Posts Tagged ‘sociable’

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Learning to cook – the journey begins…

January 4, 2012

In my New Year resolutions for 2012, my first resolution was to learn to cook a new dish every month. Now, I haven’t decided what the month of January will hold yet, but just to give you an idea of what starting point I’m at… it’s basic. Things that I can cook include lasagne, mushroom risotto, pasta, a range of ready meals, sandwiches and toast, and combinations of microwaveable foods. I’ve never been very inspired to cook anything more complicated than this because a) I find the process of creating a meal frequently tries my patience, and b) why should I cook a meal for one which takes longer to make than it does to eat?

I am in the very lucky position of being in a relationship with a fantastic cook. He is in the equally lucky position of being in a relationship with someone who enjoys cleaning and household chores. So why should I even bother learning to cook? Well, I’m an adult now – no longer a student, or living at home; Toby comes round my place nearly as often as I stay at his, and I want to be able to make meals that are tasty, interesting and also occasionally healthy. Eating out is expensive, and eating takeaways can get unhealthy and uninspiring. Perhaps I’ll lose some weight and get healthier along the way? I also want to add to my skill set, and I kind of feel that cooking is something I really ought to learn, as a worthwhile (and sociable) human being.

I’m not a natural chef (see: lack of patience; lack of understanding what foods go together; issues around eating and weight), but I did have some cookery lessons at school. I made things like pasta carbonara, quiche, bread, triple chocolate upside-down cake, and they always turned out well – however, I might attribute some of this to my desire to succeed in a classroom setting, rather than any potential I had as a cook. The only thing I ever did mess up was crème caramel, because I burned the caramel in the oven. (I later found out that I didn’t really like crème caramel anyway.) But for the most part, I had a recipe which I always followed to the letter, and things always turned out fine. However, Toby has discovered that there are some basic things that I didn’t know. For example, don’t lick your fingers when you have been handling raw chicken or raw egg – this is bad for you. He asked me, “didn’t you have food technology lessons at school?!?” To which my reply was “No, we studied Latin instead.” I think I was due to have 6 weeks of cookery lessons in 6th form, but instead I was chosen to be a peer mentor and had 30 hours of training in mentoring and listening skills from a psychologist.

Moving on… Last month, I made a lovely meal of honey and mustard roast chicken breast (courtesy of Waitrose), with chips, salad and croutons with caesar dressing. I was pleased with this meal because I picked the ingredients in the supermarket myself and created the dish in my head as I walked through the aisles. It was delicious. Tonight (and this is not counting towards my dish per month resolution), I had a go at making steak pie (courtesy of Sainsburys) with steamed baby corn, beans and boiled potatoes. This presented some challenges to me as I have never steamed vegetables, and I have never boiled potatoes.

The easy part – I shoved the steak pie in the oven for 35 minutes. This gave me 35 minutes to:

  • discover that one of the hob rings on my mini oven doesn’t work when the oven is on;
  • boil the potatoes on the other hob;
  • realise that supermarket estimates for cooking are not always to be trusted;
  • learn how to steam vegetables in the microwave (thank you Google);
  • find out that it’s not worth using tablespoons to measure out water.

After accumulating all of this knowledge, dinner was served:

steak pie, potatoes and steamed vegetables

It was yummy! The pie and potatoes (after the initial panic that they weren’t cooking on the hob) turned out very well. If I could do it again, I would have steamed the vegetables for longer in the microwave, as the beans were quite crisp and fresh-tasting; but the vegetables were still perfectly edible. The whole point of this, and my cookery journey, is that I am going to learn skills I didn’t know (however basic they might be) and improve my culinary capabilities. I am not ashamed of being such a novice cook, because I am doing something about it. And if you are reading this and thinking that you can’t cook either, then let’s take this journey together. I will be completely honest about my failures and lack of knowledge, and hopefully the fact that I will be able to make successful dishes in spite of these will be proof that even though we aren’t all born chefs, we can all learn to cook something simple, yet tasty and interesting.

