The Muse – Illusive but friendly…

Every Writer has one of these Creatures sat on your shoulder. As do Artists, Musicians, Dancers, Crafters, Cooks… any creative pursuit attracts the Muse. So what on earth are they?

Muse Species

There are the species that I (personally) have encountered:

The Pen Muse
This is the muse that is attracted to Writers. It can look like anything; it’s a sneaky Bugger at the best of times, always changing form and hiding when you least expect it.
It delights in whispering in your ear just as you drop off to sleep or inspiring the weirdest of dreams… and when you try to write them down somehow, it runs off again, leaving a trail of gibberish behind it that is a pain in the arse to decipher the next morning…

The Paintbrush Muse
This one loves to sit in warm sunny places and will often curl up on whatever it is that you’re drawing or trying to work on. Yes, it often takes the form of a cat or dog – mostly because it adores getting in on the action and leaving hairs in the paint (clay, plaster, glue etc).
It’s also the best Muse for Dreamtime because they love to sleep.

The Tool Muse
This one usually takes the form of a Magazine, brand new tool, pattern or material. It is primarily a Crafting Muse , but I have seen it appear in the kitchen as well, usually after a visit to IKEA  or receiving the Lakeland catalogue through the door. It usually inspires a new crafting pursuit, but will jump ship to the next new tool / crafting idea after you’ve used it a few times, thus forcing you to collect tools and materials!

Care of Your Muse

Feeding
This is completely different from person to person. The Muse tends to enjoy your own favourite foods and beverages, so make sure that you imbibe and eat those things that it likes on a regular basis or you risk losing it to a Creative that will feed it in the way it likes.

Bathing
Muses like to bathe regularly, they can get strangely obstinate when they feel they are dirty. Again, the method of bathing is different from Muse to Muse. Some like to soak in a bubble bath, others enjoy the bracing experience of a shower.  I’ve come across some species that like to swim in pools and still others that appear to prefer salt water.

Rest
Muses appear to have different sleeping schedules to Humans. They can be awake and bouncy, ready to play, at the oddest of hours or sleeping soundly for hours. However, (in my experience) they seem to function best when you’re warm and snuggled into something soft.

Personally, I’ve found that the Pen Muse is the worst for inappropriate sleep – when I’m sitting at the desk ready to write; he’s curled up somewhere warm asleep and when I’m just about dropping off to sleep on my keyboard, he’s awake and inspired, poking me with his inky paws and telling me what to write next.

Sickness
You will find that when your Muse is ill, you will find it VERY difficult to concentrate on any creative endeavour. There is no real cure to this other than time and proper care.

Sorry if you were looking for a quick fix…

Play / Exercise
All Muses like to play.  What they play with varies. Some Muses like to exert physical effort and enjoy Team Sports, Running, Swimming, Walking… the list is a long one! Others will be drawn to Music and you can take them out Dancing or to Zumba.
There are more sedentary Muses as well; these tend to like watching TV, going to the Movies or playing Console / Computer Games.
The third type is in the middle of these two. These Muses that will work best with a varied play routine.

Playtime is usually when you can get the very best ideas out of them, but be warned; not every idea will be a viable one or will be what you are looking for for the piece you are currently working on.  Just make a note of them (mentally or otherwise) and keep playing until the Muse indicates that it needs to rest.

Training Your Muse

It is possible to train your Muse to produce ideas on command. They are fickle creatures though and you will find that if you try too hard to train your muse it could get upset with you and disappear on you.
Sadly I cannot advise you on what the best training is – it’s entirely personal to the Muse in question and often takes considerable trial-and-error over many years to perfect.

I have not yet found the perfect training regime.
I know there are writers out there that have trained their Pen Muses; they seem able to produce books / stories / articles  time and again without seeming to break a sweat (Yes, I know that’s not exactly true – I’m having fun here, leave me alone) and they have different routines that don’t work for me.
This is fine – part of the work of becoming a good writer is discovering your Muse’s training regime.

Meet My Muses

I currently have two Muses, this is what they look like in Resting Form:

This is Puff, the Faerie Dragon and Pen Muse.

Puff

 His favourite foods are Chips, Chocolate and Starbursts. He enjoys drinking Dr Pepper and Gin & Tonic, but will function (with many complaints) on Coffee and Tea. Puff is a Sedentary Muse, so prefers to watch TV / Movies,  play Tetris / Candy Crush etc and go Walking or Swimming.

This is Stardust, the Faerie Unicorn and a  Paintbrush / Tool Muse hybrid

Stardust

Her favourite Foods are Tortilla Chips-and-cheese dip, Ice Cream and Cake. She likes to drink Tea (mostly Chai and Earl Grey) and Wine. Stardust likes to go Swimming, Cycling and Walking. She also likes reading and browsing the internet.

Over to you

I know that there are other species of Muse and I should imagine there are as many forms to each species as there are ways of being creative.  I also apologise for the lack of pictures,in the Species section of this post; Stardust (my Paintbrush/Tool Muse Hybrid) has gone on holiday and I can’t for the life of me get the images in my words onto paper in visual form.

Feel free to add to my list of species, tell me what your personal muse is like or contribute images of what you think that the different species look like in the comments below – let’s have some fun!

My Cadbury’s Creme Egg Disappointment

In the scheme of things, with everything that has happened in the world over the last week, you wouldn’t expect a company changing the recipe of a sweet treat in the western world to create that much of a splash in the news. In fact, you’d expect it to go unnoticed, which is probably what Cadbury’s were hoping would happen.

