Monday, 31 August 2009

A recipe for a Bank Holiday Weekend

This recipe will come in handy when you are left to your own devices for 3 days.

- Extensive DVD collection
- A craft of some sorts to keep you occupied
- 2 fur balls (can be any colour but I went with ginger & white and black & white)
- Comfy clothes
- Change of location
- Boring work


Step 1: Take the comfy clothes and apply to the body. Add the craft to keep you occupied (I went with cross stitch but reading, sewing, whatever will do)

Step 2: Mix in the extensive DVD collection - I found a mixture of Sex & The City, House, Wedding Crashers and The Breakfast Club worked well.

Step 3: Stir in the fur balls to 'help' with your craft and most importantly keep you company during the night.

Step 4: Move comfy clothes, craft and fur balls to a different location (a.k.a. the fur balls' real home) and leave to simmer for another day.

Step 5: Remove from fur ball location, back to original location, add in a good dose of boring work and bring to the boil.

Step 6: Give up on the work and return to craft and DVDs and await boyfriend's return.

It's been a lovely relaxing weekend (work aside) but I kinda him want back now.

Saturday, 29 August 2009


Why when there is a whole bed available does the cat insist on lying on your clothes?

And not just the clothes, but the one item of clothing that is black?

Friday, 28 August 2009

Why I am loving this Friday...

a) I've been working from home so I can chuck all my papers all over the floor and spread myself out. My desk at work doesn't have enough room and I think people would look at me a little strangely if I put them on the floor
b) I can stay in my pyjamas all day.
c) Whenever I got bored of doing my work I could get up and go and see what the furballs were up to (they've come to stay for the bank holiday weekend). When they weren't sleeping and climbing on things they shouldn't be, they were mainly sitting in our bedroom window, chittering at pigeons.

d) We're getting a takeaway tonight - I'm thinking Chinese, haven't had one in ages.

e) It's Saturday tomorrow.

f) It's a Bank Holiday plus I get the Tuesday off as well so I don't have to go back to work until Wednesday!

Hurray for this Friday.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

This blog will change your life (Part 2)

Family is very important to me (actually I should probably scrap that comment because when is family not important to anyone?)

It is a strange one though - here are these random people who you sometimes have nothing in common with except the fact that you have the same DNA running through you. This makes it difficult at times to say the least.

Take me and my brother and sister for example. I have to admit that we don't talk to each other as often as we should. In fact, if I'm going to be really honest we don't talk to each other at all. The only reason we know what's happened in each other's lives is because of the one thing that connects all of us - Mum.

There isn't really an excuse for it. Except that there always is isn't there? There's always something. My sister is a big high powered business lady person and never replies to texts or e-mails because she never has the time. She then comes home to 2 children, (although technically there are 4 children if you count the dog and the husband) so she never calls and then I feel bad about calling in case I'm bothering her so that never happens. My brother? Well he's just selfish. I'm going through a bit of a not liking him phase at the moment which is new for me because I've always thought he was the bees knees. He used to do the whole protective older brother thing and although it frustrated me how mean he could be to some of my boyfriends, I secretly liked it. At the moment though, I don't know, I just feel like I don't have anything in common with him, we have a completely different set of values and most of the time his general attitude to life and those around him annoys the hell out of me.

So no-one calls each other and then it gets harder to call each other because you haven't called each other. So nothing happens until Mum goes over to see one of them and I say I'll go with her.

"You'd better not die" I said to my Mum a while ago (I say quite strange things to my Mum at times, it's ok, we're cool with each other), "if you do the three of us will probably never see each other again."

I laughed but it actually hit me hard inside because it was at that point that I realised. Although we might be totally different people and would never be friends in the 'real' world, we are connected, we do have something fundamental in common, and if blood isn't enough to keep you together then what is?

At around the same time as this dawned on me, my friend introduced me to the Nie Nie Dialogues and from there I started reading Stephanie's sister's blog, cjane enjoy it. As I said in my previous post, this family is something else. You couldn't help but want to be part of it. And in Cjane's writing the importance of family shines though. Whether she's talking about her husband Chup and son The Chief, or when she was blogging about having 3 of her sister's children live with her while her sister was in hospital, or whether she's talking about another sister dropping by, it's perfectly clear - she loves her family. She doesn't have a bad word to say about them. Which is strange because surely they must bug each other sometimes? Surely they must be different people?

Maybe they do, maybe they don't and maybe they are and maybe they're not but what's important is that they're family. It doesn't matter if you aren't the same people, there's a bond there that runs deep and must act as some kind of anchor, pulling you in whenever you try to go astray. I'm sure that if some calamity should befall us then the others would be there immediately, doing everything they could to help. But it shouldn't come to that. It shouldn't take a disaster to reaffirm what you should already know.

