Come Join Me Over Here!

Hi there!

I'm glad you've come to read my blog, but unfortunately I don't live here any more!

Feel free to trawl through my archives or look up my posts on Scoliosis which will always be at home here, but when you're ready please come and join me at my new home:


See you there!

Catherine Ann x

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Food, Glorious Food... What Makes You Beautiful?

A NOTE ON HOW AWESOME MY LIFE IS...

Hi Everyone! Before I start the next food post, I'd like to tell you all why I'm feeling about a million feet tall right now. As a result of my blog, Bambi and her boyfriend have decided to start their own! Now, while I know it wasn't me who invented blogs or indeed gave them the idea, I'm still pretty chuffed that I've handed them some confidence and encouragement.


Let me share something from the prophet Isaiah which I heard today at Easter mass (this won't be happening very often, so enjoy it): "Yes, as the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and give growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return from me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do." 

This really struck a chord with me, and I'd like you all to take it on board. What you have to say DOES matter. Your thoughts ARE worth sharing. So whether it's writing like Bambi and I, expressing yourself through music like Phoenix or putting your own spin on a monologue the way Wolf does, make sure to make yourself heard. Your intentions WILL be carried out and you WILL succeed in whatever it is you feel you're here to do. 

Lots of love, Catherine Ann.

Now, on to WHAT MAKES YOU BEAUTIFUL!! 

When considering themes for my blog, I thought a cool one would be beauty as it’s something most teens—most humans—are preoccupied with. The thing is, I don’t really know much about it! All I know is that everyone’s beautiful if you look hard enough. I really don’t like the idea of saying what beauty is, telling you how to be beautiful etc... but I thought what I could talk about was how to be at your best and feel good. When you're feeling particularly great, people notice! Your hair and skin glow and you stand taller. Of course there’s a huge connection between looking and feeling good—I know that I tend to feel awful on a particularly bad skin day, which for me happens loads!

When you reach adolescence, you begin to notice that there are a lot of facts and myths out there all ready to confuse you. I know this can be particularly hard for girls, but I’m sure boys have their fair share as well. So instead, I’m going to tell you the cold hard facts about what your body needs and how to get it!

That’s where food comes in. You may not realise, but what you put into your body is invariably visible on the outside. I’m not one to preach about diets, the way I eat, and I’m not going to tell you to cut anything out as I don’t want you to hate me. But what could you do with adding in?

Vitamin A is needed by the skin to rebuild tissue, so it’s really useful if you’re prone to blemishes or acne, as well as strengthening and moisturising hair. It’s also a great anti-ageing help, for those of you who are perhaps past the teenage stage. It’s found in vegetables such as carrots, broccoli and spinach, as well as animal products like eggs, cheese and milk.

Vitamin C helps your body produce collagen, which is a bit like the elastic part of your skin—it helps make it smooth and supple. It can be found abundantly in citrus fruits, broccoli or tomatoes.

B Vitamins are all great for your skin as they boost circulation and help your skin get the oxygen it needs to be healthy. It also makes your hair shine and grow faster. It can be found in eggs and nuts.

Vitamin E also helps with circulation, so it softens the skin and makes for a healthy scalp. If your scalp is healthy, split ends will be reduced and your hair will be softer. You can find it in most nuts, spinach, broccoli, kiwis and tomatoes, as well as fortified cereals.

Iron is very important to prevent anaemia. This is when not enough oxygen travels around your body in the blood. It can result in looking and feeling tired. Sources of iron include leafy veg e.g. spinach (remember how strong Pop-Eye was?), cocoa powder (see my brownie recipe!), red meats such as lamb or beef or any fortified cereal.

It goes without saying that a balanced diet is essential for maintaining health. You should include all vitamins and minerals in some form as well as a balance of water, carbohydrates, proteins, fruit and vegetables, diary produce and fats. Exercise is also essential to staying healthy and feeling great. This list is really just a guide so you can learn to up the intake of any vitamin or mineral you might feel you’re missing.

I've noticed that broccoli is mentioned a lot as a source of all things awesome, and while I personally can’t get enough, I know that those poor miniature trees have their haters. For that reason, my next recipe is going to be something including broccoli along with as many others from the list above as I can manage. Is there such thing as cooking a dish which can make you more beautiful when you eat it? I’ll have a damn good try! 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Unlucky For Some Features...


Time to introduce some very important people. As some of you know, I don't use my proper name for this blog. For the same reasons, I’ve decided to come up with pseudonyms for my best friends, who I’ll probably be mentioning on Unlucky For Some from time to time. They’re all pretty cool people and if I wanted to stalk anyone, I’d stalk them... therefore their internet safety is of paramount importance. I’m naming them all after animals... I wonder if they’ll be able to spot themselves!