Yes, I’m talking about the Cadbury’s Creme Egg scandal. To bring you up to speed with exactly what one of those is, here’s the summary of it’s history from Wikipedia:

A Cadbury Creme Egg is a chocolate product produced in the shape of an egg. The product consists of a thick milk chocolate shell, housing a white and yellow fondant filling which mimics the albumen and yolk of a real egg. Creme Eggs are the best-selling confectionery item between New Year’s Day and Easter in the UK, with annual sales in excess of 200 million and a brand value of approximately £55 million.

Creme Eggs are produced by Cadbury UK in the United Kingdom and byCadbury Adams in Canada. They are sold by Mondelēz International in all markets except the USA, where the Hershey Company has the local marketing rights. At the Bournville factory in Birmingham, in the UK, they are manufactured at a rate of 1.5 million per day. The Creme Egg was also previously manufactured in New Zealand but, since 2009, they are imported from the UK.

While filled eggs were first manufactured by the Cadbury Brothers in 1923, the Creme Egg in its current form was not introduced until 1963.[2] Initially sold as Fry’s Creme Eggs (incorporating the Fry’s brand), they were renamed “Cadbury’s Creme Eggs” in 1971.

This is what it looks like:

Okay, now we’re all caught up we can get on with the reason I am writing about this particular sweet.

Creme Eggs have been a staple of my childhood. Traditionally they appear in the shops on the 1st January and then disappear after Easter. It has always been this way (they did try and market a bar based on the confectionary but it didn’t really catch on) and long may it remain so. When they appear in the shops it’s a sign that spring is on its way, like the mornings growing lighter.

When I was a child they felt huge. I couldn’t fit a whole one into my mouth at once and they took at least 3 or 4 bites to eat. Obviously as I have got older (and grew up) they got smaller, but even when I was old enough to get one into my mouth in one go (I’ve only done that a couple of times) they still took 2 or 3 bites.

If you’re british and you like Creme Eggs (yes, there are people who don’t) the first egg of the year is a step back into your childhood. The chocolate is smooth and creamy, the fondant filling is gloriously thick and sickenly sweet… the whole experience is
There is more than one way to eat them; my favourite happens to be biting it open and sucking out as much fondant as I can before eating the rest in a couple of bites.

They were always available in singles, 3, 6 and 12 packs. One of my fondest memories is going to a family party and having three 6 packs given to me. I think I ate the first pack in less than an hour and found out just how sickening they can be…

Now this year, due to rising prices of chocolate (believe it or not there is a cocoa shortage) Cadbury have shrunk the 6 pack to a 5 pack. Understandable, especially as they have shrunk the rrp (it’s up to retailers what they sell them at) as well.

That didn’t bother me. I have a family with five people in it… that means I don’t have an odd egg rolling around in the cupboard, tempting me to eat it…

HOWEVER…

This happened on Monday –

Shellshock! Cadbury comes clean on Creme Egg chocolate change 

-The headline comes from The Guardian online.

They have changed the chocolate recipe that they use for the shell of the egg. Instead of the smooth, creamy Dairy Milk chocolate of my childhood, they are using what they call ” standard cocoa mix chocolate”.  This is the same chocolate that they use in any bar that DOESN’T carry the Dairy Milk Branding – Flakes, Twirls, Wispa… and so forth. It has the addition of vegetable fat (Palm and Shea) – to make the chocolate go further I should  imagine…

I accept that it’s a cheaper alternative to the Dairy Milk recipe and that with the addition of the sickenly sweet fondant, most kids are going to wolf them down and not bat an eyelid. Once you’ve eaten a couple, you won’t taste anything other than sugar and the chocolate won’t matter.

However…

For those of us who like their Cadbury’s chocolate and care about how it tastes, this vegetable fat laden version is okay, but not something to write home about. It will always lose out to Dairy Milk in the choice stakes.
My kids won’t notice the difference, but I did; as did my fiance. It was less creamy and the contrast with the fondant was much more apparent. We were disappointed that it didn’t taste as good as it used to… and this time it wasn’t because we’d grown up.

So to those of us who grew up on the Dairy Milk version, the change is a big deal.

I will always have one Creme Egg each year – to start the spring countdown – but it will be an egg of nostalgia only. It will never ever be the same.

100 Days to be Happy: Knitting

Knitting Crazy…

Well… okay maybe I’m not this crazy about knitting… but I do love it.

I don’t do it a lot – I tend to work on one project at a time, ever since I had nine different craft projects going on and didn’t finish any of them when I was meant to.

I’m working on a third jumper for Grandmother-in-law at the moment. I’m using a lovely cream dk yarn with green-brown flecks on cable needles and following a top down pattern from one of my favourite books. It’s going fairly well, despite the constant interruptions from PW (she likes to play with the yarn, very much like a kitten…) and I’m anticipating finishing it by September.

The reason I like knitting is that it relaxes me. When I have a lot of one stitch without too many shaping stitches or any cables to deal with, I can let my hands do the work and let my mind wander. It’s very meditative.

I’ve come up with a few story twists that way.

It also gives me something to do with my hands that doesn’t involve food – I put on a lot of weight when I’m baking a lot… *looks guilty*

All of this adds up to me feeling more relaxed, so when the kids start acting up (which is a lot) or I’m feeling anxious & upset about something, knitting soothes me and allows me to deal with it calmly.

I can’t do long periods of knitting though. I have Carpel Tunnel and the repetitive motion of knitting makes my hands ache and go numb if I do it for too long, so I tend to alternate between knitting and writing.

So that’s Day #5… Knitting. If you’ll excuse me, I’d rather like to get another couple of rows done on the yoke shaping…