So taking cjane as my inspiration I vow to be a better sister. To be less consumed with my own worries and to think and do more to solidify the bonds between my siblings. I will be undeterred by the fact that when I ask my brother when I can pop over to York (which is about 45 minutes away from Hull) he will say that he will have to "check the diary" and I will want to beat him round the head with a club saying with every swing "I. shouldn't. have. to. make. an. appointment. I'm. family." I will just say "Ok. When's good for you?" I will be undeterred that when I call my sister for a chat and she doesn't really have anything to say she doesn't make any effort whatsoever to further the conversation and will let it get to the point where there are uncomfortable silences on the end of the phone. I will just continue to blather away until I run out of things to say.

And I will try and not bitch about either of them.

(On a separate note about Cjane's blog. What I really love about it, apart from all the schmaltzy family stuff I just talked about it are the lovely pictures she puts on there and most of all her writing style. She writes in a way I wish I could and it makes me more than a little bit jealous that I can't.)

Monday, 24 August 2009

Why I love this boy of mine...

...because he brought me pretty flowers and when I asked him why he said

"Because it's Monday"

(And yes they are in a glass tumbler rather than a nice fancy vase but when the flowers are this pretty I figured it wouldn't matter)

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Mushroom & Prawn Risotto with lemon and marscapone

Last night I was the risotto queen. I came across this recipe that I have copied down from somewhere, although I have no idea where. I have a box stuffed with random recipes that I've photocopied or scribbled down and I occasionally have a dig through to look for something I fancy.

I like risottos. I know people always complain that it's a bit of a faff but I don't think it really is. Yeah you have to do a bit of stirring but it doesn't take any longer to make than any other meal, you're just standing over it a bit more. Plus there are things you can do whilst you're stirring,
- text people with your free hand
- read a book
- get lost in random thoughts
- make lists of things that need doing

Anyway, the result was more than worth a bit of stirring - it was gorgeous! If I do say myself.


(Would serve 4 if you're serving it with something else, however on it's own you can get 3 servings out of it)

125g spring onion - finely chopped
2 sticks celery - finely chopped
1 small lemon
300g mushrooms - finely sliced
50g butter
2 chicken stock cubes
175g cooked, peeled prawns
125g marscapone (about half a tub)


- Remove the zest of the lemon and chop to dust

- Dissolve stock cubes in 1l of water
- Melt butter in pan and stir in celery and spring onion and cook for 5 minutes

- Add lemon zest, mushrooms and rice and stir until the rice is coated

- Add 2tbps on lemon juice and then add the stock ladle by ladle until all the liquid is absorbed

- Add in the prawns and stir then add in the marscapone

- Stick a lid on the pan (or if you're like me and don't have a lid for your pan, cover it in tin foil!) and leave for 5 minutes.

- Bask in the glory of producing a damn fine meal!

Friday, 21 August 2009

This blog will change your life (Part 1)

A few months ago I got an e-mail from my friend in America telling me to go and read this blog.

The back story
Stephanie Nielson had a blog called the Nie Nie dialogues which documented her life with her 4 children and husband, Christian, in Arizona. Her life was like some kind of fairy tale - she was only a couple of years older than me and had 4 children! Yet despite this her life seemed perfect and her love for Mr Nielson is the kind that melts you on the inside. The blog was filled with gorgeous photos and her life just seemed wonderful.

However in August 2008, Stephanie and Christian were involved in a plane crash which left them fighting for their lives.

While they recovered the blogosphere went into overdrive with outpourings of love and support for this person that most had never met.

A year after the accident, Stephanie is back blogging, telling the story of her recovery.

It was a particularly slow work week when my friend e-mailed me and I managed to read the whole blog in 2 days - every single post. Now I eagerly gobble up every new post and sometimes randomly pick a month from the archives to read.

Her story cannot fail to affect you and make you think about your own life. How many of us possess the kind of determination that allows you to recover from an accident in which 80% of your body is burned? How many of us could go through something like that and still come out positive? How many of us share a love like she has with Mr Nielson? How many of us have the family that she does that rallied around, took in her children and kept the faith that she would pull through and come out the other side.

Aaah that family...this blog has left me longing to be part of that clan. From reading Stephanie's blog and her sister's (more on that in another post to come) I rather worryingly feel as if I am.

"Lucy's had her baby" I said, running through to the boyfriend one evening.

He looked at me. I could see his brain running through the names of my friends and coming up blank.

