31 July 2011

Number 8 - Try an oyster in Whitstable

After just missing the famous Whitstable oyster festival, I was still determined to try an oyster this summer! After choosing a cute little wooden cart selling only fresh oysters, I finally plucked up the courage to spend the 70p. I was a little apprehensive, especially when confronted with this weird squidgy looking thing sitting in it's shell:

After staring at it for a while.....

I decided to go for it:

You know what, it was actually quite nice - pretty salty, and tasted of the sea (surprise surprise). I'd definitely have one again, although I'd still probably be a little squeamish. They are kind of funny looking!

I really liked Whitstable too, and it is now on my list of places I wouldn't mind living one day. It's by the coast,  it has loads of funky independent shops selling arts/crafts/vintage things, great transport links to London and Canterbury, and some gorgeous Victorian houses. Plus, some really cool beach huts........see for yourself......

26 July 2011

MCP Project 52 Week 30/52 - A Letter of the Alphabet

I decided to go literal for this one - the letter t made out of teacups! I love tea and my pretty china teacups so any excuse to use them is welcome. I started out with a capital T but think the small one looks best. 

After trying out photos with my Camera360 application on my phone (set to lomo effect), I wanted to recreate that effect using Picnik. I added the cross process and lomo effects. I wanted to make sure the colours of all the designs and most importantly, the tea, was bright and stood out.

25 July 2011

Number 25: Recipes for Month 1 - Wild Rice

Following on from my introductory post the other day, I'd like to share my first new recipe trials from month 1. After trying a vegetarian wild rice dish on holiday and falling in love with it, I was determined to make something similar. Many google searches later and I had a couple of recipes to attempt. Neither of them particularly what I was looking for, but I was ready to give them a go. Here are my cooking adventures:

Wild rice and spinach casserole

It doesn't look too bad really. Unfortunately I didn't really like it. I picked it about and only ate the rice. Feeling a bit deflated and useless, I attempted another recipe anyway:

Wild rice and spinach patties
makes 8 small patties
adapted from fresh365

1 egg
2 c cooked wild rice, brought to room temperature (leftover rice works great)
2 c chopped fresh spinach, cleaned and stems removed
3 T finely chopped chives
3 T chopped mint
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
3 T olive oil

Prepare the wild rice according to the package. When fully cooked, turn off heat and add the spinach, stir to combine and return the lid, allow to sit 10 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk egg. Add rice and spinach mixture, chives, mint, salt and pepper. Stir well, and form into 8 patties. In a large grill pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Transfer patties to the pan, press down with a spatula, and cook 5-7 minutes, until golden brown. Flip patties over, press down with a spatula, and cook 5-7 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.

I'd call this one a minor success! After a major spitting out of the dummy when the mixture failed too stick together, I kept at it and put little piles in the griddle pan anyway. Eventually they formed these little patties! They were tasty, if a little bit dry. With a dollop of barbeque sauce they were lovely!

So, what have I learnt? Don't just use any old recipes off the internet (apologies to the creators of these recipes). Don't throw a paddy when things don't turn out as you wanted. I'm just about to search through some recipe books for month 2's recipe - something simple but normal I think.... 

24 July 2011

Best of 365 Self - 4th-17th July

A bit late, but here are some of my favourite 365 Self shots from these 2 weeks. I really wasn't happy with the grafitti wall shot and thought I looked horrible in it, but other people seemed to really like it. I think it would've been better if my hair had been down. But I've learnt that sometimes other people might know better than me (well, on the odd occasion anyway!).

22 July 2011

Number 25 :Cook at least 12 new things from recipes

Another ongoing item on my 30 before 30 list is to encourage me to try cooking new things. Like most people I tend to stick to cooking the same old meals – most of which are just ‘something and veg’ or ‘something and salad’. I love making burgers and finding new ways to cook salmon, but I rarely make anything that involves much time. From my book shelves you’d think I was a rather adventurous cook – always trying out new recipes and experimenting, but alas, these books just represent the failed good intentions of the past. Occasionally I might dig one out, flip through the pages, drool over the yummy pictures then go and stick some bread in the toaster to quench my appetite, but that’s usually as far as it goes. A lot of recipes need over ten ingredients, most of which I don’t own (I didn’t even know there was that many types of vinegar for example!), and then time and skill to boot. 

Every now and again I like to bake cakes and muffins – it is usually quite difficult to mess up a simple cake recipe. I have a little muffin book full of yummy suggestions, including savoury muffins, but I always stick to a favourite few. I want to break out of my comfort zone, invest in a few of those unusual ingredients and give things a go. Once a month at least, I aim to flip through those pages, settle on a recipe and create it! Wish me luck! My first disaster creation is coming up soon!

