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

Sunday, 28 April 2013

School... The Best Days of Our Lives?


So here’s what happened. The anecdote, if you will. I decided I would be clever and try and increase my page traffic by naming my posts something people would be likely to search for on the old interweb. Whether this was a stupid idea or not can be discussed in the comments if you wish. So anyway, I start typing random letters into Google to see what comes up. I’m thinking about that thing, “I hate when Voldemort uses my shampoo”, so I start to type in “I hate”. Before I even get past the ‘a’, look what happens:





That’s right, everyone. Searched for most frequently on Google, before Martin Luther King’s iconic speech, is the phrase “I hate school.”

How depressing is that? As I’ve said before, school is a place we’re going to be spending a lot of our time. The fact that so many people hate it enough to google the damn thing really upsets me. How unhappy must all these people be?

Now, I know what you’re going to say. Teenagers hate everything. And even I will admit that sometimes it’s true. But for most of us, the whole period of our schooling is not spent engulfed in angst, and people are still hating school when reasonably level-headed. The long and the short of it is, in my opinion, that something must be wrong.

If this is the case... surely we can fix it? For instance, fifty years ago, if you hated school it was probably because you were being hit across the palm with a hazel rod. That’s changed, hasn’t it? I hope it has. 
Actually, if it hasn’t and this is still a reason for you, you should probably go to the police.

Anyway, there must be something we can do to stop kids hating school.

Over the next week I’m going to be doing a little research. I’ll be asking people if they really do hate school, and if so, why so. At the end of the week, I’ll publish the list here at Unlucky For Some, along with some suggested solutions.

If this is going to work, I’ll need your help. I need you guys to email me at catherineann.mk@gmail.com, or leave a comment, or if you know me in person just talk to me, and tell me why you think that school is such a worry for so many teens. Even if you’re not in school, can you remember what it was like?

Come on everyone, let’s see if we can’t fix this.  

Saturday, 27 April 2013

School... The Scumbag Irish Book and Catherine Ann's Losing It...


I think I’m losing my mind. Today I tried to do my maths homework and I’m pretty sure I was doing what the book said to do... and yet, I consistently got the wrong answers. It was not a hard chapter. I cried. 
Fortunately, my parents were on hand to offer ever-useful advice such as “Eat a banana” and “Go and play with the cats: they have a different set of priorities.”

I could use this blog post to rant about how painful maths is, how whoever implemented the new system clearly didn’t think it through...etc, etc, first world problems, etc... But instead I’d like to tell you this: 
Nothing is worth getting that worked up about. if you are becoming so caught up in a difficult subject that you actually start crying (embarrassing as it is to admit this, it’s not the first time I’ve done that... it could partly be my age?) then something is clearly wrong. Almost nothing in this world is that important.

I want to let you know that I’m here if you’re having some sort of trouble. School and exams can be a very stressful time, particularly as most of us take exams during the most volatile years of our life, when hormones are all over the place and we get so angry about everything. Drop an email to catherineann.mk@gmail.com if you’re having any issues, or comment below, and we can try and sort it all out together. Even if the only advice I can give you is about fruit or the healing properties of a family pet, I’ll at least try to help and it might be nice just to talk about it with someone. The subjects I take are English, Irish, Maths, History, French, Biology and Business Studies (here in Ireland we take a diverse selection for Leaving Cert) and I’d be happy to advise on pretty much any of these where I can. Or if it’s general stuff, that’s fine too. The school-help hotline is officially open for business.

 Of course, it’s true that a little stress is good. For example, I know that Bambi got stressed when she approached her exams last year (she probably didn’t cry, though), but she ended up achieving ELEVEN As (out of a possible... you guessed it, eleven)! So stress can be a huge motivator... It depends on how you respond to it.

For example, next time your Scumbag Irish book tries to explain what an Irish word means by using another Irish word... don’t get angry or give up. Simply find your dictionary (or go to www.focal.ie) and think about it this way: you now have two new words in your vocabulary.

