#35at35quest : The first update

Who’d have guessed that on the day I told the world that I wanted to try a pickled egg, I’d also visit the Sarson’s factory & be given a vat of pickling vinegar?  

I may only be 35 years and one day, but I’m already blown away by the response to the #35at35quest that I posted about yesterday.

The concept of setting a number of goals related to the year of your age has gone global, having been taken up in Australia as well as being considered by some readers nearer to my home in UK.

I’ve also received offers of help in completing the tasks, and doors have opened with others too – so here is my first update on progress:

  1. Read Middlemarch.  I’ll use the book token received for my birthday to buy my own copy.
  2. Try colonic irrigation.  Because why not?
  3. Try craniosacral therapy.  Ditto.
  4. Visit Paris alone.  The Eurostar is a birthday gift from my partner.
  5. Visit a Greek island. Holiday already booked 🙂
  6. Hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak. Ticket already booked 🙂
  7. Watch The First Monday In May. Hardly a film classic but hey, this is my list!
  8. Go to St. Ives in Cornwall.  People have recommended the Minack Theatre and St Michael’s Mount while I’m down there.
  9. Travel to Stockholm.  Family friend is moving there in August.  How useful of her!
  10. Try African food.
  11. Revisit Warwick Castle for the first time since 1990.
  12. Swing across monkey bars. This is the most likely not to be achieved.
  13. Drive a sports car.  Next week I’m testing an Abarth 595, although I’m not restricting my goal to this one car!
  14. Get a Margaret Dabbs pedicure.
  15. Get a photo at Land’s End. Ties in nicely with number eight!
  16. Visit Bristol.
  17. Make a Christmas cake using my grandad’s recipe.
  18. Learn some German.
  19. Go up the Shard.
  20. Visit the British Museum for the first time since 1997. Shocking, I know.
  21. See Stonehenge.
  22. Learn to make Florentines.  A friend who is a great baker has offered to show me how.
  23. Read a book on Korean history.
  24. Master a song on the guitar. Possibly Take Me Home Country Roads as this was the first song I learnt on it when I was a teenager.
  25. Rebuild my emergency savings pot.
  26. Try a pickled egg.  A friend’s husband may be able to supply the goods, &/or I could make my own using the pickling vinegar that Sarson’s kindly gave me during my birthday press trip!
  27. Learn the proper names for clouds.
  28. Come off all my mental health medication.
  29. Visit a Japanese garden in autumn.  The family friend conveniently moving to Stockholm has bought me two tickets for this very thing!
  30. Go to a fun fair.  There’s one in my home town this weekend!
  31. Learn to use a sewing machine.  An IG friend has offered to teach me – and I can combine a visit to her with my trip to Bristol.
  32. Visit the Lake District for the first time in twenty years.
  33. Have a day out in Leicester.
  34. Clear out Google Photos.  I’ve already started on this!
  35. Get a ninety minute massage.

No doubt I’ll explain more about my reasoning as I chart my success (or otherwise) across the year – but feel free to ask if you’re particularly intrigued by any of them!  And I’d love to hear if you have any burning ambitions of a similar scale.  Where have you always wanted to visit?  What have you always wanted to learn?  Is there any food that you fancy trying?

Here’s to the rest of the year progressing so well!

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Deadline for completion: 19th July 2018

Thirty Five at Thirty Five: The Quest 

More amusing pictures from in my thirties

Today I am thirty five.  As I commented in Monday’s blog post about signs of ageing, getting older doesn’t particularly bother me but I feel surprised that this is now my age.

There are lots of things that I thought I’d have done by now.  I’m not talking about major life events but smaller activities that just seem to have slipped by, like finally getting round to finishing Middlemarch (I’ve read the first hundred pages two or three times).

IMG_20150307_212947~2

I’ve decided that this is the year I’m going to address these niggling qualms.  Inspired by Catherine at Midlands Minimalist telling me about her husband’s fiftieth birthday resolution to do fifty things, I’ve set myself a quest: thirty five at thirty five.

