Category Archives: Blogs

Half a dozen hacks for stale bread: surprisingly tasty tips for making the most of the food you buy

Bought too much on your grocery trip? Going away and need to use things up? Lost track of what’s at the back of the fridge? I have solutions for you!

A recent survey of 2000 Brits revealed that eggs, bread, and other previously rationed items are regularly discarded. Instead of getting down in the dumps about this or resigning full responsibility to the big, bad supermarkets, there are simple, tasty things you can do with those ingredients you already bought. I’ve touched on ways to reduce waste before, and now I’m collating tips and tricks on things to do when items become past their best. Follow these tips to

  1. reduce your grocery bill,
  2. reduce waste, and
  3. eat more (maybe?).

Number 1 is the main reason for me, and it’s probably the case for many other musicians too. In this blogpost I’ll focus on bread, but I am gathering suggestions for other food stuffs so get in touch and I’ll feature them in future!

Stale Bread Recipes

Things to cook with bread that has gone hard, but is not mouldy:

Mouldy Bread

When it’s got a bit of green/blue mould on it:

  • remove the mouldy bits (generously, maybe chop all the edges of a block of bread) and mix them in your compost,
  • leave on the bird table, or
  • make into fat balls.

Try to use the remainder within a day, maybe following one of the recipes above. For expert guidance check out this Aussie food mould research blog.

How to Prevent Stale Bread

Ideas for avoiding stale bread in the first place:

  • use a bread bin or bread bag,
  • make sourdough bread (moisture and natural acids help preserve your homemade loaves),
  • freeze half the loaf until you need it.

Review of Yorkshire goodies

I’m from Yorkshire. You might know that from the Yorkshire Lad t-shirt I often wear. Now I also have a range of trinkets advertising the fact, courtesy of the aptly named imfromyorkshire.com website.

Enjoying
Enjoying the sunshine in my Yorkshire t-shirt with my Dad.

I am chuffed with my new Yorkshire mugs. They were mailed to me in North Carolina from the UK, so I was a bit worried they might get damaged en route. Despite cracked polystyrene all three mugs were snugly intact!

Polystyrene mug boxes
DSC04434 Polystyrene boxes kept the mugs safe.
Yorkshire mugs!
Three crisp and edgy Yorkshire mug designs.

As well as having enough mugs to cram the cupboard with enough for a mad hatter’s tea party, I also enjoyed placing a keychain on the Christmas tree. Soon we will have Yorkshire paraphernalia in every room!

Other Yorkshire trinkets
The keychains and pin are great conversation starters!

Sorry for my lack of updates.

I had a problem logging into WordPress (fixed by deleting some plugins).

I am also in the throes of recording an album, having written 13 songs with my friend Alex. Some of this is the best material I have ever composed. As we near the end of our time in Raleigh I hope it will make for a good product.

Meanwhile I have a couple of draft blogposts I’m working on, one of which involves Yorkshire Tea for the Yorkshire Lad in me!

Famous jazz musicians from North Carolina

I currently live in Raleigh, North Carolina and would like to pay tribute to the amazing jazz musicians from this and surrounding regions. It may not be an epicentre of jazz like New Orleans, Manhattan, or Los Angeles, indeed none of a recent top 10 southern jazz players were from North Carolina. Nevertheless some notable players are from here.

Jazz musicians with connections to the Research Triangle:

  • Jeb Bishop is a jazz trombonist who grew up in Raleigh and studied at NC State.
  • Pee Wee Moore left medical school to pursue jazz saxophony full time. He was born in Raleigh and returned to the city in the 1970s after living in New York.
  • Billy Strayhorn was a composer, lyricist, and arranger. He spent his summers at his grandparents home in Hillsborough, just northwest of Durham.

Jazz musicians with connections to the Piedmont triad (Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem):

Other notable NC jazz musicians:

  • Nina Simone was born in Tryon on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Widely acclaimed singer, pianist, and songwriter she was also active in the civil rights movement.
  • Percy Heath
  • Theolonius Monk

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Emerging from burgers, sculptures, and football to say “Hello again!”

I’ve neglected this blog for too long. Sorry.

One reason for the three month delay is that, in addition to my musical pursuits, I am now working at Corbett’s Burger and Soda Bar in Cary.

The other reason is that I have been to visit family in Britain and Texas, and enjoyed a visit in March from my Mum and Dad. Here is a photo of my Dad and I in front of the rings at the North Carolina Museum of Art. We are wearing Yorkshire Lad t-shirts that mimic the Yorkshire Tea logo.

Dad and I standed under a ring-shaped sculpture on a blue skies day
One Brit spotted us and asked, “Are you really from Yorkshire?” “YES!” we said.

Here is a close up of me wearing the tee when I watched the Denver Broncos lose the 2014 Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is a distinctly American event, but thankfully my buddies were happy for me to show off my Yorkshire roots at the party.

I am wearing a camouflage cap and a black t-shirt in front of a wide screen TV showing an American football match.
Yorkshire Tea should sponsor a sports team as the bright colours work really well!

There has been lots going on, but luckily I have some music blogs in the pipeline that I will edit and upload. More soon!

Bands aren’t the same anymore

These days music is more accessible than ever. This abundant supply of cool tunes and new acts means being in a band rarely brings much of an income. As a result many musicians are not loyal band members, but come and go, often playing in multiple bands at the same time. For those like me who are passionate and committed it’s frustrating and a little depressing to see talented colleagues spreading themselves too thin.

A recent blog post on Ultimate Guitar prompts the question of whether being in a band (or bands) is worth it. This is quite a pertinent topic – I’m starting out in a new band in a new city. What is the point? What’s in it for me?

One of the commenters on that blog noted that this issue has been raised in the past. However there are some new aspects to today’s trend. Apps like Spotify or Pandora give a thrill to music listeners, but often fail to give musicians a fair reward (a living wage if you like) for the hard work they put in. This is a large problem that cannot be easily bypassed by choosing between strategies of pooling your efforts in one band or multiplying your chances by playing in lots of bands.

A contributing factor to the problem of low returns is the skewed distribution in wages. A tiny number get a big piece of the music revenue pie. Does a musician (indeed anyone) ever need to be a multimillionaire? I wonder how many more musicians would receive a living wage if there were greater equity in music income. How to achieve this, as with any industry-specific structural reform, will be difficult to achieve. I wonder who would be willing to take the leadership on this matter, especially when the resources and power are concentrated in a minority of record labels and media moguls who reap rewards from the current system. The line between music and politics is indeed a blurry and controversial one.

Thankfully I do earn a living wage, and to me music is an end in itself, increasing its worth above any capital return. But I worry for my colleagues, for my students, for the future of music. What do you think, does it worry you?

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How to make a guitar

Do you like figuring out how things function and working with your hands? Fancy a project making or modifying a musical instrument? Here are some links that get into the nitty gritty of how to build your own instrument and how guitar components work:

Basic guitars (good to make with a child?)
How to make a shoebox guitar
Tin Can Guitar

Electric guitars
Instructables
WikiHow

Acoustic guitars (warning: advanced skills required!)
Acoustic Guitar Build Blog
Build Your Guitar

Customise your guitar
Mojo Shout

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