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Challenge #15 – completed!

11 Sep

I have just finished my fifteenth challenge on my 40 Before 40 list – to have something that I have written published. I can now officially call myself a published author!

Unfortunately, I am not publishing my debut novel (but I hope that will be coming soon) but a book of travel tips. I found the job online through a freelancing website and applied for it. It took me a lot longer than I thought it would to research and format the book but I finally handed it in last weekend. I got confirmation that the book has been accepted and will be published early this week.

I will get paid for the book, when it is released on Amazon in the next month or so. The amount of money won’t break the bank and that wasn’t the main motivation for doing it but it is a nice bonus.

Up until now, I have resisted marking this challenge as completed because I have had work published on other blogs, for example, but I have never been paid or rewarded in any way. I think part of being a published writer is that you get money for the work you have done.

It was interesting to take on a project like this because:

a) this type of writing was something completely new to me. I had a brief from the client that I needed to fulfil and a deadline when I had to submit by. A lot of the writing that I have done up until now has only been for me and, therefore, I haven’t had a hard deadline or a list of requirements to fulfil;

b) I was able to appreciate how much time and effort that goes into the researching, writing and editing process. These processes are very different from one another so you have to use different skills or learn them quite quickly;

c) my biggest problem with writing, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, is that I find it hard to finish anything. I happily start writing about something but it soon goes downhill as I start thinking that what I’m writing makes no sense, isn’t good or both. I did want to stop this assignment. I was under no contractual obligation to complete it but I decided to push through and finally finish something. I am so glad that I did. I felt so satisfied that I had successfully completed the assignment. Plus, at the point in time when I thought about quitting I was about 75% of my way through. If I had’ve quit, it would’ve been a huge waste of effort.

I now feel more motivated to try and get some non-fiction writing projects and I seem to be gathering momentum with my fiction novel that has been parked out of sight and out of mind for a while.

If anyone would be interested in getting a copy of the book when it becomes available, please let me know. Though it will only be of use to you if you are planning on visiting a very specific place in Switzerland.

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Update on #40Before40

1 Sep

It is now two years since I decided to start my 40 Before 40 challenge. Basically I set myself 40 challenges to do before I become 40-years-old.

Here is the second annual update about how things are progressing.

To date I have completed 11 out of the 40 challenges. It doesn’t sound like a lot but I have at least 10 of the longer challenges started and well under way. I do still have three years left to go but I know that this time will fly by.

Here are the six challenges that I have completed over the past year:

Challenge #3 – Go paragliding

Challenge #17 – Write a diary for a year

Challenge #25 – Cook every recipe from one cookbook

Challenge #29 – Read The 40 Books that Every Woman Should Read

Challenge #31 – Take up a new sport

Challange #39 – Downsize

Here are some of the challenges that are currently in progress:

Challenge #2 – Visit 40 countries in Europe

So far I have visited 31 countries so far but by the end of 2019 that total should be up to 33. I have already chalked off all of the main countries off the list. Now I am left with some of the harder to get to places to get to. I hope that I will be able to visit at least 3 more countries next year but I will have to see when is the best time to visit some of the places.

Challenge #8 – Watch every movie on iMDB Top 250 Films list

I have seen 168 films from the list, so there is still some work to be done. I haven’t watched anything since around June time. I think movie are the sort of thing you enjoy more in the winter time. As the nights are drawing in, it means that it won’t be long until I sitting watching films again.

Challenge #26 – Learn how to fold 40 origami designs

The designs actually take longer to make that I thought they would but I have enjoyed learnign the designs that I have made so far. This is one challenge that I hope to have completed before the end of 2019.

Challenge #27 – Read 40 novels in German and Challenge #35 – Read 40 non-fiction books

For most of this year I have been reading English non-fiction books and these two challenges have been forgotten about. I am planning on focusing on these challenges in the last three months of the year.

Challenge #37 – Have a haircut at least 4 times a year

I prefer going to the dentist that going to the hairdresser. I have been doing well on this challenge until my haridresser ghosted me and moved back to the UK. I am now not convinced that the replacement I have found is right for me but I will stick with her or find someone else to do this so that I keep on track.

