Archive for March, 2012

29/03/2012

Puppygirl’s busy moving, so back on Tuesday 3rd

Yes, that’s right. Your intrepid heroine is moving home this week, and so I am taking a short break from blogging while I move the ridiculous amount of possessions I…possess. Yeah. Well anyway, just to keep you all interested, and possibly a little excited in some cases, a small smidge of news to tide you all over.

Once my move is completed, and I have my new home sorted out, (probably the first week in May) I will be starting a, to begin with, bi-monthly video part to this blog. You read that right, Amanda Harper will once a month, over time expanding to twice or even more, be on your computer screens, actually speaking to you via the evil witchcraft that is YouTube embedded video. It will be replacing one of the written blogs for the week it’s released in, and will be as random, and hopefully as entertaining as the rest of my blog.

Me, being me, this is of course only another in a sequence of planned steps leading to an absolutely huge, and kick ass project which you will be hearing a lot more about in the near future. Anyway have a wonderful weekend.

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27/03/2012

The fear in following dreams.

Let’s talk about fear, and dreams. They’re both intimately linked after all. No really they are, think about it. You’re wandering semi-randomly through life, sort of happy with your lot. But as you bounce from day-to-day you run into someone who holds in their hands the ability to alter your life in a profound way. They turn around, and offer you your dream house/job/date.

First you get hit by a wave of excitement, “Oh my Gods! This could be so amazing!”

Then you get a good dose of the old-fashioned self-doubts, “Nope, no way I can do this. I mean come on, who am I kidding? Me, move into the Horror Channels mansion (In my imagination it’s based in a mansion. A mansion where all the Horror girls live together in a huge, and hot group of bisexual femme-subs.) as the Horror girl’s Mistress, with Emily Booth as my Alpha? I’m just not that good.”

Then you get hit by the fears, “Oh hell, what if I do get the job as Bee Armitage’s personal baby oil applicator? I’ll just make a fool of myself, and let everyone down, and ruin my future.”

Dreams that are in the process of becoming reality are scary. I know this with certainty. I am right at this moment in the process of living one. After almost 11 years of living in apartments I am finally going to live in a house again. No neighbours upstairs, no neighbours downstairs, plenty of space, plenty of storage, no management companies, and best of all an honest to Goddesses upstairs! I’ve wanted a place like that for as long as I can remember. And now that the move is well underway, in fact at this point it’s essentially irreversible, and despite the fact that this new home will be very good for me, I’m actually rather scared.

I’m not scared of the hard work involved in moving, a large part of it is already done, and it’s now more about unpacking boxes rather than moving them.

I’m also not gripped by that fear of moving to another new town that I know nothing about. I’ve done that way too many times to find it fear inducing anymore.

No I’m actually scared by how potentially good for me this new home can be. Because it can be taken away. Because in my imagination it could possibly all blow up in my face, and turn from a dream into a nightmare.

It won’t though, and I have to keep reminding myself of that this is the right thing to do. ‘Cause quite simply the fact that it can actually inspire precisely that type of fear shows that it is the right action to take. Doing the right thing for ourselves is virtually always scary to some degree, how could it not be when it seems that a happiness which could be taken away is more painful than having never felt that happiness at all.

Except that’s bollocks, paying too much heed to your fears is a stupid reason not to take fate by the balls, and shake a little happiness out of the world for yourself. Even if that happiness should prove somewhat fleeting.

24/03/2012

A 14/34 year old Emo girl feels unattractive. So pass me the damn chocolate already!

Okay fair warning time. I’m writing a sort of diary entry type thing today to help myself process some of the stuff going on in my life right now. Well actually just one thing really. So this could probably come across a bit emo. So seeing as I’m a Puppygirl I will endeavor to make up for the vast streams of Emo kid in this post, by also linking in some of the cutest Emo-Dog pictures I can find. Anyway…

Cos I misses my mom when I feels yucky.

Up until recently I felt pretty damn beautiful, or, on a bad day, at the very least attractive. And why shouldn’t I? There’s nothing wrong with how I look. I’m busty, 12 stone and 5’10” tall. Great gothgirl hair, (I’m told) very kissable lips, Spanish eyes, and legs which are kind of ridiculously long. To quote my favourite ex “I’d so date myself.”

But while nothing has changed about my looks lately I’ve found myself feeling far less attractive. I’ve caught myself avoiding mirrors, and reflections. Walking with my head down, and avoiding other people’s eyes, where only a few short weeks ago I would have stared back in challenge. In short all the stuff I used to do ten years ago.

