaves seedlings top right.

We've already eaten loads and loads of helpings of salad leaves (3 different mixes), cut-and-come-again lettuce, chard, leaf beet and edible wild plants (dandelions are rather good, I have to say). I'm almost sick of leaf salad! We haven't bought any of the bagged supermarket stuff for at least a month, and we eat salad practically every day - some has also found its way to our respective parents.

Next vegetable to be harvested? See if you can guess...


.... yeah, it's a pea flower! I never realised they were such lovely flowers, looks very like a sweet pea to me. Shame I couldn't get the actual flower in focus, but it's not a bad macro for a phone really. I'll go out with Michael's camera tomorrow.

So yeah, everything's going well. I have to say I'm pleased so far with my first proper veg-growing experience.

Oh and check this out... a red-podded pea!!!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Rain

It's late, maybe 11pm, maybe 12. My parents are still awake, and every so often I hear one of them creak upstairs to go to the bathroom. They are watching television, my brother fast asleep in his room, the cat curled up in her basket, and for all I know the whole of the rest of the world is asleep as well.

I'm not.

I'm tired but I can't sleep. It's always been like this. I always beg to stay up a bit later, or to have a half hour of reading time in bed, and when it's time for lights out I sneak the light on anyway and read some more and if I hear footsteps on the stairs I click it off fast and pretend to be asleep so I don't get in trouble.

"Turn that light off and get to sleep!"

If only it was that easy.

It's late, and I have school in the morning. I never want to get up, which isn't surprising. At weekends I sleep in until 10 when Mum wakes me up, and I spend most of the day in my pyjamas reading or watching TV with my brother - at 5 he's 5½ years younger than me so we watch kid's TV but I don't mind. On Saturday nights Dad goes to the pub and Mum usually takes us to Pizza Hut, then my brother goes to bed and I watch TV with Mum, or we play board games until Dad comes home. Sunday is roast Sunday dinner where I'm forced to eat peas and baking a fruit cake and visiting family and watching
The Simpsons and egg sandwiches and pork pie and fruit salad for tea.

But tonight is Tuesday, so school tomorrow. Mum and Dad have gone to bed now. And I'm still awake. I've already been told off for reading tonight, so I don't put the light on again. Instead I lean into the window behind my bed, pulling the curtain over my head and down my back. The orange light from the streetlamps is just enough for me to make out the print of my book, so I can read at least. I have a vast collection of Enid Blyton books and I've read this one,
Six Cousins Again, over and over again. It's not that I like it particularly, it's just habit. This is the book I read in the window. When I finish it, I'll start it again.

Eventually my eyes start to hurt, because arc-sodium isn't ideal for reading. I glance out into the street. It's raining steadily, tapping on the windows, water running in dirty orange rivers down the gutters.

We live on the end of a small quiet street which joins to a busy main road. I can see the main road from my window. In the daytime I'm allowed to cross it by myself because I'm sensible, but Mum prefers me to walk down the road to use the crossing. Right now it's quieter but there are still cars passing - at night the cars drive themselves, sending a plume of roadwater out behind them, headlights bouncing off the drops of rain. Inside is dark and empty.

It's cold, and I pull the quilt around myself under the curtain and wrap myself up to the chin. I should feel safe. I had to wipe the fog of condensation off the window with my hand and it feels cold and damp so I tuck the hand into my pyjama top and try to warm it on my stomach, but all that happens is that both places get cold. The smell of cold damp window is like no other smell. The clear patch will mist up again as I breathe, but now drops of water run down to meet each other at the bottom and pool on the sill. If I'm careful I can draw a track with my finger and the drops will follow my path. I write my name - backwards so you can read it from outside - but within a few minutes it is obscured by the rivulets, scribbled out and unreadable. I draw a rabbit, a horse, a flower. All disappear.

It's still orange outside. Still raining. Still late. A bus trundles past, lit up inside like an dirty old aquarium, but instead of fish and plants and rocks there's just a few people sitting wrapped up in coats and scarves, not moving. How are there people still awake? A second and the bus is gone, and I have the sudden grisly thought that the passengers could have been dead. At least, they didn't look alive.

Or maybe they were asleep. Because I'm surely the only person awake.

And I've never felt as alone as I do right now.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Animal meme


Your Score: The Raven


You scored 44% domestic, 33% gregarious, 35% trickster, and 70% intellect!




Wild, Solitary, Serious and Intellectual: you are the Raven!

Raven is a strong symbol of both creation and destruction. Wisdom through intelligence, observation, and challenge. Raven is strongly tied to the spiritual world, living in a constant state of otherworldly awareness. Raven people tend to be very introspective and savour time spent ‘alone’.


This test categorized you based on four different axes of personality, which were then associated with a different animal. The four axes, as well as all possible results are explained below.