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stupid lucky.

May 14, 2010

I haven’t written in a week, and that’s because I don’t really know what to say.  I don’t just want to write album reviews because that’s just one facet of this site.  I just don’t know how to word how stupid, how complacent I have been, and yet how much I have overthought things and let my overthinking nearly ruin my relationships (both friendships and romantic).  And yet, I’ve been so lucky, because I’ve realised in time, and I managed to put aside my pride, my severe need for independence, and let someone else in.  I’m so lucky because I am with somebody who realises my problems without me necessarily saying anything, and he is willing to stand by me while I work on myself and work it out.

Nobody is perfect, and I’m pretty hard on myself.  Everyone says that, and I suppose that it’s true.  But I think it’s so illogical, so backwards that I can love other people and yet I can’t love myself? How does that work?  I do love aspects of myself, but I also hate things about me.  I guess that’s normal, but the things that I hate seem to throb, vibrate and I constantly am aware of them.  I guess that as I get older, I’ll learn to accept these things and feel them less vividly, but I don’t understand how someone can love me with all of these faults that I have.  So on the one hand, I cover up any weaknesses and portray myself as sociable, confident and outgoing, so that nobody will know that I have these weaknesses.  Sometimes I can even trick myself into believing that I am this way. And yet on the other hand, I find it so hard to let anyone get truly close to me, lest they see who I really am and go running a mile.  Pushing people away has been easier for me, and I finally realised that I have someone so precious that I don’t want to push away.  So I am learning to let him in, because I do love him.  I just feel so stupid that it got to the point where I could nearly have lost him to really wake me up and finally allow him to see me for who I am.

That’s why I feel so stupid and yet so lucky.  Looking at my family, thinking of my past, I shock people when I tell little stories about the emotional abuse I endured growing up.  Things that are nothing compared to the atrocious things some people suffer, but which niggle my brain and fold into my subconscious until they are a part of me.  I shudder when I recognise parts of my mother’s personality becoming more blatant within me.  Mike and Toby both laugh, but I know that they are surprised… adding up why I am the way I am, impressed that I seem to have made it out more or less ok, confused as to how it all happened to me.  And when they tell me things about them, I guess that I go through the same process. Getting to know someone, not just the good but the bad too, is a cautious evaluation that involves trust on both sides.  And I’ve finally learned enough to know that if I chose to be alone this time and forsake someone who seems to offer me everything I could need for the sake of independence and security, then I truly would be stupid.  I’m glad to say that I’m not that stupid anymore. 🙂

Love is risk.  Misery can be like a pillow, so comfortable and familiar.  If Toby is brave enough to reach out his hand to me and offer me a way to happiness (and this whole year has taught me that I can be happy, that I deserve to be), then all I have to do is push my way up through my own fears and insecurities and take it.  That was really scary, but I did it.  I am with him now, and it feels really good to open myself up to that feeling.  I think I can make it, and I think that life will be good.  Looking at my family again, I don’t want to have a relationship where there’s constantly drama and sadness and questioning.  I know that a certain element of that is inevitable, but when it takes over the joy of being with somebody… I don’t need that.  I don’t want to end up like that.  After all, like I said in a previous entry, not everyone gets the chance for love.  I have that chance, and all I have to do is take it.  So I’m taking it.  Deep breath, here we go.  I am truly, truly lucky.

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if i weren’t me.

April 29, 2010

Last week I spent a full week at university, which by this point of the course has become pretty much a rarity.  I was pretty down last week (which culminated in a weekend of feeling so ill that my head was going to drop off… I wonder if it was psychosomatic? Who knows.  I’m more or less better now though 🙂 ) and had a lot to think about, a lot of voices in my head and a couple of voices in my ear.  Ultimately, the situation has been resolved for the moment and I feel a lot better about it – it’s always best to be honest in a relationship.  Anyways, I’m not going to talk about that because I believe that a relationship is best kept private, and neither me nor my boyfriend would want things to be splashed across here publicly.