Here, in the order that I thought of them, is my list of thirty five slightly random and entirely idiosyncratic goals that I plan to achieve before 19th July 2018:

 

  1. Read Middlemarch. See above.
  2. Try colonic irrigation.  Because why not?
  3. Try craniosacral therapy.  Ditto.
  4. Visit Paris alone.
  5. Visit a Greek island. Holiday already booked 🙂
  6. Hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak. Ticket already booked 🙂
  7. Watch The First Monday In May. Hardly a film classic but hey, this is my list!
  8. Go to St. Ives in Cornwall.
  9. Travel to Stockholm.
  10. Try African food.
  11. Revisit Warwick Castle for the first time since 1990.
  12. Swing across monkey bars. This is the most likely not to be achieved.
  13. Drive a sports car.
  14. Get a Margaret Dabbs pedicure.
  15. Get a photo at Land’s End. Ties in nicely with number eight!
  16. Visit Bristol.
  17. Make a Christmas cake using my grandad’s recipe.
  18. Learn some German.
  19. Go up the Shard.
  20. Visit the British Museum for the first time since 1997. Shocking, I know.
  21. See Stonehenge.
  22. Learn to make Florentines.
  23. Read a book on Korean history.
  24. Master a song on the guitar. Possibly Take Me Home Country Roads as this was the first song I learnt on it when I was a teenager.
  25. Rebuild my emergency savings pot.
  26. Try a pickled egg.
  27. Learn the proper names for clouds.
  28. Come off all my mental health medication.
  29. Visit a Japanese garden in autumn.
  30. Go to a fun fair.
  31. Learn to use a sewing machine.
  32. Visit the Lake District for the first time in twenty years.
  33. Have a day out in Leicester.
  34. Clear out Google Photos.
  35. Get a ninety minute massage.

No doubt I’ll explain more about my reasoning as I chart my success (or otherwise) across the year – but feel free to ask if you’re particularly intrigued by any of them!  And I’d love to hear if you have any burning ambitions of a similar scale.  Where have you always wanted to visit?  What have you always wanted to learn?  Is there any food that you fancy trying?

Here’s to the year ahead and the thirty five at thirty five challenge!

Twenty Signs of Ageing

Photographs of me in the first half of my thirties that made me laugh

It’s my birthday this week.  I’ll be 35.  It’s a scary thought, not because I particularly dread getting older but simply because I cannot believe that’s my age.  Surely I’m really still only seventeen… 25… 32?

Over the years, I’ve blogged about signs of ageing that I’ve observed along the way.  Having spotted another only last weekend, I thought I’d collate all of them here.  If nothing else, it’s helped me to realise how much my tech skills have improved; back in 2011 I still pasted entire web addresses in brackets after the text; had I not heard of hyperlinks?!

Hope you enjoy – and let me know which resonate with you!  Are there any that I’ve missed?  When did you first become aware of the passing years in your life?

Observed at 34 years and eleven months:

1 Folding picnic chairs seem like a perfectly reasonable item to own.

Went to a music festival and commented to my partner that we should have bought folding picnic chairs.

20 signs of ageing: me in my thirties

Observed aged 28 years and eight days:

2) You & a friend discuss whether to get the bottle of wine or just two glasses. 

While on holiday, I met up with an old uni friend & we went for dinner.  We both wanted white wine.  And we genuinely debated whether ordering two glasses warranted purchasing the whole bottle.  In the end, we did buy the bottle, but only after consideration.  Clearly the days of ‘buy two glasses get the rest of the bottle free’ are no longer such an allure.

3) Fruit & nut is considered a reasonable choice of chocolate bar. 

As a child, fruit & nut seemed an outrage: why ruin chocolate with other stuff?  Especially vaguely ‘healthy’ things?  Then lo, twenty years on, I find myself thinking ‘Umm, fruit & nut – yummy’.  When & why did this happen?!

4) Going to see the Dutch tulip fields sounds like a lovely mini-break option. 

My grandparents once went on a trip to see the tulips in bloom in the Netherlands.  At the time, this seemed liked the most ridiculous holiday I had ever heard.  The Netherlands?!  On holiday?! (to be said in a Peter Kay ‘Garlic bread?’ tone).  By my mid-teens, the Netherlands seemed far more alluring – well, Amsterdam came calling – but still the tulip fields remained off my holiday radar.  Then the other week I found myself in all seriousness uttering the phrase: ‘I’d really like to see the Dutch tulip fields in bloom’.  The implications of this are profound: I am clearly now more interested in gardening & flowers than sex & drugs.

5) You know your own underwear limitations.

