Wednesday, 28 December 2011

One for you... one for me, another one for you.... and two for me...

Sometimes the best results come from cocking things up!
I stumbled on this recipe by getting another recipe wrong... but, turns out, damn, its good!

Melting Centre Chocolate Baileys Truffles

150g Green and Black's white chocolate
150g Green and Black's 75% cocoa solids dark chocolate
150ml thick double cream
25g unsalted butter
4 tablespoons baileys
1 tablespoon greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons icing sugar

1. Break the white chocolate up into the bowl of a food processor and grind until it looks like granulated sugar.
2. Place the cream, butter and baileys into a saucepan and heat gently until it's just at simmering point.
3. With the motor running, slowing pour the liquid mixture over the chocolate in the food processor and blend until smooth.
4. Pour the liquid truffle mix into a bowl, cover and put in the fridge overnight.
5. Next day you will find the mixture is more solid, though it will still be pretty soft and gooey.
6. Sieve the cocoa powder and icing sugar together into a bowl.
7. Now take teaspoons of the chocolate mixture and drop into the cocoa powder. Quickly, with hands well dusted in the cocoa powder, form rough balls of truffle mix and place on a plate. As soon as you have a plateful, transfer to the freezer, which will firm the mixture up a little.
8. While the balls are in the freezer, melt the dark chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Take the chocolate off the heat as soon as the lumps have disappeared (if it overheats it will turn granular)
9. Now take the truffles out of the freezer and drop, one by one, into the melted chocolate. Working quickly so the truffle mix doesn't melt, roll in the melted chocolate using a fork to move them around and lift them out, and place back on the plate.
10. Dust with the remaining cocoa powder mix. Then transfer the plate of chocolates into the fridge until the outer layer has firmed up.

When you bite into these truffles, the white chocolate centre just melts on your tongue. They make a great prezzie. Just make sure you keep some for yourself!

Funny pic of the week: a woman after my own heart!

A good old spring cleaning session

When I first started seeing an emotional therepist, the biggest issue I think I had was that I felt weak. I believed that all my 'problems' were in fact much smaller and less important than I had made them in my head, and I felt useless and pathetic because I was struggling with them.
'Weak' had become a buzz word for me. I had turned it into a kind of self deprecating weapon. I would find myself repeating it in my head whenever I was angry at myself, as if the word was a knife and I was using it to stab my unconscious self.
My therepist encouraged- still encourages me- to avoid the word and instead replace it with the word 'vulnerable'. The thing is, weak and vulnerable are very similar states but with one key difference. Weakness implies inability to cope with things. Vulnerability implies wanting help from others in order to cope with things.
When we first discussed the concept of vulnerability, I had an almost physical aversion to the word. It made me squirm. I hated the idea of being vulnerable. I had images of exposing embarrassing, fragile and self-indulgent parts of myself to others, only to be manipulated, laughed at or scorned.
But, as with most concepts we have discussed, I allowed her the benefit of the doubt and took on board what she said to me. I agreed that in coming to talk to her, I had made myself vulnerable, and so far it had only helped me to feel stronger.
The effect of this small shift has been quite incredible. I didn't have to change much. All I actually did was open up a little more with people. I put out gentle feelers, maybe mentioning a subject I had been contemplating but hadn't spoken about yet, maybe making a jokey comment about something that, in the confusing mess of my head, was actually quite a big deal for me. And to my complete surprise, on the whole, people reacted with a mixture of astonishment, relief and pleasure that someone else had thought the same things they themselves were thinking!
The strength you can find in alliance is a beautiful thing. You only need ONE person to say 'I know exactly how that feels' and the effect can be massive.
And following on from that, you will probably discover that as well as other people who, like you, haven't really been able to speak about these subjects before, there are many people out there who not only feel the same way, but know ways of making sense of whatever the 'problem' is. They may have been feeling the same way for many years, they may have read books and researched the subject, or simply lived with it for long enough to find ways to minimise it.
On a personal level, I have recently allowed myself to be vulnerable by writing an email to a friend of a friend- someone I barely know, who was recommended to me as a wealth of knowledge on the subject of subpersonalities. Even writing the email I doubted myself and what I was doing. I wondered if this person would feel uncomfortable having a stranger ask personal questions. And yet again, I have been pleasantly taken aback at how helpful the experience has been!
I recieved a long, thoughtful reply which has helped me to clarify my own ideas about my subpersonalities experiment. And I now want to pass on the knowledge I have gained.
I have decided that the process of identifying the five characters pictured earlier in this blog was a creative one rather than a scizophrenic one. The thing is, we are totally conditioned to see ourselves as ONE individual organism: 'ME' but really this is not the case. We are, each of us, an intricate and extraordinaily well balanced collection of different parts all working together. Anyone who has ever looked down at their feet, wiggled their toes, and had the odd feeling that they are somehow alien, will know what I mean by this. I don't see any reason why we shouldn't think of our personality/subconscious mind as the same thing. We do so many different things, learn so many conflicting lessons, and play so many different roles in our lives that it is hardly surprising we end up with many different thoughts and arguments in our heads.