I have also decided to make one change to my list. I am going to change my Challenge #40 from starting and maintaining my own travel website to create a piece of artwork. I never intended on changing any of the challenges that I had chosen but after trying to start writing for this website, I realise that writing about travel wasn’t giving me as much enjoyment as I thought it would. The whole point of the list was to make sure that there were things on the list that I would enjoy doing. So, sorry, but that challenge needs to be replaced.

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Book Challenge by Erin 11.0 – completed

28 Aug

I have officially finished the first round of the Book Challenge by Erin 11.0 that started on 1st July. The idea is to read a book from 10 different categories. This is the third time I have participated in the challenge and, once again, I have read some interesting books that I wouldn’t have read off my own back.

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Here is a short breakdown of the 10 books I read:

Freebie (any book that is at least 200 pages long):

Stories We Could Tell by Tony Parsons

I bought this from a second hand book shop about six months ago and I had no idea what it was about but I liked the look of the front cover.  I found this book very funny and relatable. I love some of the descriptions in this book. The story takes place on the day that Elvis died and tells the stories of three friends writing for a music magazine.

A book beginning with “F”:

Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

This is one of the best books I have ever read. It was a long read, about 650 pages and the style of the writing took some getting used to. The book is about the Knight’s Templar and their alledged involvement in many historical events. The books centres on three bored editors at a publishing house who become obsessed by a theory that is put forward by a potential author. The plot is a complicated mix of history, religion and politics, which is right up my street. I absolutely loved this book, even though it was a challenging read at times.

A book with “rain”, “thunder” or “lightning” in the title:

The Rainmaker by John Grisham

I think this is the second Grisham novel that I have read. I like the style of writing – it is easy to read and the action flows at a good pace. This book was about insurance companies refusing to pay out on a policy. It was interesting to learn more about how these companies make their money and how the underdog can take on corporations. I wasn’t so keen on the ending. It seemed a little unrealistic to me but I won’t spoil the ending for people who want to read it themselves.

A book with a building on the cover:

The Last Tenant by Sarah Kisielowski

This is a book that was written by a friend of mine who goes to the same writing club as me. She has told me a lot about the plot and about the writing process and I am really interested to read the story for myself. The story centres around a man who has to go to Berlin to clear out the apartment of his maternal grandfather, who has passed away. He finds out about his family history through a series of recorded tapes that his grandfather has made. He is surprised to learn the truth about his family.

A book written by an author who has an initial in their name:

Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

I was slightly sceptical about how good this book was going to be. I mean I loved Harry Potter (when I finally got round to reading it) but not every one can right for children and adults with the same degree of success. However, it turns out that J. K. Rowling is the exception that proves the rule. The best thing about this book was that it was set in the countryside and it reminded me a lot about the village where I grew up. When a vacancy suddenly becomes available on the parish council when one of the councillors dies (that is what a causal vacancy is), there is competition to fill the role. The consequences are tragic and thought-provoking but there were part of the story that made me laugh out loud.

A book with an item of clothing in the title:

The Black Glove by Geoffrey Miller

I struggled to find a book for this category and I only found this one by searching the library catalogue. I read this book in one sitting. It was another easy read about the kidnapping of a man’s son who is then found murdered. The plot is complicated but the writing makes the action zip along at a good pace.

A book set in India:

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

I’ve never read anything by Rudyard Kipling, apart from a few poems, so I thought this might be a good book to read. Even though many people claim that this is Kipling’s best work, I wasn’t a big fan of it. It is a semi-autobiographical novel about a young boy growing up in India. I did like the descriptions of Indian culture and reading about how difference life is compared with living in Europe during modern times but the plot didn’t pull me in so that I wanted to read non-stop.

A book shortlisted for the Booker Prize:

Milkman by Anna Burns

This is a recent winner of the Booker Prize. I have heard quite a few bad reviews about it but I actually thought it was well-written. It took me a while (about 50 pages) to realise where the book was set – Ireland – because not much background detail or details to help the reader orientate himself to what is happening in the book. The narrator isn’t even mentioned by name (I don’t think). The narrative refers to “them” and “us” which, if you don’t realise where the book is set, it wouldn’t make any sense. I have heard people say that there is no plot to the book but I definitely thought there was enough things happening in the book to make it entertaining.

