Can’t quite believe I’m blogging about this but…

…I’m sold!

I absolutely must have this unbelievable piece of kitchen equipment!

Spotted on ‘Come Dine With Me Down Under‘, this gadget actually means you could probably get rid of just about e v e r y other one you have in your kitchen.

The Thermomix does it all. Seriously.

This is the list of things it does from the manufacturers:

One Thermomix with One Bowl and One Blade can do all this:

  • Thermomix weighs – with built-in electronic scales
  • Thermomix grates – nuts, cheese, chocolate, parmesan
  • Thermomix mills – rice, grains and pulses to flour
  • Thermomix purées – vegetables, fruits, baby food
  • Thermomix grinds – coffee beans, sugar to icing sugar, wet or dry spices
  • Thermomix blends – soups, smoothies, milkshakes and sauces
  • Thermomix cooks, boils & simmers – soups, sauces, preserves, pulses, complete meals
  • Thermomix steams – vegetables, meat, fish, fruits, rice, pasta
  • Thermomix crushes – ice, cocktails, ice creams, sorbet
  • Thermomix whisks – egg whites, cappuccino-style foam on soups and milk, zabaglione
  • Thermomix emulsifies – salad dressings, mayonnaise, batters, cream
  • Thermomix kneads – bread dough, pizza dough, pasta dough, pastry, scones
  • Thermomix chops & minces – nuts, herbs, vegetables, salads, meats
  • Thermomix heats baby food to 37oC
  • Thermomix holds chocolate at 37oC

In fact the only thing you have to do is wash up afterwards!  I could actually get rid of my weighing scales, grater, coffee grinder, blender, food processor, steamer, whisks, bread making machine, most of my knives and probably a fair few pots and pans too!  So much more room in my kitchen!!

A great range of recipe books are available too which is a huge improvement on the little booklet you get with most cooking appliances with the same old 10 or so recipes!  There is also a huge list of recipes by Janie Turner on the UK website.  Only problem left for me is to convince the boyfriend that its worth the £885 (inc VAT)!**UPDATE** Thermomix UK just informed me of their divided payment option too, as well as 2 day delivery!***

I’m confused…why don’t we all have one again??

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Hugh MacLeods ‘Ignore Everybody (And 39 Other Keys To Creativity)’

Oh yes I read too dontchya know!

During the recent (terribly boring) period of not working I spent some, completely non-judgmental (honest!) time, browsing recently-moved-in-with-boyfriend’s bookshelves.  Considering I mostly ignore everybody anyway, or at least get accused of it, on seeing this little gem by Hugh MacLeod I had to read it, if only to have some quickfire retorts to anyone who had a problem with me ignoring them.  If indeed I hadn’t already ignored said people! Must say though I was also slightly drawn to it because I am myself a MacLeod (which he spells correctly!) and damn proud of it.

Anyway, I digress…I had a beautiful sunny London afternoon to sit out in the garden for my daily dose of vitamin D, so pocketed the book and set myself up for the afternoon (drinks, snacks…blah blah).

The book was so easy to read I didn’t put it down until I’d finished (an hour or so, including going back to look at the illustrations again and again) and when I did finish, I was left totally fired up and refocused on what I’m doing, where I’m going and what I want out of my music.  It would be true to say that before reading this book I was feeling a little bit lost about how to move forward with it.  Okay I had a kind of rough plan but since The Book I’ve been so much happier and definite about making decisions about ‘day-job’ and where my real passion lies.

I’m very reluctant to start quoting the book and revealing some of the words of wisdom (although you are likely to see some of Hugh’s quotes and cartoons-on-business-cards dotted about my blog!) because I think they have more of an impact when you’re sitting there, with the book in your hand, able to see the illustrations as well, reading it for yourself. I wanted to mention how it made me feel and think.

You’ll see when you read the book for yourself….and you definitely should. Especially if you’re at a crossroads, losing focus or motivation, or just could use a bit of inspiration.  It is definitely a book that will, in the words of Guy Kawasaki, ‘…a book that will kick your ass…’.



Take an hour or two out of your day and read this book. You won’t regret it!







Extra links!




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Hull Talent Trail 2011 – the semi’s!

Okay…so I have to be careful how I write this lest you get the impression I am bitter or upset about the outcome.  I’m not I can assure you. However, I do think that the topic needs to be discussed as there actually were a few unhappy and confused people in attendance the night of the second semi-final of the Hull Talent Trail 2011, of which I was a participant.