"She's Stephanie's sister"

Still blank

"You know from that blog I read"

The light dawned in his eyes. I think he's probably a little concerned about me. He's heard a lot about this blog in the past months.

At the beginning of this week she posted a picture of herself. It was a moment I think I and a lot of other bloggers have been waiting for for some time. When I saw the picture, tears came to my eyes. Not out of pity but out of a realisation. Yes obviously she looks different but she's still the same and that's something that hadn't quite twigged in my head. The same person was still talking to me from her blog posts, that hadn't changed at all. If you ever needed proof that it is what is in the inside that counts this was it. How hadn't I realised that before? (And to be honest I wasn't so much looking at her face as much as I was staring and coveting the amazing necklace she was wearing in the picture)

One of the things that Stephanie has done for me is help me start to come to terms with my feelings about religion.

It scares me to be honest. I guess you'd call me faithless. I was christened and went to Sunday School but I was brought up to find my own way in life and I just drifted away from it. I've swayed from being totally convinced there's nothing out there, to being sure that there has to be. Now I'm somewhere in the middle. I'm reluctant to call myself an agnostic because it's not so much that I don't know it's been more of a case that I just don't really care.

I've just never had a burning desire to want to know one way or the other. I've just removed myself from the whole question altogether. I also happen to have a friend who was part of a religious group (I won't name them here) whose experience was so awful that it just confirmed my belief that this religion game was something I didn't want to be part of. It just seems to cause so much trouble - people use it as an excuse for politically motivated moves and it just makes me not want to be involved.

I used to say that I thought that people who believed in God, whatever form he took, were copping out, that it was too easy to say that one person was controlling everything, meaning that no matter what you did, you were following someone else's path.

Now I realise how stupid I was.

I was the one that was copping out.

It's so much harder to keep the faith in God when something horrific happens. For me, I can just say that bad things happen sometimes, if you believe in God then you have to believe that he caused that pain, that he wanted that to happen to you and made that happen.

How did Stephanie's family cope with that? The God that they believed in made their daughter/sister/aunt/niece/whatever fall out of the sky. How can you come to terms with that? How could that happen to someone who was so good? Who loved being a Mormon, raised her children according to their principles and lived her life as a good Mormon should? What sort of reward is that?

However without that faith I don't see how they all could have recovered. If you don't believe that this is all part of some greater plan then what incentive do you have to keep going? When someone manages to recover against all odds isn't there a part of you that must believe it's because someone wanted you to get better?

The other thing that Stephanie's writing made me realise is that religion isn't really something to be scared of. Although I could never be a Mormon most of the things they stand for make excellent values by which to live your life.

They value family over and above everything else and I find this incredibly touching, I'd love my family to be closer than they are. They have family home evenings. They have date nights. They are just good people. Those aren't particularly bad things are they? To me it doesn't really matter whether you think those values came written on stone tablet, were sent down by an angel, were found at the cabbage patch at the bottom of the garden, they are good values.

From reading the Nie Nie dialogues I am determined to try and become a better person. I'm certainly no closer to coming to a decision on where I stand with actually believing in God but I'm trying to be a better family member. I'm trying to be kinder to people. I try to make sure that the boyfriend knows how much I love him.

It's not easy but at least I have a great role model.

I still don't feel like I can properly explain how this blog has affected me. I don't have the words. I've tried and tried to find them but they escape me.

I guess I just want to thank her.

Thank her for giving me, someone with no religion, a little bit of faith.

Faith that there are good people out there.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Losing status

Just over 13 years ago I became an auntie for the first time.

I was only 13 years old so it was all incredibly exciting. My sister lived near Manchester and I remember travelling over with Mum and Dad to see my nephew for the first time. It would also be the first time I ever saw my sister cry.

Totally sleep deprived she was at her wits end with this small-ish (he was a 9 pounder!) red screeching thing that wouldn't sleep and wouldn't feed and just generally seemed awful. I was quite shocked. This wasn't what it was supposed to be like. Babies were supposed to be lovely and cute and adorable. Not aliens from the Planet Scream.

My Mum took control and sent my sister up to bed, took hold of her grandson and sorted him out, he quietened down and fell asleep and then he was passed to me.

I liked him much better when he was asleep and quiet.

And it was at that moment that I became a proud auntie.

I absolutely adored him and you know what? He adored me. I think because I was so young he could sort of tell that I wasn't like the big grown ups around him and was more like him in a way. He would come to me when he was upset, if I ever rebuked him he would burst in to tears and I would spend hours on the floor playing with Thomas the Tank Engine or dinosaurs.