Try looking at exam papers to see what use all this studying will be in the end. It might even make it all less scary. For example, I know that the French listening exercises for the exam are a lot easier than the ones in my textbook. Things like that tend to calm one down a little.

Write a list of where you’re at now, and what you need to get done before your exams. Hopefully, this will focus your mind and you’ll be able to formulate some definite goals and a timetable for achieving them.

Above all, talk to people. Talk to your parents, or, if you’re not lucky enough to have ones as supportive as mine, you can try offloading on friends, teachers, or as I've said, me. That way you’ll be able to actually find out what it is you’re having trouble with, rather than getting bogged down in the whole thing.

Last of all, ladies and gentlemen, I leave you with Scumbag Textbook. That's right, it's an actual thing! I checked! 



Wednesday, 24 April 2013

School... Five Things to Remember


It’s sometimes big, sometimes small, some of us like it and some can’t stand it. Some of us know it will help us in the long run, but sometimes we don’t see the point of all that hard work. This year, here in Ireland, we’ll spend about 46% of our days there.

That's right, school. We all have our opinion on it—several, even—but the fact of the matter is, it’s a huge part of any teenager’s life. It’s where you spend a lot of time, make a lot of your friends, experience a lot of new things... oh, and learn. I suppose. That’s why I’ve chosen it for the next theme. It should be easy to find content and I hope you’ll all be able to relate to it. Over the next while I’ll be thinking about my experiences and observing what goes on in that hotbed of teenage nonsense.

Firstly, I’ll start with a few things I wish I’d known when I began secondary school. This could be useful if you’re going into first year, moving to a new school, or even just want to know what you could be doing to have a better experience.

FIVE THINGS TO REMEMBER...

The Customer’s Always Right. When you walk into a shop, you expect to have a good experience and be helped out when you need it. It should be the same with school. If you’re having a problem, maybe you’re getting picked on or you’re having trouble in one f your classes, you have the right to expect that it’ll be dealt with. See someone right away and tell them what the problem is, and what you’d like them to do about it. If you don’t know how it can be solved, then it’s up to the member of staff to help you.
Get Your Money's Worth. I can’t count the times I’ve been beaten out the door by a teacher when the bell rings at the end of the day, when a teacher has pointed to a page and said “learn that”, or otherwise demonstrated that they really don’t want to put in the effort. Remember that teachers are being paid to help you learn. If you’re finding something hard or need extra help, it’s their job to help you. Ask as many questions as you can think of and get the help you deserve.
People Will Like You. Don't fall into a group of friends just because you think they’re the only people who will talk to you. Be friendly with everyone so you’ll be able to find yourself a little niche that suits you. That way you should be safe from bullies and it’ll be easier to get away from any “toxic” friends.
Start Something New. It doesn’t matter if you’re only in First Year, in fact that’s the perfect time. My school happens to have lots of facilities and clubs for sports, but not much else. A huge regret I have is not starting up a drama club or doing something about a library. I’m in my second last year right now so it’s not the best time. So be brave, start something, and you never know what might happen! If there’s already a club, what are you waiting for? Get involved! If you hate it, fine, you can quit, but you never know until you try.
A Final Word of Wisdom... any highlighter except orange over blue fountain pen will cause the ink, and therefore your important notes, to disappear. You have been warned. 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

About Me!


I wonder how many people read my blog who don’t know me in real life. Probably not many, but if you do, you might like to know a few things about the person who slaves for hours for your entertainment... and if you’re already a friend, you might discover something new! So here are a few fun facts about Catherine Ann Minnock, to bridge the gap between this theme and the next. (I’ve been busy,  leave me alone).

I am incredibly lazy with some things, and incredibly motivated with others. My essays for school are almost always done on time, but I have been known to use the tumble-dryer as my personal laundry basket because I can’t be bothered to sort out my clothes. If I can do something online instead of going out, I will. That’s how I end up owning a lot of clothes which very nearly fit.

I have a Costa Coffee Club card. I have been to Costa Coffee once. That’s when they gave me the card.