So rather than saying my 'whole' personality is made up of a collection of distinct 'sub' personalities, I have come to the conclusion that my personality is a never-ending mass of all the lessons I've learned, people I've been influenced by, job roles I've taken, etc. The process of identifying characters was a way of chopping up the mass into managable pieces that make more sense to me. It's like tidying up! I have picked up all the bits and pieces that are lying everywhere in a confusing mess, and I have started putting them away into draws with big labels on saying things like 'LONELINESS' 'LOGIC' and 'DAYDREAMS'.
Things are much easier to understand if they're in small bitesized chunks, and as well as that, now I always know where to go to find them.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Talking to myself... it's a bit crowded in here!!!

The biggest problem I had with my latest 'homework' from my therepist, was that it made me feel a little... er... crazy.
As I sat, biro in hand, about to take the plunge for the first time ever, and turn one of the little niggling voices in my head into an actual character, and actual person... I contemplated briefly whether doing this would somehow make that voice REAL. By giving it a face and a name, would I loose control of it? Was this schizophrenia? And even more worrying than that... was I already scizophrenic because I had identified that I DID have 'voices' in my head?

Well, as you can see from my previous blog, the final decision was to ignore these concerns and get to drawing, and I can honestly say, around a month on, that it's been one of the most helpful things I've done so far in my quest to sort out my head!
So what if it's a little crazy?! I called my clothing brand Kooky after all, I AM a little crazy and I'm quite happy with that... who wants to be normal any way? Normal is predictable. Normal is knowing what you're going to get every day. Normal is 9 to 5 desk job, breakfast at 7am, coffee at 11am,  Emmerdale, oven chips and hair straighteners, and that just isn't me.
And apart from all that, who hasn't, at some point, said 'I was in two minds about it' or 'Part of me wants to'? Who hasn't laid awake wishing their head would just shut up for a moment? All I've done is taken this on a step and created characters around the parts of me that have little subconscious arguments with each other every time I need to make a decision. It's more of a creative process than a schizophrenic one. I can safely say this now because, having created the characters, far from feeling like I've lost control of them, I have in fact felt like I am far more IN control!