Wild/Domestic: This first axis categorizes you based on how much you are drawn to the outdoors, versus how much you are drawn to civilized situations. Domesticity has many shapes and forms, and varies from the joy of dolphins leaping next to a ship to the steadfast loyalty of a family dog.

Gregarious/Solitary: This axis measures how solitary you are. If you scored high, it means that you enjoy the company of other people, while a low score indicates that you prefer a more solitary lifestyle.

Trickster/Serious: This axis measures how well you line up with conventional trickster archetypes. People who fall into this archetype have a sense of humour and an excitable, highly chaotic streak. Scoring low doesn't mean that you don't have a sense of humour; it just means that you probably don't think dynamite is very funny.

Intellectual/Emotional: This last axis determines whether you are more emotional -- acting based on feelings and instinct, or rational and intellectual -- acting more on thought than on your gut feelings.


















WildGregariousTricksterIntellectualThe Hyena
WildGregariousTricksterEmotionalThe Otter
WildGregariousSeriousIntellectualThe Antelope
WildGregariousSeriousEmotionalThe Wolf
WildSolitaryTricksterIntellectualThe Weasel
WildSolitaryTricksterEmotionalThe Coyote
WildSolitarySeriousIntellectualThe Raven
WildSolitarySeriousEmotionalThe Frog
DomesticGregariousTricksterIntellectualThe Fox
DomesticGregariousTricksterEmotionalThe Dolphin
DomesticGregariousSeriousIntellectualThe Horse
DomesticGregariousSeriousEmotionalThe Dog
DomesticSolitaryTricksterIntellectualThe Rat
DomesticSolitaryTricksterEmotionalThe Ferret
DomesticSolitarySeriousIntellectualThe Cat
DomesticSolitarySeriousEmotionalThe Squirrel




Link: The Animal Archetype Test written by crumpetsfortea on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
View My Profile(crumpetsfortea)

People are pissing me off

I've allowed myself to get into a bad mood, which is unlike me. It's just a few things that have got to me.

So Thursday was nice, with a very chilled-out rehearsal with nibbles and cake and a good time at the pub afterwards. A bit sad that I won't see a lot of SingSoc people again until October though.

Friday was the committee/helpful people night out, and it was really nice to have the chance to chat to people without the pressure of having to do anything else, like sing, or organise a concert!

Usually my nights out with choir people involve me drinking too much and making unwise choices, like deciding to stay out later than I intended and so ending up really really tired, or deciding to drink more when I've definitely had enough. But I managed okay - one bottle of beer and 4 glasses of wine, and I was home around 1am.

But before I got home...

...I was outside Bar One (student union bar), calling a taxi. In the middle of the call, I felt something hit my left shoulder (it actually hurt), and a male voice shouted from a passing car, "That's for being fat!". I didn't react, being distracted by telling the taxi company where I was. When I'd finished the call, I saw a broken egg on the pavement just in front of me. And my jacket was all wet and sticky with raw egg.

I'm amazed that anyone could find throwing an egg at a random person funny. And deliberately trying to upset someone? Hilarious.

Not that I was upset. I was pissed off. It would be easy to feel bad, but actually it's made me more confident - anyone who'd judge me for my size is obviously the kind of prejudiced egg-lobbing fuckwit that thinks kicking a hedgehog to death is funny, would steal money from their own mother, who considers a MacDonald's Extra Value Meal followed by 10 pints of Stella and a fight a classy night out, and who will probably impregnate an emaciated 13-year-old, or several. So obviously not someone whose opinion I'd value.

The thing that bothers me is that they almost certainly continued their sad little rampage, and
probably actually hurt someone, either emotionally or physically.

However, just a couple of minutes later I met a really nice taxi driver with the coolest accent - his parents are Iranian, but he was born in Moscow. So I tested out my few words of Russian on him (I know the words for such useful things as man, woman, dog, car, boy, horse... stuff like that), he taught me hello and hi and shop and magazine (except I've forgotten the first two which I blame alcohol for), and he asked me to give him the English for someone who can speak two languages, and a few other phrases. And I explained the alternative meaning for the verb to pull. Lovely man.

Michael's pissing me off though. Not going into details, but he's doing stuff that he must know will annoy me, the going into a really irritating innocent "What? What am I doing wrong? Why are you getting so aggressive?" routine, when I'm simply telling him he's pissing me off.

So yeah. In general, not in the best of moods. Someone pass the chocolate.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Can't be bothered

Bah, again I have a few things I want to talk about but it's not going to happen because there's actually too much and it's over-facing me, and if I did everything in the one post you'd all (well all like three of you) die of boredom. I know, that last sentence is grammatically suspect, but I don't care.