You already know that I write stories, but did you know that I have twice seen people who look exactly like my characters? One was just in passing around two years ago, one I actually got to know. Both times, I nearly had a heart attack.

I’m one of those people who knows exactly what I want to do for the next several years, when I probably shouldn’t have such a fixed idea yet. I want to go to university in the UK and study English and History. My brother met his wife at uni... so after that, who knows? I will always write, though. I have to.

Oh, yes, I have three brothers: they are six, ten and twelve years older than me. I’ll probably add them to the “Introducing My Friends” post as soon as I can think of some suitable nicknames for them. When 
I was very small, my youngest brother and I really didn’t get on (he called me smelly, I hit him with a lamp... the usual) and I would wish I had a sister, but now I realise I couldn’t have grown up in a better family. They are the best people you will meet, and I’ve always been treated so well that nowadays if a boy doesn’t hold a door open for me I feel hopelessly confused.

I can’t function without a cup of tea in the mornings. I can take or leave coffee, but I must have my tea. I’m Irish, what can I say?

I read my horoscope every day.

I tend to agree with people or not share my opinion about something just so as not to get into an argument... maybe this is a sign that I’m growing up? However I also don’t tend to say “sorry” or “pardon” if I don’t hear someone. I just say “mm” and smile. So perhaps this is just more laziness...

I remember just about everyone from my past, but they often don’t remember me.

I recently discovered I have little or no control over my own eyebrows. 

I am a huge Harry Potter fan.

I am part of a Youth Theatre group and love acting almost as much as writing. Last year I co-wrote and starred in a site-specific production, and that was just about as heavenly as it gets. There was also cake.

I love cake. 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Happiness... Finding Your Passion and a Postcript.


Today I want to talk about one of the things I think is very important for happiness: finding your passion. You may have noticed that I really admire people who are passionate, use their passion to their advantage and always do what they love. I’m also trying to be that person myself and so far have reaped many rewards—including this blog!

The other day I emailed a lady to tell her how fab her blog is (you can view it at storyofmylife.blogspot.com) and to thank her for the useful blogging tips she included. I explained I’ve just started out and am only a teenager. In her reply, she said that I'm very lucky to have begun at such a young age, that I have a lot of wonderful years ahead of me, and she wishes she’d started a blog sooner. So I want to stress how important it is to be passionate in life and to find what you love.

I’ve got lots of friends with various passions, and I highly encourage you to be around people like this, because it’s nothing but good for you and you may absorb some of their attitude. (I’ll be using nicknames which are explained here, in case you’re wondering).

Black Sheep has a passion for filmmaking. He makes vlogs which can be found at www.youtube.com/user/NotInFrontProduction. We’re also going to be working on a project this summer, making a short film together... one of the many reasons I can’t wait for the summer to begin! His vlogs are one of the reasons I started blogging myself. I thought if he had the courage, I should too!

Anyone who knows Bambi can see how brave she is. Her passion is writing, but she also loves music and art. When I met her I was astonished at how she could just tell people she was writing a novel. I’ve always been a bit shy about my writing. So my two pieces of advice for you, inspired by her, are that you should never hide what you love and it’s OK to have more than one passion. Me, I’ve got several, too! You can find her at her blog, everythingandanythingtolove.blogspot.ie.

Another blogger is Crow. He’s passionate about writing, blogs and short stories mostly. He writes a great blog I’ve shared before called Dear Saul (dearsaul.wordpress.com). He used to be a bit shy about his writing, just like me, but I bet he’s a lot happier now he’s come out of his shell. I’m sure the readers of his blog are, too! Neither he nor myself are very much into sport, which brings me onto some more advice: finding your passion means the things you’re not good at, or don’t like, will matter a hell of a lot less. Concentrate on what you love and nothing else will bother you.

The past year or two for me have been about trying new things so I can find out what’s perfect for me. I have always loved baking, something Wolf and I have in common. So we've decided to go for it and start a small—miniscule, in fact—home baking business to sell cupcakes. We’ve been in touch with some scary official people and preparation is well underway to become a proper little business! Yay!