A book with a character who has supernatural powers: 

Carrie by Stephen King

I thought this book would keep me up all night. Even though it is a horror story, it wasn’t a blood-and-gore-type story. It’s about a girl with a very abnormal upbringing, who develops the ability to move things with her mind. I felt sorry for the title character because she is very misunderstood by her class mates and the people around her. The book ends with catastophic consequences for the whole town where she lives. I actually read this book very quickly and would recommend it to someone who wanted to read something that was a thriller without being too terrifying.

A book with the same title as a book in another genre:

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

This book made me cry. I can’t remember the last time I cried while I read a book. The story is about a kid who has facial deformities and what happens when he joins a mainstream school. The book is a children’s novel but it is also interesting to read as an adult. Keep the tissues ready for the ending though!

As usual I have decided to tackle the bonus round as well. It has take me so long to get round to writing up the first round of the challenge that I have already finished five out of the ten books that I have picked for the bonus round. So it might not be too long before I’m writing about next ten books I have read for the challenge.

40 Before 40: Challenge #3

26 Aug

Challenge Accepted. Challenge Completed!

My third challenge from my list is now completed. I have always wanted to go paragliding and for one reason or another I have never got around to it.

I began trying to complete this last year. During our trip to South America we tried and failed to arrange the excursion; first in Mendoza in Argentina with the Andes as a backdrop (but communication issues meant that we didn’t manage it) and then in Iquique in Chile with the landing spot on the beach (but the wind was too strong and we weren’t allowed to go).

Fast forward to yesterday and my third time lucky in Interlaken, Switzerland. Although it would have been a lot cheaper doing this activity on holiday in another country, we did have the added benefit or being able to choose a day to go when the weather was good to avoid being disappointed. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The skies were blue without a hint of a cloud and the sun was shining.

First of all we had to choose our pilot. When I found out that one of them was called Haydon, which is the same name as my nephew but spelt slightly differently, I knew that I had to fly with him. He was Australian as well, which meant a lot of banter and jokes during the flight.

Taking off was much easier that I thought it would be. You basically have to run as fast as you can until you take off and you run out of ground. I didn’t even have time to be nervous because it happened so fast. Plus the staff did a great job of making me feel completely at ease but perhaps not when someone mentioned, “We should be ok. I watched the Youtube video last night and I think I can work out how to do it.”

The feeling of being up in the air, hands and arms dangling free, was completely liberating. I genuinely felt completely safe throughout the whole flight. We were only up in the air for about 20 minutes, which went by very fast, but it worth it for the views.

Before landing you can do some rollercoaster tricks and loop-the-loops but I get sick just watching people on the teacup rides at fun fairs so I decided not to. I was more than happy to cruise down and enjoy the view instead.

Landing was almost as easy as taking-off. You have to start running a bit when you hit (not literally) the ground and after a few steps you are back on terra firma.

I am so glad that I made this one of my challenges and I have no idea why I left it for so long to do it. I would highly recommend anyone to try this, unless you have a fear of heights. I could have happily gone straight back up to do another flight as soon as I had landed.

Weekend in Luxembourg

26 Jul

Last weekend we went to Luxembourg. I have never been before and as one of my challenges is to visit 40 countries in Europe it was time to change that. So Luxembourg is officially the 31st country that I have visited in Europe.

Luxembourg is a small country and, to be honest, there wasn’t a lot to see and do there so I was glad that we had decided to only make a weekend out of it. But the city itself is charming and very beautiful.

Here are some of the things that we did:

Free Walking Tour

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you will know that I am a big fan of taking a free walking tour in any and every city around the world. It was good that we did this on the first day so that we could get a good grasp of the city and find our bearings. It was during the tour I realised that the city really isn’t that big at all.