So, first things first and straight to the point, I didn’t actually get through.  I was well aware that I wouldn’t though, having seen the line-up for my night.  As soon as the names were announced for my heat I trawled back through the Hull Daily Mail articles of the qualifying heats to check out the competition…as you would.  For most of  the acts there were videos available to watch.  It became apparent after watching the first the girls that it was a) a girls night and b) a cabaret/club-singer/musical theatre kind of affair.  So immediately I was concerned that I had been put in this category being the only musician playing an instrument and singing my own arrangements of fairly well known songs that were d e f i n i t e l y  n o t anything like what the other girls were doing!

The previous heat I had been in had consisted of other guitarists, a couple of people singing to backing tracks and a seven-piece band.  When I was told I had got through that round, the organiser approached me afterwards and told me I had ‘walked it’.  I should also mention that one of the three judges was a musician also who has been in bands, organised lots of live music events and could actually play an instrument so understood what’s involved in playing and singing at the same time!

So the whole time I was preparing for the semi-final heat I was constantly being reassured by my family and my boyfriend that it didn’t matter that I was an entirely different performer to the other 8 girls and that I should trust the judges.  Under normal circumstances this would be good advice right? Well that’s what we all thought.

So I turned up on the night at Inglemire Social Club prepared and not worrying too much.  Then the judges came in and were introduced.  They were, in no particular order, Kim, Mally King, Pete T, Glen and Lisa Kelsey, a cabaret singer.


Comments were as follows:


Glen:  ‘Great to see live music’, ‘Loved your voice – and the arrangements’, ‘You have real talent Claire I could listen to you all day! A very commercial sound’.


Pete:  ‘Lovely control’, ‘Loved the arrangement of the last two songs’.


Mally:  ‘Guitar played with skill’, ‘Linked songs and told us 1st song as well, not all have done that’, ‘Great vocal quality’, ‘This area seems to produce really good guitar/vocalists, Emma, Edwina, Andy, Leanne that have made it, let’s hope you follow them all the way. You have a nice touch of humour’.


Kim:  ‘Three easy listening songs, loved them all’, ‘Hi Claire, thanks for bringing something different to the stage tonight, loved listening to your music, lovely chill-out songs’, ‘Relaxed and confident performance’, ‘My kind of music, thanks and well done x ‘.


Lisa:  ‘Nice look, confident start’ (Poison Prince), ‘Very nice voice, very chilled feel to the songs’, ‘Nice contrast to all the clubland acts’, ‘Like to see you fronting a band’, ‘Very talented but lacking that bit of sparkle for me’, then she said…..of In For The Kill ‘nice version – bit long’ and of Glory Box ‘Not familiar with the song’.


So basically, all positive comments bar a couple of negatives from Lisa. So, as this is MY blog, I have a right to dispute these comments and will!

In For The Kill is actually my shortest song so I’m not even going to bother saying anything more on (moron) that!

As for not being ‘familiar with the song’ regarding Glory Box, well, this is also an irrelevant comment. It really doesn’t matter if that particular judge knows that particular song or not. Everyone else loved it and I’m pretty sure they weren’t ALL ‘familiar’ with it! That’s not what a talent show is about judging. All other comments about my song choices were good, including her own which seem contradictory when you read them !

The questions are did I sing it well? Did I play guitar well with it? Did you enjoy it? Do I have talent???  As for sparkle…well, don’t get me started! Hahaha. Thats was my first reaction to that comment. Sparkle?? I’m a folk/rock/pop/acoustic artist! It would have been ridiculous to add some ‘sparkle’ in a completely inappropriate way to the style of what I do!

So basically, I wasn’t what they were looking for. Fine. Having seen the other performances of the night I don’t WANT to be what they were looking for.  As I was told by a few people on the night, I could have got up there, in a sequined dress, danced about like a lunatic singing to an imaginary moon and belted out some show-tunes (this is an accurate description of what I saw that night – ask anyone that was there!)….but that’s not me. I love what I do, I love playing guitar and I love singing songs that I feel and am sincere about. Thats my style and until I want to change it that’s how it will always be.

I haven’t taken it personally, I’m more than happy with the outcome and it’s been an experience.

I think the most fitting words to finish on are those said by my boyfriend before I even went to the semis which were ‘do what you enjoy doing and don’t try to be someone else’s idea of perfect’.

P e r f i c k  

p.s.  I will be posting the songs I performed for both heats of Hull Talent Trail 2011 for your anticipated opinions for me to completely ignore! ;)




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BIG love – season 1 catch-up

Just watching the last episode of Big Love Season 3 and realised I hadn’t written about it!  Shocker…not often I don’t have anything to say about something.  Since I’ve already given a short brief of the background to the overall series in an earlier post, there now follows a short synopsis of each season in before starting on number 4!