So I’m left wondering why I feel this insecure again. When I had believed that this, slightly broken version of me was a part of the past, not an aspect of the present, or future.

I think part of it is how sick I’ve been lately. To say I’ve undergone a drop in my quality of health would be to miss the perfect opportunity to use a metaphor based around waterfalls, and highly acidic, chocolate milk. It’s difficult to feel like anyone could possibly want you when you’re utterly convinced that you still smell after a diarrhea attack, when you’ve just finished your third shower of the day. (The last two being cold, because there’s only so much hot water, but damn it you still smell Missy!)

Another part is, as my own personal Velma said to me the other day, down to my having developed greater understanding of who I am. This new comprehension of my true nature having led to my outing myself as bisexual. This marks an immense change in my life, I spent the past ten years living as a lesbian transwoman. I was happy as one, I felt secure in the knowledge that I liked girls, and that at least some few liked me back. But now because I processed a large amount of stuff from my past, and present, I’ve found myself in the situation of having to regain my personal equilibrium as it applies to my sexuality, and my love life.

Not to mention the stress of knowing that the way I’ve heard some women who love women speak of bisexual girls will also be aimed at me now. Admittedly these are often the very same women who openly, and often loudly say how much happier they’d be if I (or any of the other women like me) had never been born. What with the causing them to question their own sexualities.

Add into this a house move, with all the stresses that go with that. Worry about my partner in crime, my mother, my lil sisters, my friends. It’s amazing I have any run time left over to even notice myself, much less not like what I see.

It will pass. I know it will. One of these days I’ll have a good day. My health will behave itself for 5 or 6 hours. I’ll get to goth up, and head into town for a day with someone I love. I’ll get stared at my lots of people, lusted after by more than a few, and by the end of the day I’ll feel like a Goddess again. But until then I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not actually what I feel I am right now. I’m not ugly, I’m not unattractive, I don’t smell bad, and my hair is fabulous. The pity is that reminding myself is one thing, convincing myself is quite another.

This foray by Amanda Harper into being possessed by a Goddess damned 14-year-old emo-girl as been brought to you by large quantities of chocolate, the letter “P”, and the number “9”. As in “P”issed off to the “9”th degree. Normal service will be resumed on Tuesday.

22/03/2012

My Top Ten Most Beautiful Women Of – Fantasy.

Not so long ago I wrote a list of my personal ten most beautiful women of science fiction. I really enjoyed writing it, after all, the exhaustive research was hardly a painful undertaking. So I decided to follow it up this week with the women of fantasy. For the information of those pedants out there I am defining fantasy here as anything that makes use of the supernatural, or magical, or unexplainable as a plot device, but not those that also consistently use a horror element, or are set in space. So Warehouse 13 is fantasy, but because it’s set in space Battlestar Galactica doesn’t fit in this list despite its copious use of mythology.

And yes, yes I know I put both The Almighty Johnsons, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the science fiction post. Can we just accept that I was blinded by Alyson Hannigan, Amber Benson, and Eve Gordon, then build a frikkin’ big bridge, and get over it? Thanks.

Anyway I mentioned Warehouse 13 back there so…

10: Allison Scagliotti – Claudia Donovan – Warehouse 13.

Apparently she’s been in season 9 of Smallville, CSI, and a shitload of other high-profile television programs. But I only know her from Warehouse 13, and that apparently she is a hardcore geek. So what can I say about this woman…well I guess my feelings are best summed up by saying “Mommy can I have her for Christmas?! I’ll love her, and play with her, and exercise her, and love her, Can I? Can I? Can I?”

See? Now I’m a dirty old lady.

 9: Kristanna Loken – Queen Brunhilde – Sword of Xanten/Dark Kingdom/The Dragon King

First of all what’s not to like about a lavish two-part screen adaptation to the legend Siegfried and the Dragon? That is after all precisely what this program is. Secondly how gorgeous an Icelandic queen does Kristanna Loken make? She’s often someone who’s personality, and looks just don’t seem to quite fit the parts she plays. But in Sword of Xanten they couldn’t fit better. And that hair, how badly do I want that hair style with the wind-braids. Nom. Just generally how badly do I want dinner with Miss Loken? She’s been one of my longest held crushes, ever since Mortal Combat the television series in fact. And no that series will not be appearing on one of these lists. I have some self-respect you know.