I won’t say any more now, as all the things I love are crowding my brain saying “pick me!” and I think I might be running away with myself a little. So for now, I’ll just say that you all NEED to try new things and discover what you love. Do you already know? Great! Tell the world! Pour your heart and soul into your sport, music, writing, filming, art, cooking, gardening... I honestly don’t mind what you do, as long as you love every minute of it! Why not tell me about your passion in the comments? I’d love to hear!  Alternatively, you could email catherineann.mk@gmail.com.

Writing this has reminded me what an amazing circle of people I’m part of... that’s something I’ll be forever grateful for, and it makes me very happy indeed!

PS. All I have to say about the tragedy in Boston is that there are some things in this world I will never understand. Of course my thoughts and prayers go out to anyone affected in any way by the horrific bombs. The reason I’m not writing a longer piece about it is that I feel a terrorist’s aim is to make us all stop in our tracks and lose our hope. So I decided if I continue to write about happiness, and if we all continue to be happy as much as we can, then that might really upset the terrorists. That is, if they have the capacity to be upset.  Did you hear about the people who finished the marathon and kept running right to the nearest hospital to donate blood for those who were injured? That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. More of that, please. 

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Happiness... How to be Happy (pt 2)


Here are the rest of the “instructions”, more ways to overcome the obstacles, I sincerely hope! If you have any to add, let me know. I’d hate to be missing things out. Now without further ado...

3) Realise that nothing lasts forever.

I know it gets said a lot and can be difficult, but it’s true. A lady in my community celebrated her 100th birthday recently, and it really got me thinking. There must have been moments in her life when she thought it was literally the end of the world, when something happened that she knew she could never get over... and there she was, years later, surrounded by her great grandchildren and blowing out candles on a birthday cake with everything forgotten. I’m sure you remember back when you were seven or eight years old and something just awful happened and you knew you’d never live it down or get over it. Think about how silly it seems now and realise that whatever it is that’s getting to you at the moment will feel just as insignificant in a decade. You’ll remember your happiness more than your downfalls. From now on when I’m hung up on something, I just think forward to when I’m an old lady and wonder, will this really matter? Probably not.

About a year and a half ago I was feeling very sorry for myself a rather large proportion of the time. I thought something had to be wrong—I was a teenager, yes, but should I be feeling like this quite so often? So I decided to make a list of everything that was getting me down. It worked—I felt better after putting it all out of my brain and on paper. Interestingly enough, I found the list a couple of weeks ago. It’s no exaggeration to say that every single item on the list had either gone away, or I simply didn’t care about it anymore.

4) Don’t worry about what people think.
When people say this to me, it seems like the easiest thing in the world. Why indeed should I care? Yet we all find ourselves at some point or another wondering if we made the right decision or if people are judging us for it. Ultimately, it can stop us from doing what we love. Perhaps you want to join a club but are afraid of being laughed at. We’ve all been there. Wolf and I were talking the other day about a book club which has been started in our school. Any time it’s mentioned, people laugh. I suppose this is because it’s “nerdy” or “uncool”... or because they struggle with reading, I don’t know. Wolf’s reaction was: “It’s funny, I kind of thought we were past that.” Well, perhaps not everyone else is, but you can be. Maybe people haven’t grown out of judging you yet, but that’s their issue. You’re perfectly able to grow out of caring.

5) Don’t mould yourself.
I should probably clarify that I’m not referring to leaving yourself out of the fridge so long that mushrooms and green powdery stuff start growing on you... What I mean is, don’t try too hard to fit into a particular mould. It’s obvious that trying too hard to be “cool” is a happiness-killer, but that’s also the case for trying too hard to be different, which I see a lot of these days. Anyone who tells you there are rules about what music to listen to, what clothes to wear, what book to read and even what people to talk to are probably suffering from severe burns around the bottom area because their PANTS ARE ON FIRE. Do NOT listen to these people. All teenagers are just making the rules up as they go along, and nobody’s version is more important than anyone else’s. Follow your heart, do what you find interesting and it’s a lot easier to be happy.

