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Cheese Dreams

20 Oct

This year I eaten my weight in cheese. I’m not exaggerating! And I changed one of my 40 Before 40 travel-related challenges to take part in a cheese masterclass course. Which I completed a few weeks ago!

It was a dream come true (but not one of those weird ones that people blame on cheese). Our host was Sherly, originally from Korea but now fully integrated into Swiss life and a certified Swiss Cheese Sommelier!

The 9 cheeses we sampled

She told us so much about cheese that I never knew, like Swiss cheese is mainly made from raw not pasteurised milk, which knives to use for different cheeses, how to plate different cheeses exactly how a cheese sommelier would and how to describe the distinct flavours of the cheese.

I was surprised about how different all the cheeses were. The hardest thing was deciding which one was my favourite – completely impossible when all of them were amazing.

Plating up like the best of ’em!

Finally, after being filled to the gills with cheese, it was time to learn how to make a Swiss classic – Chäse-Chüechli. Which is also impossible to say sober nevermind after a few drinks. A Chäse-Chüechli is a cheese tart that is made with leftover (I’ve never left any cheese so not sure how this happens) cheese. So simple to make and delicious as part of my lunch the next day.

Simply delicious!

In the past few weeks we’ve been trying new cheeses and, of course, Fondue season has started so cheese is very much still on the agenda and will be for the next few months.

Homemade

30 Aug

The weather has taken a turn for the worse. I’m sort of glad because it was far too hot but now it’s just turned into torrential rain resulting with me being completely reluctant to leave the house for anything that isn’t a life-or-death situation.

As a result I have spent the weekend reading (yay!), watching films (yay!) and completing one more of my 40 Before 40 Challenges (yay!). This weekend I’ve made jam!

I’ve always wanted to have a go at making jam but I was scared to. Something that most people normally buy in a supermarket must be very difficult to make, right? WRONG! I found it suprisingly easy.

I didn’t pick my own fruit because a) a bit late in the fruit picking season to go and pick them myself, b) it’s been raining – a lot, and c) if I did go and pick them myself I would have spent most of time eating them rather than just picking them and putting them in the basket. As there was an offer on in the supermarket and I love them, I made blueberry jam.

My first attempt at blueberry jam

As I say it was relatively easy and you don’t need many ingredients. I used blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and plant-based pectin which makes my jam vegan! You basically put everything in a pot and boil it! I was always so impressed by the people on GBBO making their own jam and now that magic is gone.

We had it for breakfast and it’s very tasty and not too sweet!

I also decided to make lemon curd – another favourite on GBBO that I’ve always been amazed by. It is a bit tricker than making jam because the eggs can split but it turned out great. My wrist wasn’t too happy at the constant stirring though! I actually think this tastes better than what you can buy in the shops but as you can’t buy this in the shops here I guess that’s not so impressive!

Homemade Lemon Curd

I now have enough jam and lemon curd to last for a few months and I won’t hesitate to make them again on a rainy afternoon!

Challenge Update

21 Aug

It’s shortly coming up to 3 years since I started my 40 Before 40 challenge so it’s time for a round-up and also to make some changes.

It was never my intention to make any changes to the list but (surprise, surprise) because of COVID-19 I’ve decided to take the travel related items off the list and replace them with other challenges. My aim is still to complete the travel related items but not within the timeframe.

So from now on the following five challenges have changed to:

2. Complete a Masters programme

13. Self publish an ebook of flash fiction

18. Take part in a Cheese Masterclass with a Cheese Sommelier

27. Read an average of a book a week

36. Learn how to make jam

I realise there is a huge difference between making jam and travelling business class on a long haul flight but needs must! I’d rather have something ‘easier’ to complete than not get all the challenges completed. And the challenge I have replaced will still say on my bucket list so it’s not like they will disappear forever!

With two years to go, I have completed 22 of the challenges, with 9 of these being completed in the last year. I also have quite a few challenges in progress like going alcohol-free for a year (almost 200 days done!), I’m still working my way through the film list and I will be starting a Masters in September all being well, so it’s convenient that that is now on the list.

So I am hopefully still on track to complete all the challenges in 2 years time!