The Friends...

WOLF: In the film Mamma Mia, Julie Walters says the line “I’m a lone wolf, awooooo!” This friend is a huge fan of that line. She is also going to be one half of “Bear and Wolf Productions”, a publication we’re shirking—I mean, working—on. Another reason for the Walters connection is that she happens to be an amazingly talented actress. Wolf is just like a mother to me, she always remembers things and keeps me organised. We also have the same sense of humour and are, naturally, hilarious. We both adore baking, though she’s definitely the more artistic decorator!

PHOENIX: So-called because she has beautiful red hair (which she won’t admit to), just like the flames which surround a Phoenix. I also wanted to call her after a bird as she has a beautiful singing voice. I can tell this girl anything and she’ll understand, or at least have the courtesy to pretend she does. We’ve been friends for a really long time and see each other... a LOT. I bet we often make each other sick but we soon remember how awesome we are as a pair! The kind of friendship which has taken nearly five years to build isn’t going to go away easily. There always seems to be one more thing to tell her, and she’s very patient when I talk... which is a lot.

CROW: Looks after me when (real) crows are around because I’m terrified of them. Part of his name means raven, which is a messenger bird, but he prefers Crow as it's less delicate and he is, after all, a Damn Manly Man. He does in fact send quite a few messages via his blog, as well as writing short stories. Writing buddy, editor, best friend, master of puns, chef extraordinaire... this boy is all those things to me and so much more.



The Family...

My family are the most important people in my life, and as the years have gone on I've realised that it's a rare and lucky thing to have one as close and loving as mine. Every mum, dad, brother... every character to an extent in my writing is based on one if not all members of my family. They've shaped who I am so it's only natural that they shape my work too. 

TIGER: The oldest of my three brothers, he is twelve years older than me and so called simply because tigers are his favourite animal. In our old house, his room was full or tigers in soft toy and picture form. Sometimes I would be allowed to sit in that room and listen to the Red Hot Chilli peppers... none of the usual stuff all the other seven year olds listened to for me! He was my “favourite brother” for a very long time, which was probably mean of me. I think it’s because as the oldest he was used to putting up with the rubbish of younger siblings. Regardless, he’s a brilliant older brother who gives the best hugs and is my hero. 

DUCHESS: Tiger's girlfriend. She adores animals, especially cats, so I've named her after Duchess in the Aristocats. Duchess and Tiger live together with their German Shepherd Lenny and their huge black cat, Bodmin. She's probably the most interesting person I've ever met. She's done a lot in her life, from learning about forensic archaeology to teaching in a secondary school... I wonder which is more scary?!

ELEPHANT: My middle brother is nine years older than me and fond of... yeah, elephants. I’m like the sorting hat, I do tend to take people’s choices into account. Hence Crow’s name... But I digress. Elephant is the smartest person I know, he’s always supportive and kind. He loves history with almost too much of a passion, just like me. He’s the one I’d go to for advice and he always helps me out even when he’s busy. I look up to him and his wife, Panther. He has success written all over him and he works hard to deserve it.

PANTHER: Elephant’s wife and my sister-in-law, the first thing you notice when you see Panther is how incredibly beautiful she is. She’s got shiny black hair, which is why I chose her name, and a lovely smile. She’s just as smart as Elephant (maybe even smarter) and keeps him organised. She’s very brave which is evident in the business she’s founded. She’s loving and caring and I can’t tell you what a relief it is to have this lovely lady taking care of my brother! She will soon become a mum, and I know she’ll make a great one! She’s passionate about food, just like me.

FERRET: In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Mad Eye Moody turns Malfoy into a ferret. Harry Potter is a shared love of Ferret and I, and he also used to remind me of Draco when we were little as he was, well, evil. We were arch enemies throughout the first decade of my life. In his defence, it started when I was three, he was nine, and I hit him in the head with a lamp... I don’t remember this but he still has the scar so I’m assuming it’s true. His nickname for me was “Smelly” which was used so frequently that it more or less lost its impact when I turned ten... just in time for him to leave home and us to start liking each other. That’s life, I suppose. He’s the hilarious one, incredibly smart in his own way, and he gets up to the most outrageous antics which I suppose I hear severely censored versions of.

So that’s my family. I also have a mum and dad who I live with and love very dearly, but I think I’ll just call them mum and dad... nature’s nicknames! 


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Food, Glorious Food... Chocolate Fudge Brownies!