Some time ago, my friend & I vowed that we would give up trying to haul our breasts into strapless bras.  We were in ‘French Connection’ in Birmingham’s Bull Ring at the time.  The ‘hoik wriggle’ move every few minutes, we decided, was a) a pain & b) simply not alluring.  So sufficient have I been in my resolve to ban strapless bras, my brain now simply edits out any items requiring anything other than a standard bra before I even enter the changing room.  The saddest part of all this is that I don’t even miss such skimpy tops, halterneck & boob tube-esque numbers.

Twenty signs of ageing: me in my thirties

6) Social arrangements regularly involve breakfast & always require a diary.

I’m not exactly sure when exactly this moment occurred, but at some point in the last couple of years, breakfast has suddenly become a reasonable time of day to meet up with people.  Hangovers &/or new boyfriends no longer rule any time before 12pm on a Saturday or Sunday out of the equation for when to get together.

Around the same time as ‘breakfast = feasible time for socialising’ occurred, the diary phenomena also emerged.  Even with closest friends, diaries are required to figure out when the next meeting can be arranged.  If you haven’t got your diary with you then you dare not make any definite plans.  Want to meet up on a weekday evening?  A slot about three weeks later can usually be found.  Want to meet up on a weekend?  This requires around three months of planning – & even then it’s likely to be for breakfast.

7) The only current hits you know are familiar thanks to secondary activities.

Despite vowing to never be like our parents & become totally unfamiliar with the music charts, it seems that after a certain point, we only know current songs because we have heard them through some secondary means.  Ie, we stop saying ‘Oh yes, I heard it on MTV/Top of the Pops/the Chart Show’ & start saying ‘Oh, I think I’ve heard this in the gym/at my exercise class/in a shop/in the dentist’s chair’.

8) ‘Last time around’ includes clothing you can remember wearing.

This moment was truly frightening.  Topshop, Saturday afternoon: I spy some oversize shirts.  First thought: ‘Ooo, they’re lovely.  I could wear them with leggings’.  Second thought: ‘Oh ****, I wore them with leggings circa 1990’.  Third thought: ‘Oh **** & double ****, no-one else within a five-metre radius of me was even born in 1990’.

On the bright side, I dug out my 1990 oversize shirt (complete with ruffle, just like some of the Topshop new season collection).  I have changed the buttons & it’s ready to wear.

Advantage *1 of ageing: you no longer have to always buy vintage, you can just dig it out of the back of your own wardrobe.

Observed aged 29 years and two months, on the eve of attending the first thirtieth birthday party for someone in my school year:

9) You start to forget events in your own life. 

This isn’t just about forgetting general stuff, or specific dates, but forgetting things that you have either done or experienced.  See post below for an example of it.  I don’t know whether it’s because as you get older, more stuff has happened in your life or whether it’s because there’s a greater time/distance between some of those events and the present.  Or maybe it’s just increased forgetfulness.

20160506_195359

10) You no longer think about money in Tens and Units. 

When you’re younger, spending projections are along the lines of ‘£5 for x, £20 for y’, with maybe the occasional large expense such as a car thrown in.  Somewhere along the line, your budgetary parameters shift and everything becomes Hundreds and Thousands (at this point I suspect that describing sums in this way – units, tens, hundreds and thousands – does as much to mark my age as carbon dating does for archaeological remains, clearly linking me to a specific phase in the National Curriculum for maths).

11) You bump into people you know in supermarkets, not nightclubs.

[As had happened to me the previous Thursday]

12) More than one person offers to drive on a night out. 

This happened today in relation to Saturday’s thirtieth party; I text friend saying ‘I’ll drive if you like’, she replies saying ‘I don’t mind driving’.  Gone are the days when said friend used to smear kebab across my dad’s ‘taxi’ at 2pm on a Friday and Saturday night.

14) You’re no longer shocked when a friend says they’re having a baby. 

When babies first start appearing among contemporaries, my initial reaction was shock (‘OMG, they’re pregnant/going to be a dad!  How can this be?  What do their parents think?  How will they cope?) followed by a dose of reality (‘We are in our twenties/they are married/own a house with their partner/this is a perfectly acceptable age to be having a child’).  I am now sufficiently old that the shock element has subsided.  News of pregnancy is now met with an instant reaction of ‘Ah, how lovely – great news!’.  Even babies that are a bit of a surprise to all involved are not the shock that they once were.  But that is no bad thing.  One of the most enjoyable nights I’ve had recently was with some old friends, playing with one of them’s new baby and discussing the imminent arrival of another’s.  She joined the world yesterday afternoon and I am very excited about meeting her, maybe even at this Saturday’s thirtieth. [Which friend was this, I’m now wondering].