The outcome of this process has been to separate my thoughts into sections and then understand where each one is coming from. It's felt like I've taken the confusing ball of conflicting thoughts, pulled out strands and ironed them flat so they're all nicely lined up instead of knotted in a big messy tangle!
The next step my therepist suggested, was to actually talk to each character in turn. Ok, so now I really DID feel crazy:
'Hi me!'
'Oh, hello me, how are we?'
'We're not too bad... fancy a chat?'
'Well, yes why not I haven't had a proper chat with myself in a while!'
Hmmm, you get the picture. Glad I did this when I was on my own with nobody watching!
And yet, despite how utterly ridiculous this sounds, I honestly have discovered things in doing it, that I had never understood about myself before!
I found that I am angry at my inner angel- she doesn't care about me, she only cares about making everyone else happy and I am tired of putting myself aside and spending all my energy worrying about what everyone else thinks. So we came to a decision that though I still need her because her selflessness gives me bravery and conscience, we are going to try and think of ME first sometimes, avoiding the massive guilt complex I usually get when doing this.
I found that my daydream character is not a stupid, giggly, unicorns kind of girl after all- she's actually pretty straight talking- she just wants to dream about cool shit... and to be honest, so do I. After all, it's up to me to chase the dreams if I want to- she doesn't do the future, she just does the dreaming.
I found that my depression (now called Miss Darcy after Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice) carries around all the hurt I have ever felt and because of this I try to shut her out and ignore her. All she wants is to be acknowledges and accepted, and we made a compromise that I would listen if she needed to be heard, as long as she wouldn't get her nails in and cling on, not allowing me to let go of feeling miserable.
And finally I found that I never really believed in the sexual part of me, who is now called 'Lady'. There she is, this fantastic, confident, sexy woman who lives to make herself happy, and I have consistantly ignored her in favour of the more negative sides of myself. She simply asked me to have belief in her.
But mostly, having these imaginary conversations has allowed me to accept that each one of these characters is ME. I AM the selfless angel, I AM the daydreamer, I AM the angry, acheing depressive and more importantly, I AM the sexy woman who believes in herself!
And that, my friends, is a GOOD thing to achieve.
I will also just round this little ramble up, by saying that there is in fact a whole school of psychology based on sub-personalities. So, if anyone else (like me) is feeling a little wierd about talking to themselves, you can at least rest easy knowing that brainy people throughout history have done the same thing!

Have a look at some of these websites if you're interested:

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Feeling sorry for myself tastes goooood!

Time to share another naughty but oh-so-tasty recipe!
I loosly based this on a recipe I've been making since I was a kid... it's ridiculously easy, and deliciously moist (chocolate cake can come out horribly dry but this one always seems to work, as long as you don't over cook it!)

Chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate and honey icing
Makes approx 12

To make the cake:
5oz self raising flour
1oz cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
pinch of salt
6oz brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 pint veg oil
1/4 pint milk
1 tablespoon honey
To make the icing:
4oz butter, softened
6oz icing sugar
4 tablespoons greek yoghurt
150g white chocolate
2 tablespoons runny honey

1. Preheat the oven at 160C and set out a tray of cupcake cases (I used re-usable silicone cases as they keep their shape perfectly
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt and cocoa powder into a large bowl
3. Add the honey and eggs and begin to mix
4. While mixing, pour over the milk and oil in a steady flow and keep mixing until you have a smooth batter
5. Pour into the cases and bake in the middle of the oven for around 15mins. Keep checking on them as cooking times vary from oven to oven. You want them to be springy to the touch.
6. While they're cooling make the icing: sieve the icing sugar onto the butter and beat until soft and fluffy
7. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Do this slowly at a low temperature and take it off the heat as soon as it's all melted- if it overheats it will go crumbly.
8. Pour the chocolate over the icing mix, and stir in
9. Add the honey and yoghurt and mix until well blended.
10. When the cakes are completely cold, put the icing into a piping bag with a star shaped nozzle and pipe a generous swirl of icing onto each cake. Dust with cocoa powder and put into the fridge for the icing to set.
11. Nom nom nom nomnomnomnomnom om nom nom.