Here’s my recipe for scrummy chocolate brownies! I noticed most recipes require you to already have chocolate but to be honest, brownies are something I bake when I’m desperate for a fix and there’s no chocolate in the house. I was thereby forced to come up with my own recipe using cocoa powder. They don’t contain nuts as I find this takes from the chocolatey fudgey deliciousness, but if you prefer you could add hazelnuts or chopped pecans.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED:
2 eggs
250g/ 10oz dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
125g/ 5oz butter
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder (I recommend Bourneville)
90g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon of instant coffee

...AND HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:
1) Preheat the oven to 200°C.
2) Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl together with the sugar.
3) Melt the butter. This can be done in a cup in the microwave (carefully, about 20 seconds at a time in case it burns) or in a Bain-Marie, which is when you heat a pan of water and melt the butter in a bowl over it, stirring continuously.
4) Add the melted butter and vanilla essence to the eggs and sugar.


5) Sieve the flour, cocoa and instant coffee. The coffee along with the vanilla will really bring out the flavour of the chocolate.
6) Beat the mixture until thick and bubbly, like so...



7) Pour it into a greased tin (an 18cm square tin is ideal but I generally use two loaf tins) and bake for 40 minutes.
8) Cut the brownies into squares or perhaps fingers if you used a loaf tin. Can be enjoyed hot with ice-cream or cold with a cup of tea. They will keep for about two days in an airtight tin or Tupperware box.





Monday, 25 March 2013

Food, Glorious Food... For Free!!!


Hi all! (By which I mean my three friends who keep refreshing the page to make me feel good). I was going to put up a recipe for chocolate brownies, but my life is such that I’ve been eating mounds of cake and chocolate over the last few days. So I’m going to wait a while to take pics etc for that and instead talk to you about foraging...

Have you ever foraged for food? It’s something I like to try in the summer months: it gets me out of the house and I get to eat for free!

It should be noted (because I don’t want you poisoning yourselves and suing me) that foraging should only be done if you know exactly what you’re doing. Do not eat anything unless you know for definite what it is and that it is safe. Oh, and for goodness’ sake, wash it first!!

Alright, now on to foraging.

I’m lucky enough to live in the countryside (and have tolerant neighbours) so there’s plenty of room to go out and about foraging, but if you live in town you could always try parks or take a little trip out with your friends. Just make sure you get permission from whoever owns the land, and don’t pick too much of anything—you might be depriving the local wildlife! Alternatively, you can have a go at growing your own food, but more on that in a moment.

Among the most common plants are stinging nettles, which are great in nettle soup and, contrary to popular belief, will not sting your throat when cooked. You can find them almost all year round.  Make sure you wear gloves when you pick them, though. Just strip off the leaves and boil them up in a soup or stew.

A popular favourite is blackberries, which grow on brambles usually in hedgerows. They’re tasty on their own or can be eaten in pies, crumbles or smoothies. They make a perfect pair with apple. Here in Ireland, blackberries will be in season in the early Autumn (Aug-Sept) but this varies a lot depending on the weather. 
You may end up finding so many that you can freeze them for use all year round.

Also take a look out for some wild strawberries growing in hedges. These are even smaller than blackberries but they pack quite a punch! They are totally different from the ones in the shops, a little acidic, a bit like a strawberry-flavoured chewy sweet. Last year I spotted them at the end of August, and I can’t wait to look this year!

It’s well worth your while taking someone with you who knows the area, perhaps an older person who is used to country living. I went along with my dad one day and he found a hazelnut tree near his old family home. He can recognise one of these trees a mile off and knows when they’re in season. Don’t expect them to be brown like in a packet. They will be green and surrounded by leaves, but you can pull them off the branch easily and open them with a nutcracker.

You might be able to find some mushrooms, but don’t go near them unless they’ve been identified as safe. Unfortunately I’m not an expert so I can’t tell you how to find them, but someone in your area might now of a place where safe, edible mushrooms grow every year.

Dandelions can be eaten in soups, salads and sandwiches. The whole plant is safe to eat, and I have to say that I personally have never been rendered incontinent.

My latest discovery is wild garlic, which you might even find in your own garden. It can be identified because it smells of the garlic you’d have in your kitchen. The leaves are long, flat and green—Google a photo as I’m having camera issues right now! It can be used in soups or salads and the bulbs can be eaten too, though they’re not as large or plentiful.

When the weather improves, come back to "Unlucky For Some" to see if I was lucky enough to find you all some pictures of the beautiful flora near my home. 