But you didn’t need me to tell you that. Right? 

Friday, 12 April 2013

Happiness... How to be Happy (pt 1)


If you’re here because you googled ‘how to be happy’, perhaps looking for instructions, then firstly let me congratulate you as I’m pretty sure this doesn’t show up on a google search. Secondly, I feel it’s my duty to inform you that you may be disappointed. There are no instructions, no hard-and-fast rules, no ‘do this and you’ll be happy’. That’s not how it works. Nor can I give you a map and show you how to ‘find’ happiness—it’s not some kind of lost treasure. It’s there inside you, but maybe so deep down that you’re having trouble accessing it right now.

So I suppose what I’m really trying to tell you here is how to let yourself be happy. Especially in our teenage years, there seem to be a lot of obstacles preventing happiness. What if I told you that often we only have ourselves to blame? No, calm yourself, don’t throw the computer out the window—just read on. Please. I’m going to try and help you get rid of the obstacles. Wish me luck, and do keep in mind that I’m still a teenager myself. I don’t have it all figured out. I might have some (all) of this wrong. Above all you can rest assured that anything I advise you against, I will have done at least a dozen times before. Well, someone had to test it out.  

Here we go...

1) DON’T OVERTHINK.
Overthinking is something teens tend to be guilty of—though I’m sure as with everything there are a few adults who haven’t grown out of it yet. This can be a huge obstacle to happiness because a lot of resentment and insecurity is a product of overthinking. Have you ever heard it said that the longer you look in a mirror, the worse you appear. When we overthink, any niggling doubts we may have manifest themselves inside us until we can’t help but think about them, over and over. Try to realise thinking about something (What did he/she mean by that comment? Why did that happen? What will people think of this?) won’t make any difference. Nine times out of ten, it won't be worth the space it takes up in your head.
It can lead to resentment in that the more we read into things, the more we pick out the negatives. I think that the reason people get so het-up about the latest popular book/film/song is because they concentrate so hard on it they begin to pick out every imperfection and magnify it (and, perhaps, because they regret not writing/starring in/singing it themselves. They get wrapped up in the meaning if it all, the message ... not everything has to carry a deep, meaningful subtext. Some things, you just have to take as they are.
All this overthinking leads people to hate, which is possibly the biggest obstacle to happiness of all.

2) DON’T HATE.
There seems to be a culture at the moment where it’s “cool” to hate certain things. This baffles me. Apparently as someone who loves Harry Potter I’m supposed to hate its rivals? Every few years, a new musician to hate comes around. It used to be Jedward, then Justin Bieber, now I think One Direction or Nikki Minaj may have taken the top spot. It seems to me that there’s a lot of hate going round for no particular reason. Even if you do feel you have a reason to hate a certain public figure, what good is it going to do? Next time you post hate on Facebook about Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber or Stephenie Meyer (to name but a few from my own newsfeed), or moan about them to your friends, remember that they’ll be too busy spending their squillions and communicating with their army of adoring fans to care about what’s being said. So all that hate’s really just zapping away your happiness and achieving nothing. Instead, concentrate on making your own squillions and building your own army. Surely that’s a more worthy use of your time?

(Please note that giving an opinion and hating are two very different things, for example I read a blog recently where a writer stated they didn’t like a band because their songs didn’t have meaning. This is an opinion. I then saw something on Facebook about how anyone who likes a certain book is stupid. This is hate. One of these people will sleep well tonight, the other probably won’t. I think once we become aware of that difference, the world will be a much happier place.)

What about hating someone you actually know? This can be more difficult to overcome. If they’ve done something bad enough to make you hate them, they’re not worthy of your time and would probably feel quite smug to know that they’re an obstacle to your happiness. If they haven’t done anything... well, why do you hate them? You can’t get on with everyone, but there’s no need to hate. If you really can’t stand a person, for one, several or no reasons at all, just try to be around them as little as possible. Think of the reasons they get to you... do they really matter? Is there any way to turn them into positives?  