Creativity vs Analysis

One of the things I like most about my therepist is that she encourages me to tackle my depressions creatively. Sometimes I really do have to force myself to put work down for an hour or two- I have to fight the feeling that time is money and I should be doing something productive rather than selfish. But then I always remind myself that life isn't just about work, life is about health and happiness too, and not only that, but I will work far more productively if my head is clear and I am calm and positive!
Recently we've been talking about an unhappy period during my childhood, which has been difficult for me to do. I pushed that 14 year old me so far back into my head, I totally denied that she was in any way a part of me, and was actually a little disgusted to discover I still have a lot in common with her.
But once I got used to the idea, I decided that what I needed to do was to sort out this problem once and for all. I would look for answers. I would pick apart every bit of that 14 year old girl and work out who I am now and how she is a part of me. I would undoubtedly discover something if I just analysed the information at hand. I made a spreadsheet and started filling it in, and decided to discuss my findings with my therepist. I have to admit, she looked a little taken aback.
It was at this point that she suggested that instead of analysing and filling in tables, I produce some artwork based on the question of 'who am I?' No in-depth thinking, no tables or lists or spreadsheets, just art.
And my only thought was 'it'll never work.'
How could I possibly learn anything without thinking about it and breaking it down logically? That's just nonsense.
I told her 'Ok, I will do some artwork, but it probably won't help.'
So I went home and thought over and over, how was I going to do this? I tried a few things, nothing worked. I was bored, I wasn't finding out anything I hadn't already thought of... and finally, yesterday afternoon I gave up and decided to go back to her and tell her that, as I had predicted, it hadn't helped.
So I finished my work and curled up with my hotwater bottle and a book, and for the first time that day, I relaxed. As I let go of the day and slipped into a world where the earth is powered by gears and cogs, and people are captured and forced to mop the decks of giant zeppelins, I became aware of a physical sensation of something unhooking and freeing up.
And at that point a floodgate opened up to some part of my head I hadn't visited in many years. I picked up a pen and started doodling.
At first, something inside me fought the process. In fact, I was a little frightened of what I was doing, as if drawing these characters would make them more real and I would end up schizophrenic. I mean, I’ve always had conflict in my head, and have toyed with the idea that I have different characters that fight to be ‘me’, but I have never really considered them to be ‘people’ in their own rights, or wondered what they would look like.
But now I was finding them in my head, letting them fill me up. It was almost as if they were just using my hand to draw self portraits. I wasn’t exactly thinking, I was just drawing what felt right.
And then, several hours later, I put the pen down. There, looking back at me, were 5 parts of the inside of my head. Characters that made perfect sense and seemed so familiar, but were so suprising and new.
It HELPED. So much more than my spreadsheets had done! It felt free and easy and more than anything else, fun! As soon as I closed my notebook I fell into a sound sleep, and woke up feeling clear-headed and positive.
And so I suggest to everyone, even if you don't think you can draw, have a go!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Small Pleasures

I've been seeing a lovely emotional therepist for the last few months. Something I always said I'd never do, but that totally blew me away when I realised how much it actually did help!

She reminds me to enjoy the little things: that success doesn't have to mean achieving every life-long dream at once, it can also mean making your own face-mask and having a sleepover; putting together the perfect playlist on iTunes; or maybe carving a pumpkin and then using the inside to cook something delicious!

The first I haven't done yet (but am looking forward to making happen at some point), the second and third I have indulged in during the last week. The pumpkins you see here were carved the Sunday before Halloween, whilst watching my favourite Halloween movie, Hocus Pocus (gotta love Bette Middler), and then followed by a delicious meal with my housemate and her lovely new man. I made warm pumpkin salad as a starter for the meal. It was good.

So I thought I'd share some recipies that make fantastic use of the leftover pumpkin! A reminder to always enjoy small pleasures.

Recipe 1
Warm Pumpkin and Feta Salad
Serves 4
The seeds and flesh of 1 small pumpkin, flesh cut roughly into 1 inch chunks
Crushed chillies
Juice and grated zest of 1 lime, plus a little extra juice for serving
2 tablespoons runny honey
generous drizzle olive oil
6 sprigs fresh thyme
approx 1 teaspoon paprika
1 pack feta cheese
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven at 150 C
2. Wash seeds and mix with 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes, the lime zest and juice, and some salt and pepper. Roast in the oven on a baking tray for 30-40 mins, tossing once during cooking, until they're dry and crispy
3. Next place the pumpkin flesh in another tray. Mix together the honey, oil and thyme, pour over the pumpkin and mix until well coated.
4. Sprinkle over about another 1/2 teaspoon of chilli flakes, the paprika and some salt and pepper, and cover with foil
5. Turn the oven up to 190 C and roast the pumpkin for 20mins, then remove the foil and cook for around another 20mins, basting regularly until the sauce and pumpkin wedges have caramalised.
6. Cut the feta into 1cm cubes. Mix together with the pumpkin and finally squeeze over a little more lime juice and sprinkle with the seeds. Serve with creme fraiche and warm buttery bread.