Anyway. Garden. There was a bit of a surprise frost earlier in the week, which has somewhat upset my poor squash and potato plants. The potatoes range from no damage at all to almost all leaves dried up and black, and every squash plant except one has lost all its mature leaves in the same way. Baby leaves and flowers are okay, strangely - maybe the big leaves provided some sort of protection. Either way, they'll get over it. Half of the sweetcorn plants have snuffed it, but there's still plenty of time to sow some more, they'll catch up. Strangely, the bean plants are fine, with one plant showing a tiny amount of superficial damage to its seed leaves.

On the plus side, I can see 4 tiny baby courgettes forming. And we've eaten loads of baby leaf salad. All other plants are doing well too.

SingSoc's now over for the (academic) year, which is rather sad. I'll miss the guys, and I'll miss singing. And our concert last week was great - best I've ever heard us sing. Some mistakes, but nothing too awful, and the sound we made was excellent. I'm proud of us! My family unanimously agreed that we sounded great but they hated African Sanctus. Fair comment really.

We're planning another trip to Islay in July, probably for three reasons.
1) We really liked the place when we went last year as part of our Scotland birding trip, even if we did only have 2 days there.
2) Great place for wildlife. I'm hoping for choughs, grey and common seals, oystercatchers, curlews, gannets (as seen from the ferry last year), golden eagles (not much chance), hen harriers (maybe), corncrakes (umpossible to see but might hear them) and otters (might get lucky).
3) Michael likes the whisky. And we both really enjoyed the distillery tour of Ardbeg last year, even though I hate whisky. Seeing how it's made is fascinating.

Right. Now I'm off to make curry.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Anyone want plants?

So I have spare plants up for grabs!

Here's what's available.

1x pumpkin "Invincible" (dark blue/grey, with orange flesh)
2x courgette "Lebanese" (pale green)
2x courgette "Golden Zucchini" (yellow)
2x summer squash "Patty Pan" (pale green, flat shape)
2x summer squash "Yellow Scallop" (similar to Patty Pan but yellow)
1x cucumber "Mini White" (one person sized fruits, outdoor cuke)
1x melon "Minnesota Midget" (early, cricket ball sized)
1x sweet pepper "Sunnybrook" (early, 1/2 sized fruits)
1x sweet pepper "Orange Bell" (early and er, orange)
5x chilli pepper "Jalapeño"
3x chilli pepper "Cayenne"
2x tomato "Cream Sorbet" (long pale yellow fruits)
2x tomato "Amish Paste" (huge, good for sauces or salads)
2x tomato "Latah" (early bush type)
2x tomato "Costoluto Fiorento" (ribbed)

Kay, you've got first dibs if you want anything!

The pumpkin/squash/courgette plants can go outside now and should be fruiting soon, everything else can go out once it's bigger - can stay here in my greenhouse if necessary. Chillis will grow outside, but would probably be better inside on a kitchen windowsill or similar.

I can also provide growing instructions for everything.

If I don't get rid of them I'll end up having to spend a fortune on more pots and compost, and then I'll have more veggies than is humanly possible to eat.

Miss me?

It's like Kay said to me the other week, when you're busy enough to have stuff to blog about, you're too busy to, well, blog.

So, I guess, bullet points or something. And I'll try really hard to catch up with all your blogs too. Especially you Sayre! Probably Sunday, when I don't have anything I desperately need to do.

* Did Dido and Aeneas the other week in Sheffield cathedral. Went well, witchy voices and cassocks and everything, and when we went wrong we did it confidently so the audience didn't notice.
* African Sanctus/Carmina Burana (our huge mad £10,000 concert) is tomorrow. I really need to do some work on both pieces. But on the plus side, David Fanshawe (composer of Sanctus) is coming to work with us tonight, and we sold out, over 500 tickets, in three days. Exciting.
* I stood for the committee again - as Administrative Assistant. And as no-one stood against me, I got it. Now I'm in charge of pencils and milk and tea-making rotas. And here's the proof.
* Garden is good. Things are growing - I'll do a proper post about it later with photos once things are not so mad. We've already had three salads of baby leaves, yum.
* I ripped the skin off the back of my heels last week, hurrying in silly shoes. It hurt. I have scabs, and can't wear trainers again yet. That'll learn me.
* I also got myself sunburned last week, and I was only outside for a couple of hours. Trust me to forget the sunscreen. My shoulders went red and were quite sore, made sleeping difficult. Until I remembered a little tip we heard from a Greek bloke once while on holiday, and rubbed half a cold fresh tomato onto the affected skin. Scarily, it works really well, and the next day the burn had faded to pink. Now it's just tanned and for some reason it itches. It's driving me mad.
* Baby robins. In our garden. Cute. One of the parents has taken to flying into the house through the open back door and stealing mealworms from the container I keep by the door. Photos will happen at some point.
* We sorted out and painted our bedroom, bought and assembled new wardrobes, cleaned the carpet and put everything that doesn't fit or we don't wear in a box for eBay/charity shops.
* I got Wii Fit. I've lost 3lb.

Doesn't sound like I've been up to much, but I have.