Four years later the next nephew came along. I was 17 this time so was a bit more savvy, I knew what it was all about. His smallness (although again, not that small, this one came out at 10lbs!) and screechiness didn't scare me as much and I was less scared of breaking him when I touched him.

When I went to university in Manchester I was even closer so was regularly called on for babysitting duties. They loved it when I came round. I was officially a Cool Aunt. They would beg for me to go and pick them up from school and tell all their friends that I was their Auntie and I was at university and everything. It was a pretty awesome feeling thinking that 2 little people thought you were that ace.

However those little boys are now 13 and 8. And as they've got older, I've become less cool. I'm a 'grown up' now, I couldn't possibly do cool things - I have a job and everything now. The little boy that adored me when I was 15/16 is now up to my shoulders, has long hair and is beginning to grunt rather than talk. Nothing I do is ever going to be considered cool to this guy.

It's also a little difficult to relate to them. Having never been a 13 or 8 year old boy I don't really know what they like and don't understand the things they do like. Everything was much simpler when I could sit on the floor and build with blocks. Everyone can do that.

Mum's currently looking after them for a week during the summer holidays and they came over to have dinner with me and the boyfriend last night. I've gone from being the cool Aunt to being pretty redundant. My only use was making food and switching the X-box on. I can't even help them play the games because I don't know how to. I couldn't glue the bits of Warhammer figures together because I didn't know what I was supposed to do.

Enter....the boyfriend.

He immediately glued the scythe to the little metal figure and then set about impressing the boys with his skills on Guitar Hero.

I went and sat in the spare room and watched telly.

And mourned the loss of my status as cool aunt.

We took the boys back to Granny's later on and the youngest nephew came to me in the kitchen. He told me that he thought the boyfriend was really cool.

And it actually made me feel better. I might not be cool but at least I can supply them with a cool Uncle and that's good enough for me.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

This is why I don't buy my veg at the supermarket...

...I can get this little lot from the market in Hull city centre on my lunchbreak for £4 and support a local greengrocer.


Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Turning back the clock

The boyfriend, me and the mother spent the weekend down in Ashby visiting my sister and her family. We had a date on the Friday evening with Calke Abbey where my sister had got us all tickets to the Back to the 80s concert that's been doing the rounds over the past few months. It was actually in Hull in East Park for its first date but I never heard about it.

I was a little apprhensive, although technically I'm a child of the 80s, having only been born in 1983 means that I wasn't quite into my pop music until we were in to the 90s. My knowledge of 80s music extends to what got played at the numerous 80s nights in clubs I spent my university life in.

However this was no ordinary concert. It's a little bit of an event in Derbyshire apparently. Everyone goes in big groups, little ones, old ones, and everyone in between, they bring picnic tables and folding chairs and fancy picnics and make a lovely night of it. There were chequered tablecloths a-go-go. We figured we could play them at that game and though we didn't have a fancy table cloth we did have fizzy stuff...

We stayed mostly up the hill but I ventured down to the front to see Peter Cox from Go West strutting his stuff and singing along to the only song I knew - King of Wishful Thinking from Pretty Woman.

I also boogied on down to Martin Fry from ABC.

Also there were Carole Decker from T'Pau, Belinda Carlisle (who was very tiny and hence could hardly be seen) and the headliners the Human League who were absolutely brilliant, my definite favourites.

The whole night finished with a spectacular firework display and I discovered that my camera has a firework function button which I put to good use...

The rest of the weekend was spent lazing about, going to the local Farmer's Market, playing on the Wii and eating good food before coming home on Monday with 2 nephews in tow who have come to stay with Granny for the week.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Competition (Part 2)

Competing for my boyfriend's affection with electronic devices is something I'm becoming used to (see here), however I have recently discovered another rival for his attention.
She's a slinky little beast this one.

She appeared from thin air. One day she wasn't there and then when we were packing to go to France she suddenly arrived.

"And just who the hell is this?" I thought to myself. Apparently she's been here all along but I'd just never noticed her before.

However it was too late to protest and I could nothing to prevent her tagging along with us.

But I had the last laugh. She was kidnapped by a younger member of the tribe on holiday and she never got close to the boyfriend.

However since our return she has wormed her way back into his hands. She's a minxy one. The X-box I've got a handle on. She can't be on when I'm there because I demand the TV be on but the PSP is sneakier than that. She can be played while the TV is on.

"Haha! Look at that funny thing that just happened on the TV!" I'll say

"Erm......oh......yeah.....I did...n't see that" is the reply I get about 15 years later.