Twenty signs of ageing: me in my thirties

Observed aged 29 years and three months, while out celebrating a school friend’s engagement:

15. It becomes increasing likely that more than one person in the group won’t be drinking because they’re breast feeding.

16. You are all amazed at how busy pubs get.

17. Booty calls become “How are the kids?” calls.

18. You’re really glad you wore flat shoes.

19. You no longer even humour the strange blokes that magically appear among you when you’re dancing.

20. You think they’ve made a mistake and played the same song twice in quick succession until you realise that you’re so out of touch with current music that you just think all the songs sound same.

 

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Vintage Fayre, Music Festival: the vintage tent at Coventry’s Godiva Festival

Vintage Fayre, Music Festival: the vintage tent at Coventry's Godiva Festival

I’ve recently written about Positive Outlook, a conscious clothing company based with a store in Coventry (and also available online!).  While researching this piece, I became more aware of the flourishing vintage scene in Warwickshire and the West Midlands.  Obviously I’d have been surprised if one of the huge trends of the last decade or so wasn’t evident around here.

Still it’s been fun to discover local sources for gorgeous second-hand goods!

I was able to delve further into this new-to-me world when at Coventry’s brilliant Godiva Festival this weekend.  FarGo Village, the city’s home for independent creative businesses (including Positive Outlook), hosted a vintage marquee and I had a good rummage while chatting to various stallholders.

Before I introduce them, I want to say a huge thanks to my partner Mark for patiently holding my Pepsi during the time I was in the tent.  The bars were refusing to give out lids and it’s hard to browse racks, rails and table tops with an open bottle of pop in one hand!  He’s waited outside a lot of shops and stalls as I’ve conducted important research 🙂

So if you’re committed to conscious clothing, here are some great central England sellers.

 A Little Bit of Vintage

Birmingham based Kathryn’s stall stocked some real gems.  With the label ‘vintage’ too often used to describe clothes that are simply used, it was refreshing to see racks filled with genuine old school items.  I was particularly taken with a colourful patterned housecoat and a red and white dress comprised of a peplum top and pencil skirt, complete with original red patent belt.

Kathryn also had a range of compacts, fans, purses and bags, all at great prices.  She’s on Facebook if you want to find out more.

I wish I’d bought: one of the lovely little bags, but I couldn’t choose between the woven one and beaded one (okay, I could have bought both but this was only supposed to be a research trip!).

Martha’s Bazaar

If you’re looking to create a distinctive look then check out Martha’s Bazaar.  There was so much buzz around the stall’s vintage Asian clothing that I struggled to get a look in but even from a distance you could see the beauty and quality.  The dresses, separates, scarves and shawls come in opulent colours with rich embroidery and embellishment.  Anyone who’s ever harboured a Princess Jasmine fantasy (and who hasn’t?!) needs to check them out.

Martha’s Bazaar sell Asian décor and accessories too.  They’re on Instagram, Depop, Twitter and Facebook.

I wish I’d bought: several sets of the always stylish jewelled bangles to stack up both wrists.

Millerchip’s Vintage

There aren’t many vintage stalls that capture the attention of tween boys but that’s what Cindy managed to do with her display of unusual pocket watches!  Her section of the tent was like an Aladdin’s cave, full of quirky jewellery and clothing from the 1940s to 80s.  I was reminded how the high street hasn’t always been synonymous with throwaway fashion when I stumbled across an old Dorothy Perkins top, complete with a ‘Made in Britain’ label.  Hard to imagine.

Vintage Fayre, Music Festival: the vintage tent at Coventry's Godiva Festival

Cindy offers vintage parties – what a great idea is that?  Find her on Twitter for more info.

I wish I’d bought: the patchwork suede purse – a fashionable twist on the Roy Cropper shopper.

Fab Fill a Bag by Heaven Vintage

The concept is simple and familiar at vintage fayres up and down the land: get a bag, fill it up and pay £10 for all the contents.  If it’s an eighties or nineties aesthetic that you’re after then this is the place to stock up!  There were tons of classic sportswear and casual options.  Jean jackets and cut-offs seemed especially popular with punters, which is always good to see given the environmental impact of producing new denim.

Heaven Vintage offer branded high street and branded goods alongside vintage.  They are on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr and also have a store at FarGo Village.

I wish I’d bought: an old school wax jacket.  It was too hot to even think about trying them on!