Challenge #35 – completed

6 Jul

My aim to read 40 non-fiction books before I am 40 is over. I’ve never been a big lover of non-fiction so I decided to attempt to clear my shelves of some of the books I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t. I must say I enjoyed this challenge more than I thought I would. Here are the books I read to complete the challenge:

The Healing Self: Supercharge your immune system and stay well for life by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi – I get the irony of me finishing reading this book, just as lockdown started. There were interesting anecodes in the book but I would say that there was anything majorly life changing about the book. It advocated practising meditation, eating less meat and not drinking alcohol which are fairly standard practices for people who want to improve the quality and longevity of their lives.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – this book is about the author’s struggle with coming to terms with her husband’s death while dealing with her daughter’s serious illness. I found it fairly indulgent and the most interesting part for me was how she dealt with her grief rather than her feelings of obligation to her daughter. A lot of the thoughts about grief and loss were familiar to me. I wished the whole book was devoted to exploring this rather than just dipping into the subject.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff – I credit this book with being the main reason I managed to finish the first draft of my novel. It’s a great read about why people fail to tackle goals they set themselves and how to recify this. There are lots of practical examples and tips to help you achieve any goal, no matter how big or small. To read a full review, check out my writer’s website here.

How to Get What You Want in the Workplace by John Gray – this is the third book of John Gray’s I’ve read for this challenge. I like the advice he gives and how it makes you rethink about how communications between men and women differ. In some respects, this books gives very similar advice and observances to the other books I read but I still found it useful and I’m trying to incorporate the advice into situations at work, though that is difficult at the moment when I’m working from home!

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox – This was a very interesting and funny book. The author looked at all aspects of English life from the pub, to queuing and attitudes towards brands of cars. Parts of it were funny and parts really made me think differently about social situations and the class system in England. I would love to read more books like this.

Dare To Connect by Susan Jeffers – I’ve tried to read this book before but failed. I managed to get through it this time and loved it. (I guess before it wasn’t the right time to read it). It’s all about connect with people and how having the right connections with the right people can help you achieve happiness. A great book.

A Rebel’s Guide to Inner Peace by Mahima Lucille Klinge – part autobiographical work, part self-help book, I found this interesting. I actually received this when I went to a conference arranged by the author last year. It was interesting to read more about how she had come to be at the point in her life where she was coaching people to improve their lives and as a reminder about the things I learnt at that conference. I am grateful I went on the conference and read this book as I benefited from it greatly.

How to Work with Just About Anyone by Lucy Gill – after reading this book, I realised that I have it easy as work. All the examples given in the book seemed to involve utterly awful people. If my work colleagues were that bad I would quit my job and be done with it. There was some good advice though which, again, I will hope to use in the future… if I haven’t forgotten it all after working from home for so long.

Finding Ultra by Rich Roll – as running an Ultra marathon is also on my list of things to do before I am 40, I thought this would be a great place to find tips for me to use in my training. The author was an over-weight middle-aged man who realised his lifestyle was slowly killing him so he changed his lifestyle and fell into long distance running. He went on to complete in the world’s most grueling competitions, such as Ironman races. It’s an inspiring story and, although I doubt I will compete in Ironman’s, I have learnt a lot about training for an Ultra. I highly recommend it if you are interested in competing over longer distances.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – this book had me in floods of tears at the end and I don’t care who knows it. The author wrote the book as a legacy to his young children after he was diagnose with terminal cancer. So many parts of the book struck a chord with me and the book was a reminder that although life is short, you can achieve your dreams, whatever they are.

I have now completed 22 of my 40 challenges. I’m starting to worry about completing the travel-related ones on time but I am pushing on regardless.

Sobering thoughts

11 Jun

100 days ago I started the 7th challenge on my 40 Before 40 list – to go alcohol-free for a year.

I had several reasons to add this to my list. The first reason was related to health reasons. I’d happily drink pint after pint without any issue. The problem is not only the affect on your liver and internal organs but also the affect it has on your waistline. Drinks contain more calories than you realise. As I am trying to get fit, it made sense that this had to go.

The second reason was because I realised how many days I have wasted in my life because of alcohol. My hangovers last for about 3 days now depending on how much I’ve had to drink. Weekends have been wasted and plans not followed through because I felt terrible. Avoiding alcohol would mean being more productive, at least in theory.

And, I suppose, the final reason was because I have given up alcohol in the past for about 3 months. I gave up one January because I was running a half marathon in mid-March and managed to smash my PB. I know this wasn’t 100% due to giving up alcohol but it was a postive contribution to it.

So, here I am at just over 100 days into my 365 challenge and, therefore, in unchartered territory. It was always my intention to start the challenge on 1st March 2020. I didn’t realise it would coincide with a global pandemic. I’m not sure if the timing is a blessing or a curse. The temptation of going out to pubs and restaurants has been completely removed but I have a feeling that when the world reopens (whenever that may be) the biggest party known to mankind will happen and I will be sat in the corner nursing a tepid tap-water!