We visited St Michael’s Church during the tour. Mainly because of my education, I am a bit of a church geek and I was blown away by the stained glass window in this church. I know it sounds like a strange thing to say but the windows looked so modern even thought the church was one of the oldest in the city. Of course, it could be that the church had been recently renovated but they are still the nicest windows I have ever seen in a church.

 

The Bock Casements

On the outskirts of the city are the remains of the underground tunnels from a fortress. The fortress was built to help protect the city and over the centuries the enemy had tried to raze the fortress. Only a few towers from the fortress is still standing today but 17 kilometers of the casements or the tunnel of it are left. It was fun exploring what is left of the tunnels. Some of the tunnels were very narrow and I had to make sure constantly that I didn’t hit my head on the roof.

Beer and Food

I didn’t realise how many Luxembourgish beers there are. We tried a couple of them and were impressed! I found the prices of the drinks and the food as well to be very similar to Swiss prices. It definitely didn’t turn out to be a cheap holiday in that respect.

We didn’t try any specialities from Luxembourg on the food front but we did find a very nice sushi place for lunch one day and we had a meat and cheese board for dinner on the first night which was excellent.

Skaters

It’s always interesting to see how local people entertain themselves on a Saturday night. Luxembourg did not disappoint. We walked past a stakeboard shop that was holding an event. Basically the whole road was blocked off and they were staking down the road, hitting a ramp and then jumping over a bin and landing on the other side. Just when I thought I had seen it all, one of them decided to do this naked. It took the poor guy 4 times to land the jump on the other side of the bin. By the time he landed the jump to raptuous applause he was covered head to toe (and also in between) with grazes and brusies.

I have no idea why the police weren’t called to break up the disturbance but I was glad that they didn’t. The people who had “organised” this were relatively responsible and did stop proceedings to let traffic pass safely.

 

My next travels will be to Dublin in August (but I have already been to Ireland so that won’t count towards my list of 40) and then to Belgrade, Serbia in Septemeber.

 

40 Before 40: Challenge #29 completed!

8 Jul

After more page-turning than I can remember, I am finally finished with my Challenge 29! I have now read all of the books on the list of 40 books every woman should read. Some of the books I didn’t enjoy very much but others of them I loved. I am so glad that I decided on this as one of my challenges. I will definitely be hunting down more books by the same authors in the near future.

Here are the last seven books that I read to complete the list:

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

This book was incredible. I was grasping for breath by the end because I was reading the pages so quickly so that I could get to the end that I forgot to breathe. The characters in the book are all connected to a book called The History of Love somehow and the origins of the book is exploded by switching between the past and the present. The story isn’t long but it is so well written that I had trouble putting the book down. The ending took me by complete surprise. An incredible read!

Broken Harbour by Tana French

When I realised that this was a crime novel I was so excited about reading the book and having found another crime writer to read. I wish I hadn’t wasted my enthusiasm. I thought that the crime and what had happened was leaning towards the very obvious side and for me the pace of the story was relatively slow. It’s a long book; I read pages and pages wondering what was going to be the thrilling out come but I was left constantly disappointed. It was different to the crime novels that I normally read in that there was more description but I prefer crime stories where the description is kept to a minimum so the story has a punchier pace.

My Antonia by Willa Cather

This book was strange. It’s set in the America Midwest and the story revolves around the Shimerda family, who move to America from Bohemia, and their hardships in establishing a new life. Jim, who is the narrator of the story, falls in love with the daughter of the family, Antonia, and learns to read and takes an interest in cooking and housekeeping while becoming very popular with the locals, while he leaves to finish his education. He arrives back to find that she is married with children. It’s a sad story full of regret and missed chances. Jim realises that he never should have left Antonia behind and so does the reader.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

I had looked at some reviews of this book online and I wasn’t looking forward to reading it. Firstly, it is very long (more than 700 pages) and, secondly, there were a lot of unfavourable opinions about the book. I did take me a while to get into the book. It is so descriptive that I was beginning to wonder if the online reviews were going to turn out to be right. Once I got used to the style of writing though, the story was enjoyable. The books centres around two young architects and how different their lives end up as they make different creative and lifestyle choices during their life. The book is essentially about greed and selfishness but I also think there is a message of hope that individuals can triumph over the establishment.