Recipe 2
Proper American Pumpkin Pie
Serves 10-12 depending on portion size!
4oz plain flour
1oz icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2oz butter
1 1/2oz lard
A little very cold water
300g mashed, cooked pumpkin flesh
1 small tin evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten
150g dark soft brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Start by making the pastry case:
1. Preheat oven at 190C
2. Sift the flour, salt and sugar together into a large mixing bowl
3.Cut the butter and lard into small chunks and mix into the flour using a knife, cutting up the lumps as you mix.
4. Once it's is in small pieces, use your fingertips to gently rub and mix the butter and lard into the flour, until it looks like breadcrumbs
5. Add a little splash of water and mix using your hands. Make sure the mixture stays cold- this is the key to good pastry! So use very cold water and keep a window open if it's hot in the kitchen...
6. Add enough water to make a dough. The bowl should be left clean. Then cling-film the ball of dough and leave in the fridge while you make the filling:
7. Cut a small pumpkin into 1 inch chunks and remove the skin, seeds and any stringy bits. Put the pumpkin in a saucepan and cover with boiling water, then simmer for approx 30 mins until it's soft.
8. Drain and leave to cool.
9. While you're waiting, you can take the pastry from the fridge and use it to line a 20cm flan dish. Put a circle of baking parchment in the centre to stop the inside from burning or bubbling up, then blind-bake the pastry case for 10 mins. Don't throw away the pastry cuttings, you can use these later on.
10. Next, blend/mash the pumpkin to a pulp. Weigh out 300g of the mash, and place in a bowl. (Don't throw the rest away, it makes a really good soup heated up with some cooked onions, coconut milk, thai spices and veg stock)
11. Add all the other filling ingredients to the bowl and mix till combined.
12. Remove the paper from the pastry case and pour in the mixture, then return it to the oven for 15mins, when the top of the filling should be starting to harden.
13. At this point, I take the leftover bits of pastry and cut out little star shapes, then carefully place them at random on the top of the pie. Just a pretty little touch, not exactly neccessary, but like I said, pleasure in small things!
14. Put the pie back in the oven and cook for approx another 20-25mins, until the filling is set but still soft.
15. Serve hot or cold (but I prefer it hot) with a generous dollop of fresh cream. NOM!

Funny picture of the week...

It's life Jim, but not as we know it

I had an interesting thought last night, just as I was drifting off to sleep.

In fact, now that I think about it, I don't really know why this wasn't obvious to me before.

So, I seem to have more or less got over my bout of insomnia, praise the lord! I was lying there last night, warm and clean after my nice long bath, tummy full of hot chocolate, and I was sleepily thinking about... well... a number of things, as you do when you're just about on the point of sleep, but no matter how hard I tried to forget it, this little song kept appearing there in my head, drowning out my other nice thoughts. I can't even remember what the song was now, but it kept going, over and over. I'd push it away, and it would come back again.

And that's when this brand new thought occurred to me. I've always assumed I have complete conscious control over what I do, how I act and what I think. I have this constant rational (and very often totally irrational) narration to my life, in my head. I assumed this part was the one in control, but there it was, telling this little song 'Go away, not in the mood for little songs right now, it's bedtime.' But the song wouldn't do what it was told.

My assumption had been that this controlling 'voice' (for want of a better word) was the one that made all the decisions. But now it seemed to be loosing control, like a supply teacher trying to scold a relentlessly unruly pupil.

And this is not the first time, by a long shot, that I've had this kind of subconscious argument between a part of myself that wants to be in control and another part that wants to act out. Except I don't think I ever really GOT it before.

Ok, so Mr Spock may have been in total control of his thoughts and emotions, but Mr Spock was a fictional alien! We are, none of us, in control. Not 100% anyway. There are parts of our brains and bodies that just act, because they are living material and they're doing what they do. No amount of self-scolding or mental pep-talks will stop this from happenning.

