Archive for July, 2011

Weekly Photo Challenge: Colorful

Saw some colourful stuff yesterday:

Red vine leaf

This was at a plant sale I went to with my Mum. Then we visited Ashbourne for coffee and they had the flags out:

Jolly bunting

They had held a Highland Games, hence the Scottish and English flags. It’s a tad south of Scotland, but I’m sure they had fun and it certainly made the town look very festive and colourful πŸ™‚

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July 25, 2011 at 7:31 PM 4 comments

Eating Elephants

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

Really?

But how do you start eating an elephant? I mean, I just can’t quite imagine a large temperamental pachyderm (or even a calm one!) allowing a human to just walk up and take a bite out of its thigh!

And yet this ridiculous analogy is bandied about as a quite reasonable approach to tackling large projects. Like a thesis. Or organising an out of control mess.

I have an elephant problem.

The thesis elephant, let’s call him Humphrey, is asleep in a corner, snoring gently. But I know that one day I am going to have to either eat him or turf him out.

The messy elephant is a pet I have had all my life, but she is getting bigger and my husband seems to be allergic to her. I don’t mind her, I’m used to her and she doesn’t bother me much, except if I tread in a pile of poo, but I am careful where I step. (How far can I stretch this analogy I wonder?) I’ll call her Zaza.

Then there is the small but troublesome admin elephant. He can be called Adam. He hides behind Zaza and Humphrey, but likes to jump out on me, which he seems to find great fun, but although he is only a small elephant, he is still too big and heavy to play that game! Because he hides a lot I can ignore him most of the time, although he can be quite noisy, trumpeting from his hidey hole and making me jump. I’m a bit afraid of him. I wish he’d leave me alone.

These are the elephants that live in my house. There is another one lurking in the garden. She is a bit wild. She can be friendly, but needs more work than I can give her. Poor Flower.

All these elephants take up a lot of room. They are not easy to live with. But I don’t really know what to do with them. I don’t want to eat them! I might not have to. Humphrey is totally optional. I could eat him if I chose, or his smaller sister, Phyllis. Or I could turn him loose.

But Zaza has to be dealt with, as it might come down to her or my husband, and I like him, I’d prefer to hang on to him!

So back to the original question – how to eat an elephant.

Speculum humanae salvationis Lyon - BM - ms. 0245 - f. 144 The Judean rebel Eleazar Maccabeus kills a Seleucid war elephant and is crushed under it (Miniature from manuscript) (Wikipedia strikes again!) Elephants are not easy to deal with! (I love medieval pictures of elephants πŸ™‚ Medieval people thought elephants had no knees.)

There are a number of problems which really need to be dealt with first, before one can even consider chowing down on elephant steak.

1) Elephants are big and dangerous! First ensure the elephant is dead. Also, if there is more than one elephant, decide which to tackle first – what is harder than eating an elephant? Eating two elephants.

2) Elephants have really thick hide and humans have small weak jaws and blunt teeth. The elephant would need to be skinned and butchered.

3) With the best will in the world, one human trying to consume all that meat just could not outpace decomposition! The bits of meat have to be preserved and stored, by drying, salting or freezing.

4) Humans struggle to digest raw meat, it would need to be cooked, plus it is not healthy to just eat meat with no vegetables!

Although this sounds like me being silly (who, me? :D) the points can also be applied to the project the elephant represents. Planning and preparation are vital. Help is often needed. The right tools and storage facilities are a good idea. Projects can be scary until they are broken down into small manageable parts.

Do you have any good recipes for elephant? (Not literally! I never have and never intend to actually eat elephant! It’s a metaphor.)

July 20, 2011 at 8:29 PM 2 comments

Changing negative self-talk by silly singing

I have been to a couple of workshops about procrastination and perfectionism so I thought I’d share a little nugget which I hope will help me.

One of the problems with these two linked issues (which are very prevalent in high-achieving universities) is negative self-talk, where you are hyper-critical of yourself. Since becoming aware of this, I have realised that I am very mean to myself, I mean, really nasty. They said not to say stuff to yourself that you wouldn’t say to an 8 year old. My inner 8 year old should be calling Child Line!

And it has actually got worse in the last week between the two workshops as I tried to stop. Here is a sample inner dialogue (prolly ought to be monologue, but there you go…):

I do something stupid make a simple mistake anyone could make (like click the wrong bit of a jigsaw so my score is less good (seriously, who cares?)).

‘You idiot!’

‘You’re not supposed to call me an idiot, you idiot!’