Cherry by Mary Kerr

This was an autobiographical work about the author’s adolescent period. The story itself was very interesting as was the style of the writing. The author used the second person singular throughout the book which is not typical for an autobiography or most other fiction books. It gave the story a very personal edge to it – it felt like I was experiencing what happened to the author at the same moment that I was reading it. Parts of the story were hysterically funny, others I could completely identify with. The book is actually a sequel to an earlier book but I don’t feel I missed out by not having read the first installment.

Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

This book was non-fiction and retold the story of a family growing up in the Bronx in the late eighties. Most of the people ended up in jail, regularly took drugs and had problems with their family relationships. It was a long but interesting read that made me realise how privileged my upbringing was.

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

I wanted to like this book so much but I can’t say that I did that much. The book is divided into different notebook that author Anna Wulf documents her life. She then tries to tie all of the stories together in a final ‘golden’ notebook. I found the structure confusing to being with and then one of the notebooks was all about communisim in the 1930s. I’m not a fan of politicial discussion in non-fiction books. Considering the book was written in the 60s, there were liberal discussions about sex and the role of women. I’m now not in a rush to read any more of Lessing’s books which I am disappointed about considering she is a Nobel Prize winner.

And that is all 40 books from the list finished and another one of my challenges is completed. I am so glad that I decided to include this on my list: I’ve read so many books from authors that I haven’t heard of before. Not all of the books have been easy to read or 100% enjoyable but the ones that I did enjoy made the whole challenge worth it.

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40 Before 40: Challenge #31 – completed!

26 Jun

Number 31 on my 40 Before 40 list was to take up a new sport. I have already taken up an old sport this year by getting back into netball and I have been more active and getting back into running and cycling now that my knee injury is no longer a problem.

The sport I have decided to take up is shooting. Before I moved to Switzerland I had never even held a gun nevermind actually used one. But living with the President of one of the local shooting clubs got me intrigued and when I said that I wanted to go along and try it, he was (relatively) happy to take me along.

I’ve now participated in a few competitions and I seem to be improving and getting the hang of it each time I practice. It doesn’t seem all that hard, does it? But you have to be so precise and stay as still as possible while pulling the trigger and dreading the bang coming.

I did wonder if shooting is a sport. Some people might argue that it’s not. The fact that it is in the Olympics isn’t conclusive evidence because there are lots of sports that aren’t in the Olympics, like my beloved netball.

A definition of sport that I found on Wikipedia is sport includes all forms of competitive physical activity or games which,  through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants, and in some cases, entertainment for spectators. So that settles it! Shooting is definitely a sport.

I’m most proud of having hit the target in the dead centre at the Feldschiessen competition in May. This competition is harder than a regular competition because you have to shoot a certain number of times in a set amount of time (6 shots in 6 minutes then 3 shots in a minute, then another 3 shots in a minute and finally 6 shots in 1 minute). If you don’t manage to pull the trigger within the time limit, the shots don’t count. It means that the pressure is on, especially when someone is behind you shouting out how much time is left. I shot a 100 and 96 in that competition. Unfortunately, at the range they don’t print any number above 95, instead they print a star, which is why on the photo you can see that I have 2 stars. I was only 2 points on winning a prize but the 100 made up for my disappointment.

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The shooting club, where I am a now an active member, celebrated its 150 year anniversary last weekend. There was a celebratory dinner on Friday with entertainment and on Saturday the club house was open to anyone who wanted to come and shoot. As I was working all day manning the bar, I didn’t get to shoot but I will be going to a training session soon to enter the anniversary shooting competition. Then in August I will probably go to Wyberschiessen (Ladies Shooting Competition) in the local area to compete for the first time in that competition.

I’m glad that I choose a sport that isn’t completely focused on cardio. Not because I don’t have the desire to do something physical but because it is a sport that can teach me different things. I have learnt (or am still learning) how to achieve complete concentration and how to remain calm under pressure, which are both good skills to have in life.

My challenge was to take up a new sport and I will be sticking this one in the future.