If I’m being brutally honest, I haven’t missed drinking at all. There are so many alcohol-free alternatives on the market these days that I’ve had plenty of options to choose from. Many of them have a similar taste to the *real* stuff so I haven’t been yearning for that unmistakable hit of hops. However, I can’t say I feel super-duper fantastic for my efforts. I’ve not lost any weight and I don’t feel any different to when I started. But I’m happy to blame this on COVID-19.

I have also been surprised at how many of my friends have suggested drinks and brands of non-alocholic drinks to try which has been a big help and a great source of support!

Even though I’m about a third of the way through this challenge, I have a feeling it’s might get tougher as time ticks on. But I’ll let you know my progress along the way.

One of my favourite non-alcoholic beers – so far

Challenge #9 – completed

4 Jun

Lockdown life handed me another great opportunity to tick another of my challenges off my list. You would be right for guessing this doesn’t have anything to do with my challenges that involve travelling. This challenge required focus and quiet time with my laptop.

It’s a lot of people’s dreams to write a novel and it has been one of my dreams for a long time. I’ve tried and failed to complete a first draft of a novel a few times – most recently in 2018. I decided lockdown was the perfect opportunity to try and crack the mission I’ve wanted so much to achieve but have so far failed.

So at the end of April, with a headful of ideas that I thought might be worth writing about, I started with the intention of finishing the first draft by the end of May. I wanted to write at least 800 words a day and, because my mum wasn’t able to come and visit but I had to take my holidays from my day job, I decided to write 2’000 words on these days.

I know it doesn’t sound like a huge amount of words but it is. Especially when you are writing without a definite plan of what is happening in the story. I knew exactly what I wanted the main character to be like and what difficulties she had to overcome but I didn’t know much else.

Some days it was easy to reach 800 words and some days it was hard because either I was tired or I wasn’t sure what was happening in that bit of the story. But I managed to finish my first draft on the afternoon of the 31st May 2020. I can honestly say I’ve never felt so emotionally and physically drained in all my life.

The story is far from perfect and the writing is scary in places despite it not being a horror story but I’ve tired so many times to write a first draft and failed that it is a big achievement.

I need to put a lot more thought into the characters and the plot which will be hard work but I have a good framework to go back to and improve. I also have a list of things as long as my arm that I need to research!

For now I’m having a break from the story. A writer friend of mine suggested two to three months before going back to it which seems like a good timeline to me. I woke up from a dream last night, realised what I was dreaming about needed to be included in my book, made a note of it on my phone and fell back to sleep so on a subconscious level I’m still thinking about it.

I have been thinking if a publishing house might want to publish it but even if they don’t after countless revisions, I’ll probably self-publish it anyway! That seems like a long way off in the distance. For now I’m glad to have a break from it and enjoy getting back to writing some short stories and come back to my porject last on this year.

If you are interested I have set up my own writer’s website. I’m also trying to blog semi-regularly there about all things writing and stories as well. Check it out if you have time: www.lyndsaylomax.com

Challenge #26 – completed!

19 May

Last weekend I finished another one of my challenges. I have now learnt 40 origami designs!

There are so many videos on the internet which so many different and designs and techniques that it has been a great challenge to complete during lockdown. All you need is a stack of paper and internet connection.

Here are the last 15 designs I made to complete the challenge. Some of them were easier than others. I tried to make a balance of easy and difficult ones to make the challenge more interesting.

In case you’re in any doubt they are (top left to bottom right): a tie, tulip, diamond, envelope, box, butterfly, sweet, star, dress, jellyfish (looks to me more like a UFO), heart, sword and 3 dinosaurs recreating Jurassic Park!

I think my favourite one from this batch was the butterfly. I’ve tried to make a couple of butterflies before but never managed it. This was fairly easy to make.

My favourite overall design has to be Pikachu!

I have now officially completed half of my challenges. So I’m about right on target. I’m slightly nervous about my travel challenges… I’ll have to see if I am able to complete them in the time remaining!

Films I’ve watched recently

20 Apr

I watched another bundle of films in my quest to watch the top 250 films on iMDB. Admittedly the majority of these I watched before lockdown. Perhaps you might find a suggestion of something good to watch here. These are the latest ones I’ve seen:

3. The Godfather: Part II

The carried on the story from the first part that I’ve also watched for this challenge. I think one Godfather movie was enough for me. I know people say that this is one of the greatest films of all time but I don’t see the appeal really.