21 July 2011

MCP Project 52 Week 29/52 - Get In Close

The first thing that sprung to mind for this theme was to combine my self-portrait project and do a close-up of my eye. Then I discovered this amazing effect on the Camera360 phone application called colour shift. This allows you to choose a spot on the screen of the colour you'd like to keep and then when you take the photo it makes all the other colours in the image black and white! I think this is a brilliant effect and I will use it a lot now!

The photo I intended to take. This one is using the Photojojo macro lens on my phone so I had to get very close to my eye (about 2cm away). I'm always still so amazed by how close I can get with this little lens. I might even do a special blog post on it soon!

18 July 2011

Just had to show off!!

I hope you don't mind me sharing, but I'm quite excited that my photo was featured on the MCP Actions blog as one of the top ten chosen for the Sweet Relief theme!!!! Yay, go me!!

15 July 2011

My Happiness Project - Area 1: Head Space

I’ve been feeling a bit stressed and overwhelmed with things lately, so I've decided to tackle the things that are on my mind a lot first - hence the first topic is ‘Head Space’.

I hate it when my head is all jumbled up and I can't make sense of things so I want to calm it down, sort it out and get on with things. Being quite a creative person, having a mind that doesn't switch off and is alwys coming up with various ideas is kind of useful. However, this is not useful when the time is 1am, you need to be up at 7am and all your brain can think about is what width to make your blog sidebar or ideas for your next plush toy.

Using the questions in the back of the Happiness Project book I worked out some things that should make my head feel better, and then thought about the best ways of making this happen;

1. Organise and tidy: I dream of being a tidy, organised person with a home to match. I drool over pictures like these:

Unfortunately, my house does not look like the Ikea catalogue, no matter how many of their products I cram into it. Surprisingly, my clutter doesn't magically disappear or tidy itself. In fact I think it replicates and untidies
itself when I'm not looking. I mean, I can't possibly cause all the piles and mess myself. I totally subscribe to the thought that being organised on the outside makes me feel organised on the inside. It's just so much work.

Much as I love a massive clear out and dramatic change of space, I've already done that in most of my rooms, and if it wasn't for that clutter, they would look great. Small steps this time - my goals are to keep visible spaces tidy (downstairs), make my bedroom an oasis of calm, find homes for lost things, sort and clear any growing piles, and then tackle other areas step by step. If I feel a big clear out coming on I will go with it. That feeling of piling up the bin bags by the front door is priceless.

2. Find ways to relax: I enjoy lots of hobbies and am even partial to a total collapse on the sofa in front of the TV but often I don't feel particularly relaxed about it. I'll be thinking and worrying about all those things I should be doing. I need to find relaxing things to do. A quick brainstorm suggested yoga, pilates, meditation, mindfulness and tai chi. I'm going to give each of these a go.

3. Keep active: If I don't do exercise for a while I feel bad. Being what I consider lazy (my default state) makes me feel stressed. If exercise is just part of my routine then it's not an issue - I get on with it and I enjoy it. So I will walk more, make sure I go to the gym at least twice a week instead of once at the weekend, get running more frequently and set up a new weights routine for home. I also have some exercise DVDs and VHS - I will try them and get rid of any I won't be using again. That tackles clutter too!

4. Tackle unwelcome thoughts and behaviours: I am a natural worrier. The visible sign of this is nailbiting. I can't seem to stop at the moment so I need to find some help with that. I think this ties in with number 2 - mindfulness, relaxing and finding ways to cut stress will help. Need to do more research. Looked into hypnotherapy but that was way out of my price range. Found some hypnotherapy CDs online and I've got a free sample to try.

Any tips for websites or books to buy would be appreciated!

MCP Project 52 Week 28/52 - Sweet Relief

With Woolworths long gone, I had to find a traditional pick'n'mix shop for this weeks props. Luckily I remembered seeing a sweet shop tucked away at the back of my local shopping centre - Candy Inc. I had a limited penny-based budget left in my purse so I had to choose wisely. Some psycho mice, vampire fangs, dummies and cola bottles later, I was set for my photo shoot!

Being a hot summers day I thought the best sweet relief was a bottle of coke:

Then I started wearing the vampire fangs....

And it all got a little messy..........

And scary.......

And then I took it too far....

Disclaimer: No pathetic humans were harmed in the making of these photos.

14 July 2011

Number 23: Musical Discovery 1

Following on from yesterdays post I can happily announce that my first artist is.......

......................The Pierces!

I actually discovered them purely by chance when an advert came on for their new album. The songs caught my eye and the advert was narrated by Jo Whiley, so I thought they might be worth a listen. I listened to the previews on Amazon and put in my order. I've just been downloading music lately rather than buying the CDs, but I want to have some nice new 'real' music for my collection!