Anyway, If you know the legend then you know the movie’s story. If you don’t, I won’t ruin it for you. But I will suggest you get onto Amazon, buy a copy, pop some corn, and settle in for 4 hours of wonderfulness. Just have some tissues handy, I cried for a LOT of the second half. Oh, and rest assured good reader, the divine Kristanna will return in a future list…Also this mini-series has the most haunting closing music I’ve ever heard. Enjoy.

8: Joanne Whalley – Sorsha – Willow.

I’m a sucker for a girl in armor.

Back in the 80’s Joanne was a dream girl. Put her in armor, and give her a really tough character to play, there you have one of my dream girls. Which at the age of 10 led to some rather interesting, and very confusing feelings. I eventually forgave her for marrying Val Kilmer…*shakes head at the insanity* By the way there’s a second picture of her, it has nothing to do with Willow but I thought it might be appreciated, want to see it?

I’m also a sucker for a redhead in a maids outfit.

7: Renee O’Connor – Gabrielle – Xena: Warrior Princess.

It’s so difficult to find a photo of this woman where she doesn’t look kind of vapid. Now I know that sounds bad but here’s the thing. There are women who photograph amazingly well. And then there are women for whom a still photograph almost always misses how beautiful they really are. So much of Renee O’Connor’s beauty is in how she moves, and that fact makes a good picture hard to find. That said wet hair, and a big sword always help. Anyway Mrs Warrior Princess ladies, and gentlemen. (Seriously Lucy Lawless is apparently on record as having said they were married. *bounces up and down and claps hands* Yeeeaaaay!)

6: Bridget Regan – Kahlan – Legend of the Seeker

Okay I loathe this television series almost as much as I love the books. It’s crap, awful, terrible. How they took those books, with the help of the author, and came out with THIS I’ll never understand. I watched 3 episodes, and then I just started watching it with the sound off. Mostly for this woman. I mean look at her. I still get heart flutters when I look at her, she’s just that beautiful. It’s just a shame that they took one of the toughest, most admirable female fantasy characters ever, and turned her into something that wasn’t.

5: Erin Cummings – Sura – Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

Yup, another show I absolutely loathe. But it does have its plus points one of those is Erin Cummings, who plays the wife of Spartacus. So my advice is watch the first season with the sound off. That way, if like me you actually know even a little bit about history, you won’t end up chewing your own tongue off, but you can still keep an eye out for this lady. And of course for Lucy Lawless.

4: Vera Farmiga – Caitlin – Roar

Do you remember 1997? You do? Do you remember Roar then? You don’t? Well don’t worry about that, no-one else does either. Which is kind of a shame. It was a spirited attempt to…Irish up the Xena/Hercules genre of television. It introduced us to Heath Ledger, as possibly the least convincing Irishman ever, and I include Sean Connery in Darby O’Gill and the Little People in this. But also showing us the gorgeous Vera Farmiga for the first time. She’s American/Ukrainian, and I blame her for my ongoing lover affair with Eastern European women. I just wish a few more people remembered this show, so I would have some chance of finding a decent picture of her as her character Caitlin.

3: Lucy Lawless – Xena – Xena: Warrior Princess.



She was buxom, beautiful, tough, and slung a mean decapitating frisbee type thing. She also had a jaw line you could use to crack granite, gorgeous eyes, and when she wasn’t pretending to be American, has the sexiest New Zealand accent ever. Yup, she’s Lucy Lawless, and Xena contributed hugely to my teenage dreams. And not a few of my adult ones either. Why she hasn’t played Betty Paige I’ll never understand.

2: Emily Browning – Babydoll – Suckerpunch.

If you only remember Emily Browning as Violet from Lemony Snicket, then please (read rest of sentence in the voice of Jim Carrey from the same movie) be not horrified dear reader, for she is now an…adult! Yup she’s 23, it’s okay to fancy her these days. And boy is there a lot about her to fancy in this movie. Again swords, (pattern forming here), and guns, with not enough clothing. But also very pale skin. Always a plus in a beautiful woman. Nothing looks more unhealthy to me than a strong tan. Yuck.

1: Gemma Arterton – Io – Clash of the Titans.

I first saw this woman in the remakes of the St. Trinian movies, where she played a very, to my eyes at least, adult gothic headgirl. Then I had the misfortune to see Prince of Persia, weird movie. I swear one of these days there’ll be a computer game adaption that doesn’t make me want to claw my own eyes out, But she was by far the highlight of the whole affair for me. Then most recently I saw her in Clash of the Titans, and I melted. She has flawless looks, an amazing screen presence, can actually act (unlike everyone else in that movie, and I include Liam Neeson in that assessment.), and she is by far the most beautiful woman of fantasy I can think of.

