#35at35quest : The second update – is it too late to make a Christmas cake?

#35at35quest: A second update - Is it too late to make a Christmas cake?
My grandad’s handwritten list of Christmas cake ingredients

Most Wednesday mornings, I listen to the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft as I get ready.  Today I almost choked on my toothpaste as I heard them talk about their eighteen for 2018 idea, inspired by a listener’s thirty-five for their thirty-fifth.

Thirty-five for their thirty-fifth!  That’s what I’m doing too!  

As I explained in my original post, when my friend Catherine at Midlands Minimalist told me about her husband’s fiftieth birthday resolution to do fifty things, I set myself a quest to complete thirty-five activities between my thirty-fifth and thirty-sixth birthdays (19th July 2017 to 2018).

In turn, by the time of my first update, others had also taken up the baton and setting themselves their own version of this challenge.

Unlike the other Happier listener who created a thirty-five at thirty-five list, who cleverly planned a great mix of activities and new habits that would enhance her happiness, mine are a random and idiosyncratic selection.  I’ll bear her thinking in mind for when it comes to #36at36quest!

Here’s an update on how my #35at35quest is going

  1. Read Middlemarch. 

 

 

As my thirty-fifth birthday approached, I felt haunted by the many things 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).  This feels particularly pressing as George Eliot and I are from the same home town and I’ve always felt some strange connection to her for that reason (and being born in hospital named after her).

I bought a copy with the book token that I received for my birthday.  Good quick progress!  Alas it’s been sitting next to my bed gathering dust since then.

2. Try colonic irrigation.  

Because why not?

Maybe this is a good treatment to try post-Christmas indulgence.  Add to January to do list.

3. Try craniosacral therapy.  

Another ‘because why not?’.  Another with no progress.

4. Visit Paris alone.

My partner gifted me the Eurostar for my birthday but I’ve yet to get round to booking it.  There’s a theme developing…

Visit a Greek island - done || 35 at 35 quest: my second update - is it too late to make a Christmas cake?
Oia, Santorini, Greece

5. Visit a Greek island

Spent a heavenly week in Santorini at the end of September.

6.  Hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak

Ticket booked, going in May.

7.  Watch The First Monday In May.

Hardly a film classic but hey, this is my list!  And this one is now completed.  When I was ill and bored last week, I snuggled up on the sofa and popped this on.  A great insight into the powerful world of high end fashion, culture and publishing, but mildly disheartening watching all the beautiful people while feeling snotty, sweaty and generally gross.

8. Go to St. Ives in Cornwall.  

People have recommended the Minack Theatre and St Michael’s Mount while I’m down there.  A springtime trip, I think.

9. Travel to Stockholm.  

A family friend has conveniently moved there!  I’ve asked for Swedish krona for Christmas and will be heading over early in the new year.

10.  Try African food.

Another with no progress.  I’m going to take up the tip from the Happier podcast and print the list out and pop it somewhere I’ll see it so that I won’t forget what I want to do!

11.  Revisit Warwick Castle for the first time since 1990.

It’s a major historic site just twenty miles from where I grew up and now live again but I haven’t been since a school trip when I was seven.  I’m going to look out for special offers for entry in the new year.

12.  Swing across monkey bars.

From the start, I predicted that this is the most likely not to be achieved.  Still looking that way.

13.  Drive a sports car.  

Thanks to the FCA Group, I spent a happy week in the summer cruising round in a beautiful Fiat 124 Spider.  Huge fun!  I loved it and felt like Elizabeth Taylor the entire time.  Little Niece and Nephew loved it too!

14.  Get a Margaret Dabbs pedicure.

The *ultimate* treat for feet – and one to schedule for when the weather begins to warm up and sandals come out again.

15.  Get a photo at Land’s End.

See number eight.  Will tick the two boxes off together.

16.  Visit Bristol.

This British city seems to have everything going for it, including a vibrant arts and culture scene.  I’m embarassed that I’ve never been , not least because I’ve good friends who live there.

#35at35quest: A second update - Is it too late to make a Christmas cake?

17.  Make a Christmas cake using my grandad’s recipe.

My grandad was a baker and the last proper cake he made was for my christening in 1983.  I have a handwritten copy of his recipe for making a Christmas cake but it’s now 13th December.  Is it too late to make a Christmas cake?!

18.  Learn some German.

Haven’t done this but am learning Swedish thanks to the Memrise app!  Useful for #9.

19.  Go up the Shard.

20.  Visit the British Museum for the first time since 1997. Shocking, I know.

I walk past both of these on at least a monthly basis yet have still failed to go in either building.  However my partner and I are planning a day trip to London between Christmas and New Year so hoping to get two big ticks then!

21.  See Stonehenge.

To do on the way to or from #16.

22.  Learn to make Florentines.  

A friend who is a great baker has offered to show me how.  I wonder if she has time in the next week or so…

23.  Read a book on Korean history.

I wrote this before the current nuclear crisis kicked off.  It feels a bit too terrifying now.

24.  Master a song on the guitar.

I was thinking possibly Take Me Home Country Roads as this was the first song I learnt on it when I was a teenager.  I just need to pick up a guitar.  The one in our living room would suffice.

25.  Rebuild my emergency savings pot.

Hmm, no progress again.  The perils of trying to build up a career as a freelancer!

26.  Try a pickled egg.  

This item provoked more reaction than any other on the list.  Pickled eggs divide opinion!  A friend kindly supplied the goods, a fancy Chinese spiced version.  It was tasty.

I’m building up to try one of the eyeball looking ones from a chip shop as I don’t imagine that they’d be as refined.

27.  Learn the proper names for clouds.

Another reason to print the list off and leave it somewhere prominent.  I’d totally forgotten about this.

28.  Come off all my mental health medication.

A big tick for this one.  I am now off all my medication having gone cold turkey about a month ago.  I definitely DO NOT recommend this course of action.  Not a good idea.

29.  Visit a Japanese garden in autumn.  

My family friend who has moved to Sweden bought me a voucher for this.  We had a lovely afternoon out in October visiting this oriental corner of Lincolnshire.

30.  Go to a fun fair.  

Why is it so difficult to do things that we want to do?!

31.  Learn to use a sewing machine.  

Despite two generous offers of help with this, I haven’t done anything about it.  Retrieving the machine from under the bed might help.

32.  Visit the Lake District for the first time in twenty years.

Another one to be scheduled.  Looks like the next seven months are going to be busy with weekends away!

33.  Have a day out in Leicester.

I live about fifteen miles from this city and haven’t been there for several years, and even then only to a work event at the university.  Maybe another day out for between Christmas and New Year.

34.  Clear out Google Photos.  

2014, 2015 and 2016 are sorted.  A strangely satisfying task!

35.  Get a ninety minute massage.

I wish.

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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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