‘Oh great, now I’m calling myself an idiot for calling myself an idiot. What an idiot!!!’

So I’m now beating myself up for beating myself up.

On the course I asked how to stop such silly behaviour and got two really good related answers, which I shall share with you πŸ™‚ One is to laugh at myself. Instead of getting worked up about being such an idiot I can’t stop calling myself an idiot, see the funny side.

The other was that if you’re going to criticise yourself, do it in song!

So if you hear me singing the ‘I’m an idiot’ song in a silly voice, that’s why πŸ˜€

It’s been working fairly well so far!

In case you think that is just ridiculous, changing negative self talk can break a destructive cycle of inaction through feeling bad. There was lots more too, but one of the other bits of advice was to break things down and only deal with one small bit at a time.

So I’m starting with the idiot song. ‘Ooh, I’m an idiot, I’m a silly idiot…’

July 14, 2011 at 7:29 PM 5 comments

Official switch to PostAWeek

OK, I give in πŸ™‚ As I suspected it might, my decision to skip the occasional post if I wasn’t in the mood / too tired / uninspired has resulted in more infrequent posting than I had hoped. So I might as well switch to the PostAWeek challenge instead, then I don’t have to feel I am failing, but get to feel I’m doing quite well as I post more than once a week πŸ™‚

Sorry to let my loyal readers down, but I figure it’s better than feeling bad or giving up altogether! And if I get my blogging mojo back I can always return to posting every day.

At least if I can keep it up regularly for the rest of the year that will still be a good achievement and I managed nearly half a year of every day, although I still feel it was cheating a bit all those posts that weren’t real posts but brief whines about not wanting to post! Hey at least I’m sparing you those πŸ˜‰

Now I’m off to read more about how to ply the lumpy artistic yarn I have been spinning! πŸ˜€

July 9, 2011 at 11:03 AM Leave a comment

Creeping portion size

My weight loss has slowed down to imperceptible (or possibly sneaking slightly the wrong way, I’m not really sure as I make it a deliberate policy to not weigh myself often. Husband helps greatly with this policy by his habit of keeping the so-called bathroom scales in his garage to weigh his work parcels on).

I’m not wondering why. When I realised it had reached a happy amount, I started to allow myself a few more cakes. When I was being strict I would get maybe one cake a month, if that, and then only if someone forced me to eat it. You know how they do that – by making delicious cake and offering me some! Or occasionally by making delicious cake and selling me some… but we won’t go there! But I stopped trying to refuse once I was happy I had lost a stone or two, after all, if it began to creep up at least I know now that I am capable of losing it πŸ™‚

But there seems to have been another, more insidious factor. Portion size creep.

Now this usually goes the other way. I’m certain that after 8 mints have shrunk. It’s not just that they seemed bigger because I was smaller when I was child, I’m sure of it! They should really take advantage of that childhood memory thing, to go off on a tangent. I bet they’d make a mint (hahaha πŸ˜‰ very punny) if they sold giant ones that made adults feel like a child again πŸ™‚

Another thing which has shrunk, to my annoyance, is the cheese slice in McDs. As a child we very occasionally went there and I would always have filet of fish without tartar sauce. As an adult I didn’t go much either, until I got married. Husband enjoys a big mac, so he always nags me to go there, despite that it is not my favourite place. I don’t mind the food, but I’d rather eat it in nicer surroundings. Our local one is never warm enough, except maybe in a heat wave, plus the food is also never warm enough, which is really poor. But that’s not my point. My point is that the cheese slice used to be the same size as the fish square.

Now it is barely half that! It’s so annoying and a really pointless way to save money! I’d rather pay a few pence more for a decent sized bit of cheese! Also, while I’m on their cheese – why can they not get it central? I’m not OCD or anything, but when you have so little cheese to go with the fish, if half of it is hanging out of the bun it just doesn’t work! And because it has melted on it is stuck to both the bread and the fish and really hard to reposition 😑

But the portion creep in question is actually my own gradual increase in porridge portion size!

When I switched to oats as my breakfast of choice, I would weigh them, and the fruit, to make sure I didn’t get too many calories and I couldn’t guess amounts. But after a while I got used to how those amounts looked so I would save time by just serving it up by eye.