For those interested she will be seen soon in an adult updated version of Hansel and Gretel, and apparently she wears a lot leather in that. Just saying.

And finally, and honorable mention. Joan Jett – Felicia Martens – Highlander the Series.

I wanted to add Joan Jett to this list because she plays a wonderful character in the first season of Highlander. However since I do try to ignore that this show ever happened, and because there is not one decent shot of her on the web playing Felicia, I’m only giving her an honourable mention. I guess you’ll all have to wait for the “Women of Rock” list for a full dose of her…nah, here’s my favourite love song ever, enjoy!

20/03/2012

Being a friend to the owner of Angry Bowel Pixies.

I’ve written before on coping with a chronic bowel illness, and helping those around you to understand what you’re going through. Today I want to talk about being a good friend, or partner to someone in that situation. I dare say a lot of people will read that last sentence, and roll their eyes. After all they’ve been friends with someone chronically ill for years. They know what they’re doing. They know how to be a good friend to that person. And they probably do.

So while I hope that those people will still read this article, and possibly gain something from it, this piece is far more aimed at those who have just become the friend or partner of someone with a severe illness. I hope to give those people some small insight in to how to approach this subject which I have so rarely seen dealt with. So below are my tips for having a good friendship or even partnership with a sickly individual.

1. If you ask how they feel, and they are honest about it, try to make sure you don’t make them feel bad afterwards for being honest. It’s hard for anyone to allow themselves to be vulnerable. For someone who is sick all the time it can be far harder. So when your friend is totally honest about how bad they might be feeling at that time take it for what it is. Proof that they trust you enough to be vulnerable with you. Try not to make them feel worse by even accidentally throwing it back in their faces later.

2. If they have any odd dietary requirements try to have an idea of what they can’t eat before you book a table anywhere. This one’s probably pretty self-explanatory, this way at least you can ask the restaurant if they cater for someone with that food allergy. If they don’t just contact your friend, and try to work out an alternative.

3. Try to plan activities that take their physical condition into account. Another self-explanatory one, I hope at least. A days shopping is welcomed I think by most (though not all) women, but walking from shop to shop for hours may simply not be physically possible for your friend. Try to plan out coffee stops, or something similar to let them catch their breath.

4. When they cancel some long laid plans at the last moment be understanding. They didn’t want to cancel. They wanted to spend time with you. It’s possible, maybe even probable that as soon as they hung up the phone they cried from frustration. Being ill in this way means that sometimes you just can’t make it. The plans might have only been for coffee a couple of minutes away. But those couple of minutes to you, could represent running a marathon with no training at all, to your friend.

5. Some illnesses have unpleasant side effects, help your friend with them. I’ll use my stomach as an example here. I have accidents. Not often, but they do happen. And sometimes I don’t notice at all. If you’re truly a friend, and you notice you’ll mention it to your friend. Quietly, without drama, without causing any fuss. Well lots of illnesses have similar side effects. Be a hero, and help your friend to not be humiliated.

6. One for the lovers now. Sometimes (I’m aware that this is dangerous ground I’m treading here.) with a chronically ill person “I don’t want to!” can actually mean “I physically can’t.”. So discuss things, in plain language so as to avoid misunderstandings.

Let’s use an example here, and let’s be plain, and simple about it, let’s talk about anal. Anal rocks. It’s often a wonderful addition to a healthy sex life. But no matter how much you might love it, if someone has a chronic bowel problem they very probably simply can’t do it. No matter how much they might want to. So instead of hearing a simple “No!”, politely, lovingly ask your partner “Why?”. Don’t find yourself stewing, festering, resenting, and potentially hurting a perfectly good relationship.

7. If your friend is housebound a lot of the time encourage them to go out, and do things. But, and this is important, don’t be really pushy about it. You want them to know that if they want to, and can get out on that particular day, that you would like their company. On the other hand if you’re too pushy it’ll start to feel like you’re obliging them to go out, even if they aren’t well enough to. It’s a fine line I know, but if you’re aware the line exists it can be easier to find it.