When you hate, the only victim is you.


I’ll leave you with these two for today as it’s getting rather long, and please do post comments/ email me. I’m always a bit wary of putting up opinion pieces or giving advice because I know I won’t always be right... and that scares me a little. So let me know either way: if you like what I write, I’ll be delighted to hear from you. If you don’t, please tell me why so I don’t make the same mistake twice!

Oh and remember, I’m still looking for submissions about what the little things that make you happy. I’ll be putting them all together in my last post on this theme. What's that address again?? catherineann.mk@gmail.com

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Happiness... Spreading the Joy and Something A Bit Clever.



Remember I said that making people happy is a great way of cheering yourself up? Today I’m going to encourage a little joy-spreading and a few warm glows.

But first I just want to share with you something a bit clever I discovered last week. Bambi, Wolf and I, along with a lot of other lovely people, are involved in a Youth Theatre and we put on a showcase which meant two groups got to meet up and perform together (it went swimmingly, thank you for asking). It was there that I met someone else who’s interested in writing (if he features on here again I’ll have to come up with a suitable nickname). Anyway, I’m not one to let a fellow writer slip by unnoticed, so I got in touch and found out he has a blog, too. You can find it at dearsaul.wordpress.com.

The blog is basically letters to an imaginary muse named Saul, who helps him with whatever he needs. It’s clever and funny, well worth a read. I’ve found myself nodding along and laughing in what I sncerely hope are all the right places.

The format of Dear Saul is reminiscent of the way I keep a journal: I’ve always found diary-keeping difficult and tedious. I end up discovering a half-filled, forgotten notebook under my bed six months after resolving to keep one. So instead, I decided to write letters to characters from stories I write. That way, I always have someone suitable to talk to and 90% of the time, I know what their response will be. So I encourage you all to write to Saul (his creator won’t mind, I promise) or any character you’ve made up yourself. The beauty of having such a figure in your life is that they already know you inside out—you don’t have to explain yourself to them. All you need to do is write.


Now, on to spreading the joy!

A while ago I decided that I would compliment at least one person every day. I found it really difficult. Not because I didn’t think anyone deserved it, but because I was mostly thinking of being kind to strangers, which is hard. You can’t help but feel embarrassed—what if they think I’m weird! Well I’ve decided that they probably wouldn’t. I mean, think about yourself for a moment. I know that if a stranger complimented me, I wouldn’t think they were weird. I’d be too busy feeling ten feet tall!

You can compliment just about anyone, if you think hard enough...
·         Compliment your friends. Think about it. Do you take your friends for granted sometimes? I know I do. Close friends are often the people we see every day, so much so that they can fade into the background. Take a good look at your best friend. Have they been looking particularly nice lately? Tell them! Or why not take the opportunity to thank them for being such an awesome friend... remember, there’s a reason you spend so much time together!
·         Compliment your family. Your mum does so much for you, so why not start with that? Also, notice the way she looks. You probably never do. Does her skin glow? Are her eyes particularly bright? Tell her! Poor old mum might feel like her days of being beautiful are behind her... they’re not! What about your dad? He probably teaches you a lot without realising. Next time you pester him with a question, mention that he always answers it in a way you’ll understand. Brothers and sisters? I know, I know, but they’re great! You’ll think of something. (Lots of love to any of my family members, far or near, who are reading this).
·         Compliment a stranger. As I mentioned above, it might seem a bit scary at first, but once you’ve taken that step you can reap the rewards that come in the form of brightening up someone’s day. You’re probably always thinking, wow, I like her hair! Or his t-shirt is so cool! Don’t think it, say it!
·         Compliment your teachers. That might seem synonymous with “get bullied”, but try to look at it from poor old teach’s point of view. They enter a room each day to groans from children who actually wished they were ill. How would that make you feel? Why not let them know the difference they make? You don’t have to do it in front of everyone, and if you don’t feel like “sucking up”, you can just ask them a question and thank them for explaining it... this is the reward a teacher wants! If they’re in the habit of explaining things, that is. If they’re not... maybe they don’t deserve a compliment just yet!