But while I was feeling down, I withdrew into myself somewhat, and it was interesting what I noticed.  A couple of people whom I don’t normally talk to on my course were quite concerned and asked me how I was, but then I’m not close enough to them that I really wanted to go into details so I just brushed it off and diverted the conversation onto something more general, less specific.  My close friends knew what was up and were genuinely helpful and listened without being overly cloying, which I really appreciated.  But for some people, I ceased to exist.  Now, in one way I really appreciated this because I didn’t want everyone coming up to me and being all in my ear like “Alan what’s wrong? You seem like this” or “You should do this” or “You’re normally so bubbly”.  I can decide how to tackle my own problems and I don’t need anyone’s pity or for them to point out my mood, because that’s not going to make things any better or help me.  But it was like I was invisible; if I didn’t make the effort to be friendly and say hello, they didn’t even acknowledge my presence.  It was funny how machiavellian it all seemed; I am a friendly acquaintance but not a good friend, so they don’t need me and therefore I don’t merit even a civil greeting, because I haven’t put myself out there first? I won’t forget that.  I’m very lucky that I have enough very good, beloved friends who do care about me and are genuine because that behaviour in the past would have made me insecure, whereas now it doesn’t matter to me.  But it doesn’t mean I didn’t notice.

I remember when I first started on the course, I was quite outgoing, confident and very sociable, organising nights out and gatherings.  I really threw myself into it and everyone seemed to really like me; I somehow managed to say hello to everyone and be everyone’s friend.  One person whom I barely talk to even called me “the glue that holds our course together”!  Now, there’s nobody I dislike on the course and I am pretty sure nobody dislikes me, but at this point we have formed our own cliques and allegiances and we don’t really deviate from those.  The only time I am generally a talking point these days is if I have a new tattoo or if I am somehow connected to a large group activity.  So from my shell looking out, I noticed last week how different I am from Mike, how much more laddish he is and how easily he can mix with other people socially.  I mean, it’s all superficial and I am not very good at shooting the breeze on a superficial level with someone with whom I know I have little in common.  But I wondered, why are we such good friends if we’re such different people? Like, we have different interests, differing music tastes, and yet we’ve always had so much to talk about and the same opinions on a lot of things.  I can’t quite quantify it and I’m not sure what the working formula is, but I am glad it does work and I hold our friendship so dearly.

And although I was looking at myself toughly wondering why he might want to be friends with me, I looked at the other members of our group: Emily is absolutely hilarious, quite filthy and very Welsh; Vikki is similarly Welsh and very family oriented; Gina is sweet and lovely with a heart of gold, but quiet as a mouse.  And I think that I’m quite interesting, I definitely have my quirks, but I don’t need to shout about them and I don’t need to be noticed, so I guess that I fit into that group because I’m not overly opinionated, and I also don’t have an off-kilter, geeky sense of cheesy humour aspect to me that even the “cooler” people in the big clique on our course have.  I like my friends and I think I fit into our group perfectly, that I wouldn’t want to belong anywhere else and I don’t feel I need to.  But I miss the community sense of friendship that was on our course in those initial months.

If I weren’t me, would I be more deserving of their acknowledgement? Maybe. Maybe if I could talk about sports or about marriage or about wandering around South America or whatever it is they talk about, I might fit in better.  But that’s not me, that’s not who I am.  By this point, I’ve worked quite hard at uncovering, discovering and improving the man that I am that I quite like myself, generally speaking (though this depends on whether you catch me on a good or a bad day 😉 ).  I am also very grateful that I have the friends I have, that we all care about each other and we are so close.  Life isn’t a popularity contest (though I have never been unpopular), and I know where I stand and I think I am happy here, it’s just interesting to contemplate if I were different, would my friendships be different? Would Mike and I have more in common, and would that change our friendship for the better or for the worse? I can’t imagine us having a closer friendship considering what we have achieved in the last 8 months, and I am truly blessed and I wouldn’t want that to change in the slightest.  I sincerely hope nothing ever changes between us and that we are friends forever (I can’t see anything changing this in the future, but you never know).  I still went on a guys’ poker night and that went perfectly well (I was deceptively skilled, which impressed the others), so although I am not quite as laddish as Mike or the other guys on our course, I must be fine and I guess that my differences are to be cherished: I am unapologetically myself and people do respect me for that, which I appreciate.  I guess it’s useless to think about being a different person, because we can only be who we are.  I am happy with who I am, I just wonder if there are sometimes ways I could act which would be better, or more charismatic to attract other people to me.  Food for thought.