8. Don’t talk about their health all the time. Okay, now this one’s a little odd to explain, so bear with me. People who are ill can often hate talking about how they feel, their treatments, doctors, etc. But because often there isn’t much else going on in their lives it’s all they have to talk about. Add that to well-meaning friends who just want to lend a willing sounding board, and you can find yourself with an unending conversation that drives everyone nuts by the end. Yes, do talk with your friend, or partner about their health. But make sure you also talk about other things as well, even if only to remind them that someday they may be well enough to truly rejoin the world, and that it’s a day worth fighting for.

9. If you can go with them, and if they want you to, go to the hospital. No matter how many times they’ve gone before, hospitals are intimidating places, they’re also boring as hell, and someone to chat with in the waiting room is only a good thing. But more than that, hospitals are where people with chronic illnesses often only ever hear bad news, and sometimes they’ll need a shoulder to cry on immediately afterwards. Try to give them that.

Finally, for now, the most important thing you can do for your friend, or love if they live in this kind of situation is…

10. Tell them that you love them. Really obvious, huh? Well actually yes, and no. You should tell people you love that they are loved anyway. It’s important to feel loved. But for someone who is trapped by their body, by their health, who doesn’t necessarily see many, or even any people most days, it matters even more. When you’re trapped at home for day after day, it’s easy to feel cut off from the world. It’s also easy to feel forgotten, unloved, unwanted. Three little words can take the worst day they’ve ever had, and if not make it better, at the very least make it bearable for a little while longer.

17/03/2012

A (Trans)womans voice.

The hardest day of my transition was the one where I realised there were some, supposedly, masculine traits I could never change about myself. Specifically my jaw line, my brow ridges, and especially my voice. And while over the past few years I’ve come to accept, and eventually appreciate the way the first two actually enhance my facial features, my voice has taken longer.

You see a strong jaw line, and well-defined brow are actually an advantage. After all, pretty is temporary, good, well-defined bone structure is for life, and frankly I was right at the front of the queue when they were handing out bone structures. Even I have to admit mine is scarily good.

However a non-classically feminine voice can be a problem.

Let’s create a situation in our minds. A pissed off Miss Harper is ringing the phone company. They’re supposed to have provided her with broadband, and what should be a reasonably fast connection is actually slower than the dial-up connection they replaced. So after jumping through many, many hoops our heroine Miss Harper finally gets through to an honest to goodness, 100% genuine human member of technical support.

“Hello Eircom Tech Support, how can I help you?”

“Yes you can help me , my broadband is slower than my dial-up was, and I’m pretty bloody mad about that.”

“Of course Sir, can I have your name, and account number.”

Being an eagle-eyed reader you of course instantly see what’s wrong with this exchange. No, no, it’s not that the tech support guy is being polite, and even helpful. Try again…

Yes! That’s right. He called me, “Sir”.

To this day 9 times out of 10 when I deal with phone staff from any company I get called “Sir” until I correct them. This also happens in person if the person speaking to me doesn’t see me before they hear me. Which leads to all sorts of humorous stammering, and blushes when they finally do look up, only to find an unexploded bosom aimed directly at their face.

This used to upset me a great deal. I mean I know, when I’m honest both with myself, and the world around me, that I’m a pretty good-looking bird. No-one questions my gender anymore based on my looks. The occasional fellow transperson, who know’s precisely what they’re looking for might realise my nature. But it is by far an exception these days, rather than the rule it once was. But my voice gets questioned so often that for a very long time it was extremely difficult to cope with. For so long every time my voice would be questioned I would end up in tears for hours afterwards. I would start falling back into that pit of blackness which I only just about managed to crawl out of when I finally did transition.

That all started to change though when I saw a certain music video for the first time.

Now once you manage to stop staring at her ass in those trousers listen to her voice. Tell you what, why don’t you wander off and watch some more of her videos. To listen to her voice of course, nothing to do with watching the divine nature of Brody on the screen.

Well there’s this really hot woman. With a really deep, voice. A voice which I’ve heard described as “An angel after she gargled rusty nuts, and bolts.” Would you question her gender? Me neither.

That’s when I that realised I didn’t need to change my voice, much. That I didn’t need to start sounding like Orvil on Helium to be accepted as female. That’s when I realised my voice already was feminine because it’s MY voice, and I am feminine as hell in almost every way. I possibly could use some basic voice coaching to smooth out a few edges on my voice, but ultimately there’s nothing wrong with being a deep voiced woman. Actually there’s something very right about it.