If you decide to grow (or buy, for that matter) your own plants, you might be surprised to find out which parts you can eat. Take the pea plant for example, all parts of which are edible. The pods can be eaten raw or stir-fried, but make sure you peel off the inside layer which looks like plastic and is pretty much the same to eat. Pea leaves are very sweet, absolutely delicious in salads. Also, did you know that you can eat the leaves of beetroot and radishes?  Also, don’t throw away things like cabbage heart and broccoli stalk—the entire vegetable can be used if you’re creative enough! Try snacking raw, steaming or stir-frying for something a little different.

 Do you suspect you may have a green thumb? Finger? Toes? Set onions, leeks and cabbages are a great place to start as they are quite easy to grow and tend to be successful. If you haven’t got much room or aren’t a fan of the great outdoors, you can buy potted herbs in most supermarkets which will reside quite happily on the windowsill. Personally I love to have coriander in my kitchen in the summer. Mint is a very sturdy plant, will pretty much grow itself, and smells gorgeous. Then there’s the old reliable, cress. When I was very little I used to love growing cress as all you need is seeds, some cotton wool and water and there is a very quick return—always important to a five year old!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Food, Glorious Food... Bread and Butter Pudding



I’ve decided that as it’s almost Easter, that delightful period of greed between Christmas gluttony and summer holiday nibbling, I’m going to choose food as my first theme. I’m passionate about cooking, so over the next week or so I’ll be sharing some of my recipes and tips for the kitchen.

I always like to take holidays as a chance to try new recipes that maybe I wouldn't have time to cook otherwise—you know, the ones that say “leave to stand for a decade” or “continue stirring, do not let it out of your sight, even if someone dies”. However if you’re a little less adventurous, I’m going to take this opportunity to share some nice simple recipes which I've been making for ages and always seem to turn out well (fingers crossed). This is going to be pretty dessert-heavy, but only God and Delia Smith can judge me.

First up, it’s what my mum calls “nursery food”, warm and comforting...

Bread and Butter Pudding

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED:
(These ingredients are vague, but bear with me. It’s all to do with what size you want.)
A large ovenproof dish (e.g. lasagna dish)
White sliced bread (any will do, this is a great way to use up stale bread), enough to make up two layers in your dish
Butter
Milk
One egg
100g sugar
Raisins

...AND HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:
1) Preheat the oven (oh, yeah, you need an oven by the way) to 200°C.

2) Grease your dish with a little butter.

3) Butter your bread just like you would for a sandwich.

4) Line the bottom of the dish with bread and sprinkle over as many raisins as you like.  

 5) Add another layer of bread and sprinkle with a few raisins (you can add some grated orange peel if you want to, but this doesn't bode well with certain family members so I tend to leave it out). 


6) Now for the delicious bit... trust me on this. Break the egg into a pint glass/ measuring jug and beat it with the sugar. Then fill the glass up to the top (or fill up to a pint) with milk. At this point, if you like, you could add some of your favourite spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, mixed spice...) or some vanilla.



7) Pour the mixture all over the bread. If it doesn't look like it’s covering well, you can just add some more milk.



8) Bake for about half an hour until golden and crunchy on top and solid but soft in the middle. Can be eaten hot as dessert, and the cold remains are great to be picked at long into the night. 



Here's how mine turned out! It might not win any beauty contests, but tastes amazing! 


Sunday, 17 March 2013

Here Goes Nothing!


“Why did I ever start this?” ...my first words ever in my first blog ever, and I’ve nicked them from Jennifer Worth’s bestseller “Call the Midwife.” It is a good place to begin, though.

I’m sixteen years old and I live in Ireland. My life mainly consists of writing, reading, studying, baking and wondering why there isn’t more wild stuff to fill this sentence with.

I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. I went through the various inevitable phases of popstar (ridiculous), actress (perhaps plausible?), archaeologist (still a bit plausible) and even, for a brief period, astronaut (horrific idea), but writing has always been something I wanted to do.

A blog, now, that’s a relatively new idea. For only about a year have I considered it, and it’s only now I’ve plucked up the courage and the get-up-and-go to begin. It’s down to looking at my friends who aren’t afraid to be passionate about things and share their passion with others. I figured, why shouldn’t I?

So welcome to my blog for 2013! (I know it’s March already... that probably says more about me than I’d like).

It’s intended for teenagers—because I am one and have no idea what adults think about (nor do I particularly want to find out just yet). My intention is to pick a new issue about being a teen every couple of weeks and write several entries about it (e.g. confidence and self esteem, bullying, school, food, music)... lots of things I think I know about and many about which I’ll freely admit to having no clue. If anyone has suggestions about what they’d like to see, you can email me at catherineann.mk@gmail.com. Please let me know if I’m doing a great job or a terrible one, or—hopefully—hovering somewhere in between.

Here goes nothing!