My Shop (work in progress!)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Apricot Cheesecake Muffins

I have recently discovered the amazing resource that is the Philadelphia website. It has so many recipes I thoroughly recommend that you go there if you're stuck for an idea for tea, or even want to make yourself a sweet treat. That is if you like cream cheese of course! Philadelphia - I will gratefully receive free cheese/discount vouchers for this marketing :P

One of the many delectable cake recipes they have is for Sour Cherry Cheesecake Muffins. I thought that sounded amazing and was happy to note I had most of the ingredients. The only things I was short was an orange and the sour cherries. So I decided to make them with chopped dried apricots and lemon zest instead.

I only made half quantities too (six muffins) because I'm trying to be fairly good diet-wise, to try and keep myself from gaining more weight. My recent switch of antidepressants has made me put on at least one stone, maybe one and a half. The tablets themselves are not guilty directly; they make me super hungry and I therefore scoff more than I usually would. My BMI is currently about 28 (it shouldn't be higher than 25 to be healthy) and GP said if it got to 30 by the next time she saw me then we'd have to try a different tablet. We're both reluctant to change it though as I now sleep right through the night and my mood is a lot better than it was. Not perfect, but much better!

So, by the time I've finished writing this post the muffins are about to come out of the oven but I've yet to eat one. I'm sure they taste fab though because I had to lick a bit of the raw mixture off my fingers. I must go and get them out so they don't burn, and also Marwood is pestering me to be fed!


Monday, 16 April 2012

All Change - From Sleepwalking to Staggering

Image from

I recently changed medication for my depression from Venlafaxine to Mirtazapine. The old stuff wasn't working anymore so it was time to try something new.

My GP warned me that at first I might feel a bit sedated, but if Mirtazapine suited me then this should wear off after about a week. She wasn't kidding. To sum it up in a pithy and amusing way it was like being a Zombie Cookie Monster: Mmm brains! Mmm cookies! Not only could I sleep 24/7 if I wanted to, when I was awake I wanted to consume every foodstuff in sight. It was also a bit like being drunk but without the fun; I felt uncoordinated, unsure of my own strength and very disconcerted. It felt like I had a new glasses prescription that my eyes hadn't adjusted to and that the film I was in had been filmed with a couple of frames/second dropped.

Now I've got past that stage I feel much better. It takes me a while to come round in the morning, but because I fall asleep within half an hour of going to bed and rarely wake up I do actually see the morning! Insomnia was a terrible problem for me, and with that aspect of my illness taken care of my mood does seem improved. I might be able to get a better picture of how badly I'm affected by my chronic fatigue.

Sadly I'm not side effect free and I seem to have turned into an old woman. My muscles hurt like I've done strenuous exercise, even rubbing moisturiser into my skin causes discomfort. My joints ache like I'm coming down with 'flu. It's entirely possible that I also have oedema in my legs which adds to the aching pains. I wish I could entirely blame the size of my stomach on bloating and oedema, but sadly I think the increased desire for food as more to do with it. I reckon I've put on about half a stone in almost 2 weeks. I know there is some bloating there because I feel uncomfortable. My GP should be calling me in the next couple of days so I can discuss this with her. I hope these newer side effects do go away because the meds do seem to be working, I'd rather not be fat, aching and swollen though!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Where I reminisce, talk a lot and name drop a celebrity

I came across The Charles Hazlewood Show on Radio 2 by accident. Somehow I found out about it and it sounded exactly up my street: popular songs being pulled apart to work out why they’re so good with other music being played as examples. The first show was going to put Elbow’s Lippy Kids under the microscope. After loving them for about 10 years I finally decided this year that Elbow are my favourite band (but shh don’t tell Radiohead).

Charles Hazlewood’s passion for music really comes across in each programme, though of course he can’t get too bogged down in musical theory as not all the listeners will have that sort of background. He therefore he comes up with some interesting turns of phrase such as “baked bean trombones”! Listening takes me back to sitting in my GCSE and A Level Music classes. Far from being dry, a lot of my classes were fun thanks to the teachers that I had. Jack Davies must’ve been around 10 years older than the GCSE class, which sometimes helped and sometimes hindered. He had quite a task ahead of him – a few of the pupils were really interested in the subject and some had simply taken it because they thought it would be a doss. He managed to keep the whole class’ attention mostly through the use of humour. He nurtured my passion for composition and introduced me to minimalist music; in fact it was through him that I first heard Electric Counterpoint without Ricky Lee Jones talking about what the skies were like when she was young.