I hope you’re all up for trying this out. I’m also still looking for little things which make people happy to add to my list! Why not comment or drop me a line at catherineann.mk@gmail.com ? Thanks for reading! 

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Happiness... The Little Things!



Living in a world full of angry adolescents and curriculum-approved poets, both of which seem to hate everything and everyone, I thought that I would choose happiness as my next theme. I’ll be talking about what happiness means to people, how to find it and how we can spread it around. I might even give my own poem a whirl, writing about happy things rather than “problems with society” and other such depressing nonsense we study in school. 

To start with, however, I’ve been thinking about the little things which make me happy:

·         Hugs. Particularly from my mum. I’ve got a theory that the second a baby pops out of someone, they become a certified excellent hugger. I’m not embarrassed to hug my mum in front of my friends, at a bus stop, etc... I just love hugs.
·         Food. Food makes me incredibly happy. I comfort eat a lot. This is probably the beginnings of a serious eating disorder, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
·         Compliments. The other week, a very pretty girl I barely know said to me, “You’re beautiful!” and it made me feel awesome! I also found out she said the same behind my back, which somehow means a lot more. Wow!
·         Books. Reading something nice and familiar, re-entering a world that I know and love. Harry Potter usually does it.
·         Watching a really sad movie. Yes, this does make me cry, but personally I always feel much, much better after I’ve had a good weep, even if I wasn’t sad in the first place.
·         Music! There are lots of songs that make me happy. Off the top of my head, some are See The Sun by The Kooks (as well as almost all of their songs), Save It For The Bedroom by You Me At Six, She Left Me by Go! Audio, Mardy Bum by the Arctic Monkeys, Red Lipstick by Skint and Demoralised, Sticks ‘N’ Stones by Jamie T and Ribena by Pegasus Bridge. I didn’t mean to write so many just then: they all just kind of slipped out. Perhaps I’ll make a list of them for you one day. Nothing too humungous. Just my top 150 or so.
·         Making someone else happy. Is there a better (smugger) feeling? Looking at the above, a lot of those can be used to spread the joy. E.g. hugging people, cooking for them, paying them compliments...
·         Buttons. I adore buttons. I am in my element trawling through haberdasheries in the hope of finding some unique little gems.

Here’s a very sweet one someone told me: “When I’m in the next room and I can hear my whole family’s voices blending together, it makes me so happy”.

What makes you happy? I’d love for you all to comment or email (catherineann.mk@gmail.com). I’ll feature them in another blog post and I’m also hoping to write a HAPPY poem, which would make a nice change from what I’m studying at the moment...

This post’s been short and light for several reasons to do with my wonderfully interesting life, but in the next few days I’ll be talking about obstacles to happiness and how to overcome them... please, er, tune in!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Food, Glorious Food... The Super-Duper Beautifying Feast!


Hello and welcome to Catherine Ann’s super duper beautifying feast! Take a look around! The tables are groaning under the weight of broccoli-based dishes...

Sorry. I’ll stop. Cooking just gets me a little over-excited, that’s all.

I’ve been working very hard to find you guys some tasty recipes which include all the beautifying and health-giving vitamins we talked about the other day. Also, a member of my family has been put on a low-cholesterol diet for the next few months, so I’ve tried hard to make them healthy in that way, too.
So why not try...

CRAZY MIXED-UP COLESLAW
Just chop up all sorts of raw veg nice and small and mix them in with the juice of half to one lemon and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Try grated carrot, shredded cabbage, chopped celery and a few florets of broccoli. If you use all these ingredients, you should be getting vitamins C, E, A, B vitamins and iron. That’s the entire list from the previous post!

MEDITTERRANEAN SALAD
This is one of my favourites for the summer, really simple to make. Chop up tomatoes, red peppers and cucumber and pour on just a little olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.