Just to remind you though, Big Love is about a family of mormons who follow ‘the principle’ of polygamy. That’s it! That’s your recap!

Obviously any new drama needs to initially introduce the primary characters, which is exactly what this first season is about.  Meeting them, finding out what they’re about, how they live and a kind of general overview building up to a final episode which makes you want to watch the next season.

The series begins by introducing us to the family at home and work and see Bills struggle to expand his business as well as taking care of three wives and nine children!  During this time we’re also shown the contrast between life on the compound and life for others like Bill and his second wife Nicki, who were thrown out of or escaped the compound to live on the ‘outside’ where the whole family are forced into keeping their polygamous ways a secret.  A strained relationship is apparent between Nicki’s father Roman Grant as he tries to gain more and more of Bills profits from his successful chain of stores.  In order to stop him, Bill and his brother Joey, a former NFL player who has returned to the compound after an alcohol addiction, seek to gain a seat on the mormon churches board of directors.


Meanwhile the three wives at home are struggling with their own individual issues.

First wife Barb, is the only one who is married to Bill legally thereby empowering her with a particular status and rank within the family.  Barb struggles with the polygamy and it’s revealed that before becoming second wife, Nicki was actually Barb’s nurse, taking care of her through cancer.  So the suggestion is that at the time Barb agreed to the ‘sealing’ of her husband with a second wife, she was in a vulnerable state and may not have ever been fully on board.

Nicki herself struggles to fit in with life outside of the compound and develops a shopping addiction accumulating a large amount of debt.  She is intelligent and strong willed and constantly seeking to establish her values on the rest of the family which are a little more orthodox than the more relaxed attitude of the others.

Third wife Margene is very young, 24.  She has to cope with her opinions and ideas being somewhat dismissed by the other two wives as they have little respect for her, considering her immature and inexperienced.  Her positive disposition and to a certain extent her naivety, ensure that she perseveres however and slowly finds her place in the family.

The final episode (the one I said makes you want to watch season 2!) ends with the family being exposed as polygamists when Barb is nominated for a ‘Mother of the Year’ award.

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I am NOT a Trekkie…..but…

I finally watched the new (ish) Star Trek movie.  Now, before I’m judged I must point out that I am not, nor have I ever been a ‘Trekkie’.  I could not stand the tv series, for totally unfounded reasons, since I would see it on and flick to the next channel, never actually giving one episode more than 10 seconds of my precious toe-nail-painting time!  However if like me, you were put off watching the movie by the tv series I urge you to give the movie a chance!

It was really quite good.  I like sci-fi generally as long as there’s some substance to it but this also had just enough action in it for me (no not that kind of action!) and just enough delving into the characters personal relationships to keep me interested.  So interested in fact that I barely noticed the lovely cast of fit fellas such as Chris Pine,  Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Eric Bana….not forgetting the beautiful Zoe Saldana (who I first saw in ‘Guess Who?’, a remake of the groundbreaking for its time, ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967)‘ –  starring the excellent Sidney Poitier).  Anyway, point is, WATCH the Star Trek movie (2009).  It’s good.

The film starts (don’t worry I’m not going to give anything away!)  way back before the tv series.  Before James T. Kirk is even born in fact.  A significant event occurs which will shape James’ future and then we are briefly guided through a somewhat troubled childhood until he joins the Academy to become a cadet at Starfleet Academy.  We see his ups and downs and learn the history behind his training, initiation and of course his and Spocks relationship. Also revealed is a young Spock suffering discrimination, as he grows up, from Vulcans for being half-human.  The two of them have a tempestuous relationship as they struggle to understand each others ways as much as they are simultaneously trying to be understood by the rest of their crew members.

Aside from the personal conflicts there is also the ongoing battle Romulans which takes place at various points in time and space….

…..aaaaand s t o p.

There – told you I wouldn’t give anything away! It was so hard to censor myself though!

Which is why I thought I should shut up…right about……now!


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So back to much more interesting (and FUN) stuff.  M u s i c.

I’m really hoping to get some newer stuff posted up in the next couple of weeks  – maximum!  It’s easier for me if I give myself a deadline.  It will be rough recordings, nothing fancy, of just acoustic guitar and vocals.  They will be covers that I’ve been playing to an approving audience (at least that’s what they told me!) in the last couple of months, including the three tracks that got me through to the semi-finals of the Hull Talent Trail.  I’m not expecting to get past the semi’s as the competition is quite strong and I’m not even sure that my style is quite what the judges are after in this particular competition.  I’ve heard some of the others that have gotten through and there are quite a lot of very impressive vocalists!  However, it’s an experience and quite good fun really to be performing alongside people I would never normally get a chance to.