Think about the women who are heard by most people to have sexy voices. They’re usually husky, deeper than normal, and even somewhat rumbling. They also usually get those voices after smoking for a lifetime, or after something goes terribly wrong with a vocal surgery, or something else similar. Well I have one of those voices, and all I had to do to have that voice was to get overdosed by testosterone for more than half of my life. And all I had to do to own it was to accept that it’s actually sexy as hell. And yes as I said I could use a little work on it to smooth out it’s rougher edges, but that’s true of many people’s voices.

I suppose the point of this piece is to say this to any transwoman reading it, in the words of the great Douglas Adams, “Don’t Panic!”. Your voice probably is very sexy. Yes people will use the wrong pronouns on the phone with you. And yes that is horrible, and can leave you with a heart that’s aching so much it feels like it’s about to die. But once you correct people most of the time their minds reformat, and fit your voice into their “female” cache. In person when people see feminine they will usually hear it as well. It’s just how many times the human mind works.

Now let’s all sit down, and listen to the musical stylings of Brody. After all can you think of a better way to celebrate the Welshman who convinced the ancient Irish to give up all the fun stuff associated with being Pagan, than by listening to, and watching an insanely hot rock chick? No me either.

P.S. I can’t begin to tell you how badly I want the dress she wears in that video. Yum.

15/03/2012

The ten most awesome things about being – Lesbian.

You’ll read plenty in the media about how hard it is to be lesbian, or gay, or well anything really to do with being any part of the LGBT world. But there are loads of things about being lesbian that are frankly awesome. This list is just a few of those I’ve experienced myself.

10. Everyone loves a nice chest for a pillow. I think that boobs are natures way of making up for all the crap that goes with being human. Stress, have some boobs. Illness, have some boobs. Your wife left you, your dog died, and your business is going under, have some boobs…though you may have to pay for them in this case.

9. The only thing better than one pair of boobs in a bed is two. Do I really need to spell this one out?

8. Your partner knows exactly what you mean. Think about all the miscommunications between partners in heterosexual relationships. So many of them caused simply because the guy doesn’t know what “Okay.” or “It’s fine!” means. Not as much of a problem in a lesbian relationship. Although it does mean that you do tend to know precisely how deep the shit you’re in is.

7. Just by existing you belong to worldwide community, the LGBT community. And sure some of them are assholes, but mostly they’re awesome, wrapped up tight in a bow made from pure amazing.

6. You get to fancy Velma Dinkley.

Well hey there.

5. When someone shouts “Dykes!” at you, and your special lady on the street, as if it were an insult rather than a statement of fact. You get to shout back “Obviously!” with just the right amount of sarcasm in your voice.

4. and speaking of special ladies, is there anything better than a really beautiful girl, on her knees, gazing lovingly up at you, begging you to be her Miss? Well, maybe being the girl on her knees, gazing up lovingly, and begging someone to be your Miss, I suppose it all really depends on your point of view…

3. You get to shop in both the women’s, and the mens section of your local department store. Mix the results, and still look fabulous.

2. You get to show Willow and Tara to people to explain to people who don’t understand why being lesbian and in love is a wonderful, loving thing to be. And most especially how it’s not what porn movies would have you believe. I mean honestly we only do half that stuff for birthdays, and special occasions. Well anyway enjoy the video, hopefully you won’t end up in tears like I do every time Tara tells Willow that she is hers. *melts* [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUbMg8-gVW0%5D

And at number 1…

You can still grow, change, and discover things about yourself which you may have suspected but denied for your whole life, because it frightened you too much. You can through living a life that is only partially accepted find the courage to face painful truths about who, and what you are.

This is a list of awesome things about being lesbian, the most awesome thing about my being lesbian is that it has helped me to find what I needed to be able to write this. I’m bisexual, proud to be so, and I would never have reached the point of being able to publicly say that without having lived as a lesbian for so long. So I guess this is me coming out, again.

13/03/2012

A Students Guide to Cooking – Non-crunchy Porridge.

Yes, after a prolonged absence your favourite guide to cooking food fit for an Arts student is back. So far we’ve covered some of the most important cookery topics, cooking the perfect potato, tha romantic meal for two, dealing with the morning after a serious lash up, and of course when your mother comes to visit. But this time we’re covering the tricky topic of porridge. Porridge is an essential food for the financially strapped student. It’s cheap to buy, and cheap to make, thus maximising your available drinking money. But it’s tricky to get just right, so read on and Auntie Amanda will guide you on your journey to porridge perfection.