Martin Ullyatt was a more experienced teacher, and whilst his lessons were dryer (I think the A Level syllabus has a lot to blame for this) he still had a great sense of humour. This was probably essential as there were only four of us in the class and had very different personalities. He mentioned Vaughn Williams a lot so we used to tease him that he had an “I Vaughan Williams” tattoo and even made him a 40th birthday card to that effect. I’m not sure we thought he was up to knowing what our nickname for Dido & Aeneas was though.

I knew I was going to enjoy Charles Hazlewood’s show but something I wasn’t expecting happened. My brain woke up. It has atrophied a bit due to not being used plus it’s suffering from the unfortunate effects of depression. Most of the time I find following a train of thought as difficult as navigating through Marmite. Which is also why I don’t blog very much anymore – it can take me days to produce the one post. Twitter is perfect because you can put ideas out there quickly and succinctly without having to worry too much about the way it’s written apart from fitting it into 140 characters. For instance it has taken me about two weeks to write this post in little dribs and drabs.

My brain is like a faulty switch – it will be off and you can jiggle it and poke it and it might come on. Or it’ll be on and as hard as you try you can’t get it to switch off. I once made the mistake of listening to the radio show before bed and I was awake for hours pondering what songs I would have played as examples and wanting to reply to comments Charles had made during the show. When I’d listened to the first episode I was super excited; it was like discovering a new band or great album, or getting to the end of a really good book. So I tweeted about it a lot, and lo and behold I get a notification that I am now being followed by none other than Charles Hazlewood. At first I was a bit dubious as to whether it was actually him, I have been followed by someone claiming to be Simon Pegg in the past. We have a little chat every now and again and he seems as lovely as he comes across on the radio and TV.

So imagine my excitement when I find out that one of his bands, The Charles Hazlewood All Stars, are performing Tubular Bells live. It has only ever been played live in its entirety in the 1970s. This band also includes Adrian Utley from Portishead and Will Gregory from Goldfrapp, two bands which I am very fond of indeed. For a lot of people hearing the opening of Tubular Bells gives them the shivers as it reminds them of The Exorcist. The first time I heard it was sitting in the back of the car doing a treasure hunt quiz as part of a fete at my primary school. My mum had just bought the cassette for my dad on a bric-a-brac stall. Now when I sit in the back of my dad’s car it is entirely possible that he will be playing a Goldfrapp or Portishead CD (if it's not wall-to-wall Rammstein). The concert is like he had been cosmic ordering!

The concert is in London, but my mum and I had been talking about going down there for a bit of shopping, going round some museums and galleries and perhaps catching up with some family that live in that area. “What more perfect excuse is there to go?” I think. I go to the venue’s website to see if there are any tickets left and I see my dad’s been “at work” again! Not only are they performing Tubular Bells but also A Rainbow In Curved Air by Terry Riley. My dad grew up when the first synthesisers were emerging so he has a few LPs of what I consider to be fairly obscure stuff. My mum and I tease him for liking that album because it sounds like lots of mobile phones going off at once (listen for at least 1min to get the full effect). But the genius is that it was composed in the 1960s, long before mobiles were invented.

I quickly sent my mum the email equivalent of holding her at gunpoint telling her that we HAVE to go to this concert. Mum passed the news on to dad and she told me that he actually looked quite excited for him! Hotels can be expensive in London, but I found that there are two Travelodges nearby, they have room and are affordable. We decided it would be easier to get the train so we don’t have the problem of where to put the car once we get to London. I thought about seven weeks was booking quite a bit in advance, but it was still going to cost us £300 return. Altogether a one night stay, the concert and the train was going to cost nearly £500 for the three of us! Mum told me the terrible news that we can’t afford it. Of course I knew this as soon as I saw how much the train cost, but the fact that the concert programme even exists is like some sort of miracle and I am absolutely desperate to go. The thought of going had really improved my mood. I haven’t been to London for about 10 years and I do love going out to cultural stuff such as concerts or the theatre, and living in Cumbria there isn’t the greatest opportunity to do that. My hopes were dashed and I was plunged into the depths of despair.