In the meantime and amidst the hassle of moving, I’ve dug out some of my ‘in progress’ work to continue writing and hopefully complete, some original tracks!  Whilst delving through that lot and trying to attain some level of semi-organisation, I came across some old diaries.  G r r r e a t  material!  Oh the drama!  It’s amazing how reading a few words written 4 or 5 years ago can invoke so many strong emotions that, even though I don’t actually feel them anymore, I certainly remember and was immediately transported back in time.  Back to times when I thought my future was written in stone.  Back to times I thought my world had ended.  Times when I used to tire of hearing ‘time heals all’ and times when I uttered to others the very same words.  A whole load of observational prose and even more personal accounts.  The overall result basically being that I’m so glad I wrote.  As therapeutic as it was and is…the main things are the valuable lessons learned.  Priceless.


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….and so it goes – on and on and….

The pernicious anaemia (treated for now) doesn’t seem to be the end of my medical drama.  It turns out there are some complications relating to why I’m experiencing L’hermittes sign that the doctors are still a bit clueless about.  Personally, I reckon it’s cervical spondolysis now.  However, without having a degree in medicine it seems my extensive research into what could possibly be wrong with me (apart from the obvious stress of being in constant pain and having no answers as to why) is wasted within the surgery walls.  Where only the the ‘qualified’ Google searches leading to Wikipedia’s (accurate by the way) suggestions count!

I honestly believe doctors really ought to listen more to the person actually experiencing the symptoms!  For instance I have been told from Day One that the cracking in my neck is insignificant and down to stress (we’re all bloody stressed – cop-out excuse!) so even I have ignored it, leaving it out of my research into the list of symptoms I have.  As it’s been getting worse however, and following my last appointment where the doc said he was absolutely sure it was nothing to do with my ‘condition’ whatever the hell it is, I decided to ignore ‘he whose words we all seem to take as gospel’ and really look at other possibilities.  I literally typed into Google (<3 ) the words ‘L’hermittes’ and ‘cracking neck’ (cracking neck?? Good thing I didn’t have to type in ‘cracking legs’ or similar – would have got entirely different search results!).  Anywho, I digress.  The first result that came up related to Cervical Spondolysis and my symptoms fit exactly!  Great news!! THIS is fixable!!  Well not entirely curable BUT, you can have surgery to ease the pain and then just maintain a series of exercises at home to maintain flexibility and range of movement.  Somebody please tell me that’s what I have already!  It’s better than thinking that the whole time the docs are ‘investigating’ my spinal cord is being damaged beyond repair….am I right or am I right?  Jeez!

Anyway, negative rant out of the way I am actually REALLY pleased that the Pernicious Anaemia is under control and my energy levels are UP!  It’s fantastic.  For years I’ve been exhausted.  Certainly this past year.  Giving everything I have to the last drop at work, plus the additional tiresome behaviour of pretending I’m ok.  Knackering in itself!  Then there’s the late nights.  Basically coming home and dropping off within half an hour and STILL finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning to do it all over again!  Then finally having to find energy to give my kids on the weekends.

I even had a reputation for falling asleep ten minutes into a movie or having half a glass of wine and passing out.

Turns out I wasn’t drunk OR allergic to alcohol.  Phew!   These days I’ll happily watch TWO – that’s right, TWO films, in a row!  WITH wine!  Amazing!  I’m also much happier in general.  This is huge!  Patience and overall laid-back-ness are  also on the up.  This is the good, no GREAT, news.


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Hi-ho hi-ho…

First day back at work yesterday….feels like I haven’t been away!  It was very nice that people were pleased to see me though – apparently it’s been a bit hectic….errr whats new??  Full on day as usual, no lunch (whats that?) and didn’t manage to leave until 6pm (nothings changed) so was pretty shattered when I got home. 

Back to the docs today though for another B12 shot  and to push the MRI thing a bit harder!  Just want to get it done and get it over with.  I’m also going to find out about doing the injections at home myself.  It’s all very well fitting them in around work since the surgery is open such long hours, which is great.  I can’t go far from the surgery though and what about when I want to go away for a few days?  Like next month! 

I’m going to Cornwall for a much needed break and will definitely need a top up during that time.  I have a list of things to get sorted today actually so had best get on with it.  Work is very hectic in preparation for two imminent audits, both within a couple of weeks of each other!  My stuff is all in order for it and I’m prepared but there’s a bit of a buzz elsewhere, especially in the office, making sure everything is up to date and in order. 