One might be inclined to worry about this sort of lack of control, but you know what, in this case, I personally find it quite comforting. Because it doesn't just apply to little songs. I can stop getting so frustrated and angry at myself for feeling and thinking things that aren't 'good'. It doesn't mean I won't still HAVE these thoughts and feelings, but at least they might not trigger the usual downward spiral of self hate that they have done in the past!

I don't think it's about not thinking and feeling things, I think it's about choosing which ones you want to act on.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Insomnia (Part Two)

The worst part of insomnia is the fact that you stop looking forward to bed.

When things are all good and I don't have trouble sleeping, I bloody love my bed! Mmmm: soft cosy feather duvet; hot water bottle; big mug of tea; that feeling you get when you've had a busy day, and you're knackered out and can't wait to just drift off and dream...

But when I've got a lot on my mind, I fall out with my bed. I don't like it very much at all, and it doesn't seem to like me either. The pillows won't go comfy, the duvet cover gets tangled round my legs, I'm too hot or too cold. And no matter how long I lie there trying to daydream, or practicing my yoga-breathing, I just can't relax enough to sleep.

I start dreading night time. That's the worst bit of all. I can't seem to help myself- I just get the old sinking feeling that instead of slipping comfortably into unconsciousness, I will lie for hours listening to the inside of my own head. It becomes almost like a fear of bedtime!

Its a very difficult thing not to become your own worst enemy when it comes to things like insomnia. I get frustrated at myself for allowing a fear to develop, because once it's there it's self-fuelling. You're afraid to go to bed because you don't want to lie awake thinking, but now you're aware that you're likely to lie awake thinking, so you do. You might not have if you hadn't been worrying you would!

But I think we need to go easy on ourselves. Brains think- it's what they do. Try telling your brain not to think. Let me know how if you manage it.

Sometimes I can't sleep and that's just how it is. It's horrible but it's not every night, just a few patches here and there and before long I WILL be able to sleep again. It's only temporary, and that I can cope with.

So in the meantime I'll drink a chamomile tea, get my book out, do some menial task that will take my mind off whatever it's stuck on, write a list, plan what I'm going to do next week... maybe even write a blog. Whatever it takes to shift concentration from inside my head to outside. That usually does the trick eventually. Not a cure, not a magical remedy, not even particularly comforting, but it's the best I've got.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Talking About Aerobics

pic c/o    
People should talk more.

I don't mean I want to hear more details about what you had for tea or the discout vouchers you're going to use next time you go to the supermarket.

I mean people should tell each other what they think more.

I honestly don't know why it's so hard to do it, and I'm refering to myself here as much as anyone else. Why do we constantly tell white lies and cover up the truth when it feels so god damn good to get it out?

I also think people should do more excercize.

I work from home, and I work alone for the majority of the time. It keeps me busy; it also gives me a fair chunk of every day to contemplate things. How great does that sound, eh?

Well ok let me put it another way. Have you ever spent more than, say, 8 hours totally alone? You will find that after a certain length of time, you start to get a little bit fed up of your own company. For me it's kind of like spending 10 hours with someone who won't stop talking about themselves, moaning and analysing ridiculous details of their life.

And I do this on more or less of a daily basis, excluding weekends, festivals and christmas market stalls.

For the luxury of late mornings, daytime tv and no boss, I have sacrificed... basically... my sanity!

So to combat this, I indulge in things that let me blow off steam (like the violent freezer-defrosting incident). Today it was aerobics. Never for the life of me expected it to be my thing, but I've found a really good class. My instructor is a tiny but muscular lesbian with bleached hair and a wicked sense of humour. I love the music she plays, I get to strut up and down and do star-jumps for an hour, and not one person wears leg warmers. It's ace.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


So this is where I'm going to start.
Twenty to four in the morning. Work tomorrow. I've been in bed since 11pm and I've been wide awake the whole time.
So, yeah, not such a good day today.
This is how it goes, up and down, up and down. Sometimes up and up, but then always down again, and sometimes down and down and down. Where does it stop? I'm not sure I really want to find that out!
I haven't had a sleepless night like this in a while. I've got too much buzzing about inside me tonight.