I'm listening to the CD as I type this so I can give you a quick insight into the album.....

You'll be Mine: The first track starts off with a nice happy feel and some lovely harmonies. It is really catchy and I was singing along straight away. There is a fairytale theme to it which I love too.

It Will Not Be Forgotten: A slow start builds to a sixties-feel melody. It also has quite a country-folk feel to it. Not one of my favourites but I rarely fastforward it all the same.

Love You More: My favourite! It starts with the most amazing riff and then adds in some great lyrics and melody. I can't help but sing along (badly). I don't know if it makes me smile just because of the background riff and drum beat or because I love the words - either way, I love it and usually play it twice!

We Are Stars: Being a lot slower than the others this one didn't stand out at all when I first heard it, and I thought it was quite dull. On hearing it again and properly listening to the lyrics, I realised it has some lovely poetic words and isn't boring at all. Not an instant favourite but a definite grower.

Glorious: As soon as I heard this I thought I recognised it - even though I'm pretty sure I've never heard it before. Very sixties/seventies, and for some reason it reminds me a bit of Abba! I'm probably on my own there. The words might be a bit sickly sweet but I think it is the perfect upbeat summery song - very catchy and uplifting. God bless the world indeed.....

The Good Samaritan: Another slow one. Starts with a simple guitar and adds a simple melody. I kept expecting it to build to something but apart from adding in some harmonies, it stays very slow and simple - which makes it rather beautiful. Great lyrics again too.

Kissing You Goodbye: Hooked from the opener again - I love the tragic lyrics which conjure up Shakepearean love stories to me and makes me think of Ophelia and Hamlet, or Romeo and Juliet. Again, I'm probably alone here. I love a good tragic love story - as long as its not mine!

Close My Eyes: Very seventies Abba-style song mixed with some country music (but in a good way - it's not cheesy). A cross between Abba and country music isn't probably the most flattering way to describe something! It's actually quite a sexy slow song. Catchy again too - easy lyrics to pick up.

Space + Time: Reminds me of KT Tunstall this time. A slightly better comparison! The bridge and chorus are particularly good. By the time the chorus kicks in I remember how much I like this one. A bit more modern than the feel of the others. Beautiful singing.

Drag You Down: This one doesn't particularly stand out but is perfectly nice. More country-folk style.

I Put Your Records On: The only song I don't particularly like. It's OK but I can see why it is last.

You know the best thing about finding The Pierces now is that they already released 3 other albums before this one! So I have even more music by them to discover and I don't have to wait long. Although I did have a quick listen to the previews on Amazon of their previous album and it doesn't sound anywhere near as good. I'll give it a chance sometime though. Anyone heard it already?

Looking forward to next months artist already - I did a bit of searching and have an album in mind.

12 July 2011

Number 23: Discover at least 1 new musical artist every month

Number 23 of my 30 Before 30 project is ongoing throughout the year, but I thought I'd give you a little info on it before revealing my choices each month. 

I added this one to my list because I love music but just haven't listened to anything new for ages. I used to listen to the radio, buy music magazines and go to festivals, so I'd always be finding new bands and singers I liked, but since all that stopped the only new music I hear is on TV. So I wanted to put that right. 

I'd like to find a radio station that plays new music that I could bear to listen to, but I'm fussy. I don't like Radio 1 anymore because it's full of DJs I hate playing practical jokes and prank calls on other idiots. Radio 2 could be a possibility as they now have a load of younger DJs (basically Radio 1 cast-offs from what I can see), but I don't like a lot of talking - I like music. Unless it's funny or interesting. For some reason I hate radio plays so Radio 4 is out. In my house DAB radios only play a few stations so I got rid of mine - there is always the TV radio stations and the computer I know, but I just like to listen to the radio on a radio/stereo! I do quite like Kerrang sometimes, but I have to be in the mood. Whinge over. If anyone has any suggestions I'd happily give them a go!

I could buy music magazines again, but I need to actually hear the music to decide if I like someone, so that seems an expensive and slightly useless option. So, like with most things, I will probably resort to the internet to find music I like. Amazon is great for previewing the songs and suggesting other artists you might like, and I'm sure there are some good sites for finding artists - again, any suggestions would be brilliant!

To give you some idea of the music I like, this is my absolute favourite album:

I have liked My Vitriol from the second I first heard 'Always: Your Way' on The Evening Session (Radio 1) with Steve Lamacq in 2000. I went to see them whenever I could and waited, very patiently, for a second album. This never came. I am still waiting. Musicians, huh.

My first new musical discovery will be revealed very soon. If you've been following my 365 Self project then you'll already know who it is.
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