  1. Find a pot.
  2. It’s probably best if you now wash the pot.
  3. Reach for the package of porridge.
  4. Realise you forgot to buy it, and go to the shop for a bag.
  5. Return home, and measure out one cup full of oats, and pour into the pan.
  6. You can make porridge with either water, milk or a mix of both. I advise you go with the milk. It just tastes better. So go to the fridge.
  7. Return to the shop for a carton of milk.
  8. Measure out 3 full cups of milk, pour each of them into the pan with the oats.
  9. Now, you’ve worked hard so chill out for half an hour while you let the oats soak up that milky goodness. Have a beer, bought with the money you’ve saved by deciding to live on 90% porridge for the next three years.
  10. Pause “The Evil Dead” (The cool kids still watch that, right?) and return to the kitchen. Turn on the cooker ring which, and I can not state this strongly enough, has the pan on it.
  11. Bring the porridge to a soft gentle boil, stirring constantly.
  12. Turn down the cooker, and allow to cook for a minimum of ten minutes. The packaging on your porridge will say less but ignore those instructions, they’re wrong. They were after all written by some pencil pushing bureaucrat in an office somewhere in Europe, and you’re a renegade porridge cooker who goes his/her own way when it comes to the cooking of porridge!
  13. Somewhere in those ten minutes get distracted by your extremely hot housemate (of any gender, that preference is entirely up to you) walking, possibly naked who knows what might happen, into the kitchen.
  14. Pour your porridge into a bowl.
  15. Put the now dirty porridge pot into the sink, and leave for 24 hours before cleaning, after all no need to rob yourself of a challenge.
  16. Sweeten, salt, or add jam to your porridge to suit your own tastes.
  17. Taste porridge.
  18. Note with satisfaction that it is in fact creamy, with a pleasing soft texture in your mouth.
  19. Note with dissatisfaction that it also tastes like that time aged 7 you tried to make custard and ended up with nothing but a pot filled with burn.
  20. Order a take-away.
  21. Beg parents/bank manager/any god of your choice  for more money for “tuition”.

And there we have it. How to make perfectly un-crunchy porridge. So enjoy your take-away, and next time we’ll discuss how to make a pizza.

10/03/2012

A short, unexpected trip to Cork.

As you may, or may not know, last weekend was my 34th birthday. That’s right, your intrepid blogger Amanda Harper is getting old. But sometimes she still just wants her mommy. And one of those times is definitely at her birthday. That being the case I had planned to travel down to my hometown on Thursday. But considering how bad I’ve felt every day this week I decided I would be better staying where I was, and being buried where I fell.

Enter my heroine, my partner in crime, my Mistress. Yesterday she decided we were going to drive down to my hometown for a couple of days break before the true insanity of the upcoming moving of houses starts. Besides it would mean that I would get to see my mom within a week of my birthday, thus helping me to not break a tradition I’ve kept since I moved out of home.

This is all by way of my saying in a particularly long-winded fashion, no real post today. Sorry. I didn’t expect to be down here, so I though I’d have the chance to type up something thought-provoking, inspiring, or hell just another top ten list of ridiculously hot women. Well anyway have a great weekend, and see you on Tuesday.

08/03/2012

A poor girls guide to being great with money.

In my previous article I mentioned how I manage to do quite a lot with not much of an income. And I thought a short guide to how I manage my income might go down well as a follow-up. So here it is Amanda Harper’s guide to squeezing the life out of every cent. Enjoy.