Only my eyes seem to grow πŸ™‚

I am not bad at estimating. But it is the occasional day when you’re feeling a bit down, or a bit hungry, or you know it might be a while before lunch, or you want some comfort, so you have an extra big bowl, just this once. Then it happens again. And if that happens too many times close together, the regular size starts to look a bit mean. So the slightly bigger size becomes the new normal size. And then of course, when you want a slightly bigger size that is slightly larger again and the cycle goes round until you realise that your porridge bowl is about twice as full as it ought to be!

So I cut back down to a much smaller portion and you know what? It’s not stingy, it is sufficient! I’m just a greedy guts who loves porridge too much πŸ˜€

July 7, 2011 at 10:48 AM 2 comments

I learnt to spin with a drop spindle!

Yesterday we went to the Wool Experience at Blaze Farm. This is a great place to visit even without the wool stuff going on, because they have gorgeous ice cream they make and also good food for lunch. I had oatcakes with cheese and ham, which were delicious, and Tim had an excellent ploughman’s lunch. They also have animals and nature trails and paint a pot, but the reason we went was the wool. Mmmm, wool… πŸ™‚

The Wool Experience was a barn full of wonderful woolliness πŸ™‚ Virtually the whole wool cycle was represented (if that was actually a thing. I just made it up, like the water cycle, and it’s not really a cycle, unless sheep ate jumpers, but bear with me!)

There was a shearing demonstration:

The sheep must have been mightily relieved to be relieved of its thick woolly jumper in this weather!

The sheep were remarkably docile during this procedure.

There were also stalls selling fleece, yarn and things made from them, tools and equipment. And there were crafters, spinners, weavers, knitters, crocheters. Lots of interesting people and stuff!

You might be surprised to learn that I hardly bought any yarn, just a couple of skeins. But I did buy other stuff…

One stall (Forest Crafters) was selling beautiful hand turned spindles (among other things). I touched a spindle, because I like to touch stuff and it is stuff that wants to be touched. I tend to buy a lot by touch – if the texture is wrong I am not likely to buy it, but if it feels lovely I am very tempted, especially if it also looks pretty πŸ™‚

This spindle felt lovely and smooth. I had to pick it up. I had to twirl it a bit and it twirled so happily it really wanted to spin πŸ™‚ It felt as if it would spin all by itself if it could!

But I couldn’t spin.

But the spindle was so lovely. It was made of spalted London plane, which is a pretty kind of wood. (I just looked it up on Wikipedia to give a linkyΒ and discovered it is caused by fungus and means the tree is stressed or dead 😦 But it is still pretty…)

In such an environment there was an obvious solution to this little problem. The stallholder, who made the spindle, called his wife over to show me how to spin!

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to spin with my arthritic hands, but I was very happy to get to have a go and see if I could do it or not. Suejay was a good teacher, showed me how it was done, set me up and then let me try it.

And I could totally do it!

Not brilliantly of course. Every new spinner makes lumpy yarn at first and I made lumpy yarn πŸ™‚ But it was my lumpy yarn!

And my spindle πŸ˜€

My spindle and my first lumpy yarn πŸ™‚

Of course it had to come home with me!

I have since read that spinning with a drop spindle can be very therapeutic for the shoulders, which would be great as my shoulders are very painful at the moment.

Then I had to buy fleece to spin, of course πŸ™‚ which is why I didn’t buy so much yarn. I had a deal with husband that I could only buy the volume of four pairs of shoes. The thing is, I may have mentioned that I am not especially tidy and that it irritates him, well Β the night before I allocated 4 pairs of shoes I don’t wear to go to the charity shop, so he said I could then buy only the same volume!

He relented however, and let me get more than that πŸ™‚ He is a nice husband.

Some of the fleece I bought was from a very interesting man who had worked in the last shoddy mill, which sadly closed a couple of years ago. That is a shame, because it is proper recycling. He certainly was Wild about Wool!

Plus I get to help name some Viking sheep (Gotlands) but this post is getting long so I might talk about that another time.

I very much enjoyed the Wool Experience πŸ™‚

Afterwards we went to Buxton for dinner. The restaurant we like, Firenze, opened in twenty minutes, so we sat on a bench in the marketplace. Husband got out his phone and was twiddling with it, as he does, so I got out my spindle! Spinning in public πŸ™‚

I was gutted to find that they had stopped serving my favourite dessert, chocolate velvets, which is a chocolate brandy ganache and is heavenly πŸ™‚ or was… 😦 It’s like the inside of Lindor chocolates, but with brandy. Oh I love it and I only had it twice!

But we had good dinners and good value too with their early bird special πŸ™‚

July 3, 2011 at 11:32 PM 3 comments


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