I sent a tweet to Charles begging that the band came up to the Sage Gateshead and did the same concert. About 10 minutes later I got a reply saying “well... actually we are doing it there the following night”. Elation and joy! I ran around, jumped for joy and made high pitched squeals, so enthusiastic was my happiness. It's probably a good thing he wasn't in the same room as I probably would've embarrassed myself further by hugging him! I was annoyed that I couldn’t tell my mum the good news straight away because she is only about half way home from my house. Trying to sit on that news was like trying to sit on top of a geyser.

My only regret is that the effect of being "woken up" doesn't last longer than a few hours. To end this long and rambling post I want to say thank you to my two music teachers Jack Davies and Martin Ullyatt. I also want to say thank you to Charles Hazlewood for helping to reignite that spark of passion that I feel about music (also apologies that it’s made me go on a bit). So cheers Charlie, the song above is for you. See you in December.

Friday, 28 October 2011

A Christmas List

The links I provide are just used for example, not necessarily the one I want or the place you should buy it from.

I will add more as I think of them!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Best Imitation of Myself

I love cover versions of songs. I'm always worried that the cover won't do the original justice, or that it's so samey they shouldn't have bothered doing it. So many can be terrible, even if the artist doing the cover is brilliant. An example of this is John Martyn's version of Portishead's Glory Box. Ugh. But so many are brilliant.

The above song - Best Imitation of Myself by Ben Folds Five is quite a perky little tune. I'm not a massive fan of them, they're a band I feel I should listen to more and for some reason I never do. Maybe because I'm not excited enough by them. There's nothing that shouts out at me that they're that little bit different. The songs I've heard have all been nice but there's nothing that's made me go WOW and get all passionate.


So, the Ben & Jason cover. Why do I think this works, and perhaps even surpasses the original? I had to make the video myself as I couldn't find a link to the cover anywhere online. To start with Ben Parker has a better voice than Ben Folds. He doesn't struggle so much with the higher notes, and if anyone slips in catches on the way up to or down from their falsetto I'm theirs! The tone of Ben F's voice is quite nasal and this gives the song a somewhat whingy feel; Ben P's clearer tone gets rid of that (a good thing).

The cover has upped the tempo, which makes it less maudlin. I think that works better as it subtly changes the meaning of the lyrics, making them seem more cutting - I swear I was listening, but I started drifting round the part about me acting my age.

Then there's the fact that it's accompanied by a string quartet. It takes the instrumentation of the original and cleverly arranges it for the strings. I'm sure they alter the colour of the chords a little by adding some extra notes here and there. Finally there's the wonderful ending full of sliding chromatics.

Sadly my brain fogginess is preventing me from further comment, but hopefully it'll wake up at a later point.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


I was at my parents' house for a couple of days, my mum had bought some new watercolour paints so was itching to try them, the weather turned horrible, dad was watching the Open golf tournament on TV (yawn) and so art was made. Go over to my art blog The Shadow of Ice to see it!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Defeating my own gingerism

As you can see from my profile photo, I’m a ginger. Redheaded and proud! Gingerism pisses me off. Some jokes can be mildly amusing, and I can take a joke. But change the "ginger" to someone black etc. and the joke would be racist and could potentially get you into a lot of trouble. Blondes probably feel the same way about all the "blondes are stupid" jokes.

However, I am a gingerist myself. I don’t really find ginger men that attractive. It seems a bit incestuous to me somehow. But apparently we’re dying out, and to stop this we gingers have to stick together. So in the interests of maintaining a ginger presence on the planet, here are my top 5 gingery hotties, in no particular order:

Seth Green (see above) - actor. Where to spot him - Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Austin Powers films.

Josh Homme - lead singer with Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures. Where to spot him - on tour!

Michael C. Hall - actor. Where to spot him - Six Feet Under and Dexter.

Ewan McGregor - actor. Where to spot him - Shallow Grave and Trainspotting.

Toby Stephens
- actor. Where to spot him - BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre and Bond film The World Is Not Enough.

Please form an orderly queue gentlemen... ;-)