Right, I put some PCR on yesterday before leaving to run overnight and be ready for me today and I can hear the thermocycler beeping at me.  Once I get started I don’t get to stop for so much as a toilet break, hence the short post!  No doubt will get busier with blogging over the weekend though.

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Lhermitte’s sign (aka Pernicious Anaemia – part three)

Lhermitte’s sign is a phenomenon classically associated with Multiple Sclerosis although it is actually a symptom of various other conditions.  One of these being…guess what?….B12 deficiency!

Ok so that was that mystery solved but now what?  Well, I’m currently waiting for an appointment for a MRI scan.  This will establish if and where any damage has been caused.  To either my brain or the spinal cord.

YouTube – MRI Scan – what happens

It’s fair to say I’m a little nervous.  Having read sooooo much (maybe a little too much) I am well aware of the possible outcomes.  Worst case scenario?  Irreversible damage to either.  I’ve read about SACD, subacute combined degeneration, which basically means life will never be the same.  At the age of 34 this is kinda scary. I still consider myself quite young and have a huge amount of things left on my ‘to do ‘ list.

However, I have read that damage, if caught early enough, may be partially or even fully reversible.  So I’m staying positive with that in mind.  It’s a bit of a relief to have been able to eliminate some things straight away such as spinal cord compression due to passing tests for things like hyperreflexia.

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Pernicious Anaemia – part 2

…and the not so good part?

Well, about 6 weeks before my Pernicious Anaemia diagnosis, I started experiencing numbness and tingling, like pins and needles but not quite that, in my finger tips.  As it was only in my left hand initially I (stupidly!) put this down to excessive guitar playing.  That’s really quite terrible terminology because as any musician knows  there is, of course, No Such Thing as ‘excessive’ guitar playing! Pfft!

Anywho… despite finding it really strange I actually just ignored it for a couple of weeks.  Until it spread to my other hand.  Actually, I would have probably ignored this too if it hadn’t been for the horrendous neck and back ‘clicking’ that I’d been experiencing for a number of months as well as the interference with guitar practice.  Now, I don’t go rushing off to the doc’s for the slightest ache and pain (childbirth with no pain relief gives me a pretty high threshold for deciding whats painful and whats not!) but when there are multiple symptoms cropping up then I want to know what’s going on!

I went to my (excellent by the way – I’m very fortunate!) doctor and explained my concerns.  The excessive tiredness alone is what he seemed to be most concerned about.  He booked me in with the nurse to have my blood tested for, well just about everything.  I used to work in Immunology within the Pathology department of NHS hospitals and occasionally spent time in Haematology and Biochemistry too so I was satisfied that this was a thorough list of testing!  However he spotted my expression and asked if there was anything else concerning me.  So I said ‘well, yes. You haven’t mentioned the tingling in my hands’ (which was after all why I was there!).  However he didn’t seem concerned at all and said we’d look into that following my blood test results.  So, fine!  Who am I to argue?  I went away a lot less worried and just got on with work.

Work was turning into a nightmare by the way.  I work as a Laboratory Manager (immunological and genetic analysis – I won’t bore you) but it’s a very hands on role.  Y’know, pipetting and stuff.  My confidence started to ebb away very quickly over a period of about 6 weeks, probably from around the same time as the tingling started.  This was down to a combination of things but mostly:  forgetting simple names or jobs due out, making errors due to inability to concentration (I HATE making mistakes), and clumsiness.  I was desperately trying to hide all of these symptoms, putting it down to tiredness but secretly questioning what on earth was wrong with me? 

So a few days after my blood tests the results are in and, as you may have already seen (in Pernicious Anaemia – part 1… ahem!) I had low B12 and following further tests Autoimmune PA was diagnosed.  This did not explain the tingling however and I was once again sent home to see if it would just disappear.  It didn’t.  It got worse, much worse.

The tingling spread to my upper arms and back and by now was really concerning me, particularly as my back was affected and this was clearly something to do with my nerves.  You don’t spend 4 yrs on a Biomedical Science degree without learning a thing or three about the Central Nervous System!

So I went back to the doctor.  Actually I was sent there by my colleague JT in the middle of the work day as the strange sensation had me in tears and he was very worried.  I made an emergency appointment and went into the surgery (still crying!) telling my doctor something was just not right.  He checked me over with Babinski’s test - which I passed and then….get this….went on Wikipedia (I love Wiki!) to try and work out why I was having this strange symptom which to him could only have been one thing.  There it was in black and white, the Lhermitte’s sign that he thought I was describing was also associated with B12 deficiency!  News to both of us!

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