Mrs Flower’s Fabulous Card Company

Not vintage clothing, but I had to give a shout out to Alison and her amazing wares!  Alison has a passion for old cards, be they greetings, cigarette or the playing variety, and upcycles these ephemeral items into unique nostalgic artworks.  I ran out of superlatives, not only to describe the beautiful old designs but her skill in giving them a fresh look.  There were people buying gifts for Christmas already!

Vintage Fayre, Music Festival: the vintage tent at Coventry's Godiva Festival

As well as cards, Mrs Flower’s stall housed a selection of small vintage accessories and homeware.  Her website is here.

I wish I’d bought: given Adam West’s recent death, the Batman cards really pulled on my heart strings. Kerpow!

Do you have any ‘I wish I’d bought’ vintage moments?  Or have you splashed out on something that seemed frivolous only to find that you wear it all the time?  I’d love to hear your vintage tales; you can comment here or on social media (links below).

Thank you for reading!

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Scrimping with Style

In an article I wrote for Native Magazine last week, I reflected on how the greatest compliment I’ve ever received was being told by a complete stranger passing me in the street that she loved my style.  The fact that we were outside Vogue House in London only added to the magnitude of my pleasure at hearing this!

Charity shop skirt & the washbag that doubled as a clutch bag

I was also thrilled because what the kind stranger particularly liked was my skirt, which I’d bought for £2 from a Scope charity shop in Coventry the previous day.  Since that January day, I’ve worn the skirt innumerable times in all kinds of weathers and I always feel good in it.

We all have these kinds of treasures in our wardrobes.  The items that whenever we pull them on, we instantly get a confidence boost.  The garments that we know will get us through the day (and night too) feeling that bit more pulled together.

Yet as my skirt suggests, our fashion favourites aren’t necessarily the most expensive things that we own.  On the contrary, sometimes it’s the bargain finds that bring us the most happiness!  My friend Catherine over at Midlands Minimalist shares this view; she found that a cream and black Jean Muir skirt that she picked up in a dress agency fitted her perfectly and lasted for years.

Sartorial scrimping doesn’t mean sacrificing style. 

Choose to make-do-and-mend, whether for financial or ethical reasons, can drive ingenuity.  Not being able to chuck money at wardrobe crisis forces us to come up with more creative solutions.

Scrimping Style: washbag that doubled as a clutch bag || raeritchie.com

I admit that this is a lesson that I’ve had to learn over and over again.  I’ve made expensive mistakes, like limited edition trainers in a colour I loved but that I only wore once or twice because at the time I always wore heels.  In contrast, some maroon canvas pumps that I got for 20p from a jumble sale had a happy life on my feet last summer.  When I then wore out another pair of second hand trainers, I figured maybe it was time to invest in some brand new ones.

 

Last week I forgot to take a clutch bag on an overnight trip.  Given half a chance, I’d have purchased another but as that wasn’t possible I ended up using my small washbag instead.  I got several compliments on it and afterwards was glad to not have impulse purchase guilt.

Changing the buttons

Changing the buttons seems to have particularly magic powers in the realm of make-do-and-mend.  Over the years I’ve had two gorgeous second hand coats (one from a rail at the back of an ice cream parlour in the Cotswolds) that just needed replacement buttons to bring them back to life.  If you’re a bit uncertain about how to do this, Jen Gale of My Make Do and Mend Life has a straightforward guide to this entry level repair job.

Scrimping Style || raeritchie.com

Life styling

It isn’t just our wardrobes that can flourish when opt to make-do-and-mend.  It can benefit our spaces too.  Recently one of the sun loungers broke beyond repair, prompting a search for some new garden furniture.  Determined to continue the thrift theme, I dug two cream kitchen chairs that we no longer use out of the garage (purchased at the tip shop for £3) and found a butcher’s block in a local charity warehouse.  I added two bright cushions from John Lewis in the sale, and that little corner is now a new seating area.  And I feel inordinately proud of what £20 can do!

Scrimping with style

I’m now a bit obsessed with this idea of scrimping with style, looking around wondering what I can tackle next!

To help scratch my new itch, share your scrimping with style stories.  Tell your thrift treasure tales!

Reworked, reused, recycled – whatever it is, I’d love to hear about times when you’ve scrimped but the results have seemed anything but cheap.

You can comment below or on social media.  And if you’ve enjoyed reading this post, then please do share – it really does make a huge difference!

Thank you for reading 🙂

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