  1. Learn to keep an accurate mental track of your bank balance. This one comes first because to me it’s the single most important money minding skill you can develop. If you don’t know what you actually have, you quite simply can not plan accurately around those limits, and may easily find yourself overspending.
  2. Plan your purchases. I don’t splurge much. Maybe a couple of times a year I will make a truly unplanned purchase, and usually it’s not a large one. I literally plan my purchases down to, and including my chewing gum. This way I can account for every cent in my bank account, and for all of my out goings.
  3. Make sure what you plan to buy is actually what you want/need. A great example of this is the netbook I am writing this on. I bought it last Summer. I had realised a few months before that my four-year old Asus 701 EEEpc was dying, and that I needed to replace it. So while I saved for the replacement I spent hours on various websites comparing the specifications of those netbooks available in Ireland, and weighed their features versus costs. So in the end I found myself owning a netbook which is perfectly suited to my needs, at a price I could, just barely, with a LOT of very careful saving, both afford, and justify.
  4. Which leads nicely to this one. If something you need costs a lot, save for it! This is partially joined to the last two points also. If you plan well ahead, and research what you need from what you need to get you should have a vague price. Then you save for it. Hell you can start saving before you even know how much it will cost. You don’t have to save a lot each week, even five euro’s will mount up surprisingly fast over time, but saving is better in the long run than borrowing at relatively high interest rates.
  5. Don’t borrow. Period. Living within your means is sometimes painful. I know that myself. I often sacrifice things I would like to do, or have, or experience because it will push me beyond my means. But it’s better that than owing what ever dark, tainted residue exists in place of my soul to some bank. (I don’t count a home mortgage in this. That’s often a frugal and common sense thing to do, if approached in the right way.)
  6. Never allow yourself to be caught by surprise by the predictable. If someone matters to you, you will know when they birthday is. So no excuse for being caught by surprise by it. Same with Christmas, Easter, etc. You can’t completely plan for the unpredictable, though you can lay some contingency plans, and have a small buffer squirreled away.
  7. Budget for the day-to-day. Have envelopes for each bill, and add the right amount, plus a couple of euro’s “just in case” to each envelope, each week. For example my broadband is 30.40 euro’s per month but I round it up to 31. This way that 60 cents will mount up over time giving me some slight buffer, just in case. We also pay our electricity supplier a certain amount every single week, and even though we are now significantly in credit we will continue to do this even through the Summer when our power bills are the lowest.
  8. Prioritize. Somethings are simply more important than others. So figure out what your own list is, plan appropriately and stick to that plan.
  9. Remember monetary windfalls don’t go off. If you’re used to your bank balance being tiny when you get a surprise windfall it can be incredibly hard to not just spend the whole lot right now. There’s almost the feeling that it has a “use by” date attached. It doesn’t, it’s money, plan to use it sensibly. Remember that it may represent a deposit for a new rental apartment in a better location. Or it may represent the chance to start that small business which could well represent an entirely new beginning for you. But that said, do use a little of it for something to make you smile inside. Many years ago I received a 500 euro windfall. Most of that money went on the following years school books, and materials. But I also spent a little on some budget climbing equipment. The former took a load off of my mother, the latter meant I didn’t have to borrow equipment every time I was invited to a crag.
  10. If something costs you money regularly, but gives you no benefit cut it out. I used to play World of Warcraft. For a long time I truly enjoyed playing it. I got immense enjoyment, entertainment, personal time with one of my partners, and one amazing friend from it. Hi Rachel!. But after a time the enjoyment waned massively, my partner and I broke up, and I was mostly chatting with my Warcraft friends on Facebook, AND it was still costing me money every month. So I cut it. That was 4 euro’s a week extra. My television had channels I never watched, I cut them and saved another 2 euro’s per week.I keep a constant track of these things. Cutting that which no longer brings joy, to make space, and allow the expense of those that will. This way I keep my budget balanced.
  11. Bad quality, cheap anything is a false economy. It’s tempting to buy the cheapest all the time when you live a shoestring life. But often this simply leads to you having to replace much sooner, for not that much of a saving. This is again where research pays off. I’m a gothgirl, I’m sure you noticed, so I wear goth boots. I also tend to wear moderately expensive goth boots. In the past 8 years I have owned two pairs of them. New Rock Demonia’s and Demonia Rangers. The New Rocks cost almost 200 euro’s, and took me months to save for. And while the Rangers were a gift they would have cost a 100 euro’s. For a girl who would have before trembled at paying 50 for a pair of anything those are huge prices. But my New Rocks lasted for almost four years, of constant wear. I literally wore no other shoes, or boots for those four years, and those boots are still in my wardrobe, coming out for special occasions as I spend their remaining lifespan very carefully. My Rangers lasted for over two years of continuous use. I have never, not once, gotten such a life span from any other set of footwear. Maybe six months of continuous use at most. And all because often cheap is simply a false economy.
  12. My biggest piece of advice is to shop around for any purchase over a certain threshold. I know it probably seems obvious, but the sheer number of people who tend to buy everything of a given category in one place. Or who buy the first thing that suits that they see, is frightening. Prices for even the same item can vary a lot from place to place. So look around, find the best deal.

Most of this list is probably very obvious to most people. But they’re all lessons I learned gradually over time, and if it’s a list that can short-circuit someone elses learning process, well then good. Living on a shoestring can be hard, soul-destroying sometimes. It often feels like running full tilt just to stay where you are. But it doesn’t have to be insanely hard. A little care, and some diligent planning can often allow you to avoid at least a little of the stress and worry that usually follows you around if you live like this. And even a little less stress is well worth working for.

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