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stupid?

April 25, 2010

A running joke between me and my friends is the various bizarre/random questions, comments and general synaptic misfires that I make.  Although sometimes they are decent thought-provoking questions, I have only just this last week or so learned the difference between ducks and geese, my UK geography is pretty horrendous, and Cabot Circus is neither a wheeled contraption that might roll away overnight, nor an alien which secretly digests money or shoppers.

I’ve come out with these sorts of things far too often for far too long for it to be false: I will freely admit that I can be a bit ditzy. Or as Mike says, “pretty but dumb”. But part of me has always felt enamoured with the idea of playing up to that: back when I was at school, I hated being intelligent in one way because I knew that I could be perceived as a keener or a geek.  I didn’t want people to look at me that way, I wanted people to see that I had a fun sociable side, so I used to play up to being a bit airheaded for laughs, but also to show people that I do know how to have fun.  And it’s worked – my true friends know that when I make fun of myself, I am in on the joke 😉

However, I would conversely be pretty damn offended when someone who didn’t know me that well would assume I was stupid, because they only knew me socially without seeing how I was in study or in the workplace.  Now, it is judgemental for people to quickly form that opinion of me, let alone incorrect – I know that I am not stupid, and sometimes when I come out with my bizarre little observations or my basic questions, it’s often because nobody told me these things, therefore I ask. It’s not my fault.  But also, if I play up to the bimbo effect, how can I be that mad when people take that at face value? Perhaps this is why I have a soft spot for celebrities like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, because I think that they are terrifically fun but I have a sneaking suspicion that they are definitely in on the joke and not as unintelligent as they portray themselves.  At the end of the day, you still have an amount of control, like a puppetmaster, over the image that you portray to everyone.

Generally, society is against the idea that beauty and brains can co-exist – usually, people are one or the other.  But I learned from a young age that I have had to change everything about myself in order to feel attractive, to feel beautiful or handsome or whatever.  I lost a large amount of weight, I work out (although once I get a damn job I will be re-enrolling at the gym full time!), I cut and dye my hair, I moisturise and diet and although it doesn’t rule my life, my appearance is something I end up dedicating a lot of time to.  I’m not naturally this way – it took and takes a lot of hard work.  Now, if people are willing to study and enhance their knowledge, skills and qualifications, then that’s commended and lauded as intelligence.  If people dedicate time to looking after their appearance and feeling good in their own skin, that’s considered vanity?

Let me tell you something.  I know I’m not stupid, even if sometimes I act it and sometimes I ask silly questions.  I know I’m not ugly, even if I don’t need to spend the amount of time and money that I do on making myself look good.  But I always wanted to be beautiful rather than brainy, because I felt that beauty was something that couldn’t really be taught or learned.  I knew that I already had a decent brain and I know how to make it absorb knowledge – I however also was fortunate to have a decent face that isn’t repellent, so I just had to quest for the body to set it off.  I’m not there yet, and considering I’m near 25, I probably won’t get there in time to fulfil my ambition of becoming a supermodel, but if I can look at myself and really think I am genuinely pretty, I will be happy.  I guess that in a world where most people take looks for granted and value brainpower, I’ve rebelled against that and done the opposite.  Perhaps that’s a little bit stupid or ditzy, I don’t know. Because really, the best thing in the world (and my overarching aim) would be, of course, to have it all.