VEGGIE FRIED RICE
 I adore a Chinese takeaway, but of course there’s all that MSG involved... and is it me or has a Chinese become ridiculously expensive? Here’s how to make that famous egg-fried rice at home, including all your vitamins and minerals!

Cook some of your preferred rice in a large pan. I generally use brown as it contains lots of fibre and has a good texture, but you can use whichever you like. The instructions on the packet are usually pretty clear, but a general rule is to use 2:1 cold water:rice. Rice will double in size when cooked, so I use half a cup per person. Think about how hungry you are, then halve it. It should take around half an hour for brown rice, but less for white. Check the packet—I’ve been stung before!

While your rice is merrily bubbling away, chop up some vegetables  nice and small. You can use anything you like, but have a check on the “What Makes You Beautiful” post for some ideas.

With a tablespoon of sesame, olive or vegetable oil, place the veg in a wok or frying pan, starting with what takes longest to cook, e.g. carrots and broccoli. You could also add some crushed garlic, ginger or Chinese Five Spice... or anything you like, really—it’s your dinner!

Once the rice is cooked, add it to the pan alng with the veg and stir around for a few minutes. Then beat an egg in a bowl. Push your rice and veg to one side of the pan and pour the egg onto the other side, till it begins to set like scrambled egg. Mix everything together and stir0fry for another few minutes before serving.


THE BROCCOLI ISSUE...
OK. It may not be the prettiest veg, but ugly food can make for a beautiful body. Those tiny trees contain vitamins A and C, as well as folate (which is a B vitamin) and some iron and calcium. Two florets of broccoli count as one of your five a day. Sorry to disappoint you all, but it’s a pretty useful veggie. So why the reputation? If you come from an Irish background like I do, where the tendency is to... http://static.quickmeme.com/media/social/qm.gifhttp://static.quickmeme.com/media/social/qm.gif 



                                        

...then it might be the texture you’re not too keen on. If that’s the case, you can steam or stir-fry broccoli so it still has a crunch. You could also try making soup!

VEGETABLE SOUP:
Soup is really easy once you follow the basic soup principles. You need to start by dicing any veg you like very small. It should really include onion. Soup should be started by sweating onions in a saucepan (this is when you add butter or oil and put the lid on, checking occasionally till they’re soft). Next add in all your other veg along with enough boiling stock or water to cover them. Your ingredients should include some sort of starchy food such as potato, sweet potato or even pasta. This is also a good time to add some kind of herbs (see below). Once all the vegetables are cooked (test them by poking with a fork. If they’re cooked, they’re cooked. If they’re not, they’re probably not), you can either enjoy straight away or whizz in the blender for a nice creamy soup.

Not sure what to put into your soup? Think about what you’ve eaten in restaurants or out of a packet. Old favourites are favourites for a reason! Tomato and basil (also great with red pepper), carrot and coriander, and leafy veg tends to go well with nutmeg. Experiment till you find your party piece. Nigella Lawson combines peas with a few tablespoons of pesto, which is always a favourite in my house! Just remember that whatever you cook, once you’ve added some seasoning it will definitely taste OK. Be brave. Go forth and soup!

THE CABBAGE LAWS:
Can I just say something about cabbage? Cabbage is good. Cabbage is one of those leafy green vegetables we should be eating every day. But there are certain things one should do with cabbage, and certain things one shouldn’t.
·         OK: to add cabbage to soups, especially if there’s some left over at the end of the week.
·         NOT OK: to advertise Minestrone soup and replace the pasta with cabbage. What.
·         OK: to serve shredded cabbage as a nice vegetable to add colour and health-giving properties to the Sunday roast.
·         NOT OK: to boil cabbage for an hour and serve it up with mashed potato. This is the most texture-less thing ever and I feel it is seriously damaging the Irish tourist industry.
·         OK: to munch on raw cabbage, particularly before bed (did you know it helps you sleep?)
·         NOT OK: to forget to wash off the slug pellets first.