I might as well be sitting in the other room while he shoots Nazis on the X-box. I think that might actually be less annoying than thinking that we're both watching something when we're not.

And she's noisy. Even though there are earphones the boyfriend doesn't put both of them in - that way he can keep half an eye on the TV he's ignoring and all I can hear are faraway, tinny little sound of gunshots that is just loud enough to not be totally disturbing but just on the edge of completely irritating.

And the worst of it? I suspect he wants us to become friends! "You can watch films on it" he said, trying to win me round to her sudden arrival in our lives. Aah yes how marvellous, because I often say to myself "Gosh I wish I had a screen the size of my palm to watch films on. That would be completely satisfying". I did try to make the effort, I thought that maybe I could come round. I asked what films he has that I could watch on this interloper.

There are 3. And they're all crap.

I shall bide my time while I figure out how to deal with this lythe being. Maybe I could accidentally sit on her...

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

I spy with my little Fisheye

For some time now, whenever I'm out during the day I'm accompanied by a very strange device. It's bright orange and plastic and looks as if it has a very big lens...
It's my Fisheye camera.
When people first see it they immediately say "Cool, is that an underwater camera?" I have to inform them that no he is not suitable for underwater use and no it is also not a child's camera.

I then have to try and explain what it does. It would be much simpler if I just carried around a picture and said "Here look". Because this is what the fisheye produces...

The trick is to get as close to your subject as possible - the closer you get the more distorted the picture. However I've also learned you can get some pretty good scenic distance shots with him.

And when I say you have to get close you have to get right up to the person's nose and "Click!" - no need to have your arm out-stretched desperately trying to make sure you get your head in shot - with fisheye's crazily wide angled lens he'll get everything in for you.

Don't bother trying to line your shot up either - there's a view finder but it's mostly obscured by the lens - just point and click baby!

Through buying my Fisheye I became re-introduced to the delights of analogue photography. Remember that feeling when you went to pick up your photos from Boots and you didn't know what was going to be in the set? You couldn't remember what exactly you'd taken pictures of and couldn't wait to see how they'd turn out? You don't get that feeling anymore now that digital reigns supreme.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not dissing the digital. I love my camera, it goes everywhere with me and I am usually the official documenter of all nights out/trips away. I like that I can take a photo, upload it and share it within a couple of minutes. And let's not forget that any unflattering photos can be deleted within a second without anybody ever seeing your multiple chins.

But I love a bit of nostalgia and through my Fisheye I've become initiated into the world of Lomography.

Through Lomography I've learned that it's not about the perfect shot. It doesn't matter if things are a little blurred and out of focus or you didn't load your film properly or you exposed the film to sunlight. In fact they positively encourage these things - with the Rat Lab giving you tips on burning your film or soaking it in water before developing it - and selling expired film for you to try.

The point is to just enjoy taking photos, much as you should enjoy life. Who cares if the composition of your photo isn't perfect? Life isn't is it? And Lomography welcomes both good and bad photographers alike.

I would take millions more Fisheye photos but time and my bank balance won't allow it. I would also love to buy more of the cameras sold in the Lomography shop - the Supersampler is on my wish list. What the shop is great for is the amount of films they sell - who knew there was more than just your bog standard Kodak? My favourite at the moment is Agfa Vista 400, it really seems to make the colours 'pop'.

Right I'm off to sit and twiddle my thumbs and wait for the Fisheye photos from France to be developed.

PS. In case Santa is reading, I really want the Submarine so that I can take pictures underwater - how cool would that be?!

Monday, 10 August 2009

While I was away...

...I left my chilli plant in the washing-up bowl with some water to keep him hydrated. And look at what happened!!
My chillis turned red!

No idea what it's about. None of the others did it. I wondered if it's because they'd been left on longer but I left the other ones that I've already harvested on there for ages and they showed no signs of turning green.

I did stick one of the green ones in a bit of pasta magic the other night and they. are. spicy. I accidentally licked my fingers after I'd chopped it and my head nearly came off. Not for the faint hearted.

I will have to harvest these little red babies and see what they do to my taste buds....

Sunday, 9 August 2009

What to do when it's a beautiful sunny weekend....

...go to a surprise birthday party for a special birthday... cupcakes (thanks once again to Sweet & Simple bakes!)...

...then retire to bed for a very big sleep before rising and going to sit in another garden... to the ladybird....

....and to furry ginger people (about how it's not a good thing to catch and eat butterflies)....

...then come home and eat cupcakes, drink cups of tea and watch Sunday tv

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Holiday: The Scenery's Side of the Story

Because apparently a picture paints a thousand words...