53. Sunset Boulevard

Weird, weird and weird are three words that I would use to describe this film. A struggling writer ends up being kidnapped (sort of) by an aging actress who is desperate to get back into making movies. He sneaks off in the night so that he can work on a script with a woman he has fallen in love with. The actress finds out and is enraged by jealousy. It reminded me of Psycho but with a female lead.

64. Princess Mononoke

This was another Japanese anime film. These films actually remind me of a cartoon I watched as a child – The City of Gold – which is why I think I quite enjoy them. It was typical in the sense it had enchanted forests, a romantic theme and demons. Good film!

67. Witness for the Prosecution

The more I watch black and white movies, the more I wonder if I was born in the wrong era. I loved the character of Sir Winfrid Robarts, the barrister whose health is failing but he still manages to successful defend his client in between sips of brandy and a handful of ills. I didn’t see the twist at the end of the film coming which made it even better.

86. Your Name

Another Japanese anime on the list. I can’t make my mind up if I like these styles of films or not. I don’t love it but I don’t hate it. The story is about a boy and a girl who switch places with each other when they dream. They work out this is happening and leave clues for each other on their smartphones so that they know what the other one has done while they have switched places. There is a twist in the story when the boy finds out that it is impossible that they could have switched places. The ending reminded me a little of the Butterfly Effect.

89. To Kill A Mockingbird

I’ve read the book this film was based on so it wasn’t a surprise what happened. I thought it was well acted and I would happily watch it again.

92. 2001: A Space Odyssey

This was an odd film. Mainly because it was made years and years before 2001 and, having lived through the 2000s, I know that the scientific things in the film are unrealistic. It was a bit like watching one of the old Star Trek movies – dated and a bit corny. 

107. The Apartment

I loved this film. It was about a man who works at an insurance company and rents out his apartment to his superiors at work so they have somewhere to have affairs. Considering it was filmed in the 1960s, it could easily be remade set in the present day and would be just as relevant now. It was a comedy but also deals with some more serious themes.

117. Some Like It Hot

This is the first film I have ever seen starring Marilyn Monroe. I don’t know how I managed to let that happen. I thought it was very funny and had a Shakespearean quality about it in that the two main characters dress up as women to join a band after witnessing a mafia hit in Chicago. They don’t look like convincing women but obviously no one realises that they are men in drag.

141. Bladerunner

The weird thing about this film is that it is set in the year 2019 (the year I watched it in). Like the 2001: A Space Odyssey there is something very weird about watching a film set in the future when you are living in that future and it is nothing like it was predicted.  Overall it wasn’t really my sort of film to be honest. 

160. The Deer Hunter 

This was such an interesting film but another film about the Vietnam War. Even though the film is 40 plus years old the themes in the film are still very current. I can see why it has received such high praise from critics and fans. 

169. Logan

I haven’t seen all of the X-Men films and I was wondering if it would spoil my enjoyment of this film. Everything is explained so not knowing what has happened in the other films didn’t matter. It was a sad and emotional ending which I wasn’t quite expecting. Having watched it, it hasn’t made me want to rush and see the other films in the series though.

186. Wild Tales

Beautifully bizarre is how I would describe this Argentinian film. It depicts 6 individual stories about people in distress. It was wonderfully macabre and tragic but also funny. I would happily watch this again and again. 

205. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

In essence this is Robin Hood set in the Wild West. I normally get confused watching Westerns because I can never work out who are the goodies and who are the baddies. It was fairly obvious in this!

248. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane

A very odd film about the relationship of two sisters who found fame on the stage. It starts off innocently enough and then gets weirder and weirder and turns into a Hitchcock-esque type film. Disturbing!

Only 70 more films to go!

Challenge #38 – completed!

13 Apr

Lockdown has gifted me with some time to crack on and try and complete more of my challenges. One of the challenges I never thought I would be able to complete was Challenge #38.

I have never been able to touch my toes. I’ve always used the excuse that my legs must be too long. I had heard that it’s possible for anyone to be able to touch their toes by stretching each day. That was why this challenge was on my list – to see if this theory was true or no just fake news on the internet.

As I have been trying to exercise in some form each day I decided I might as well throw in some stretches and see if I would be able to tick this off the list. I found a 30 day programme of stretches on the internet (working up to 5 minutes of stretching a day) and decided to do this after every run or workout that I’d completed.

Drum roll please…. I did it!

It’s an awful picture but it proves that I did it! I managed to touch my toes after 13 days of doing the stretching programme. I’m still amazed I was able to do it. It seems like it is true that anyone can touch their toes if they stretch every day. In fact, I am sure stretching every day is beneficial even if you don’t want to touch your toes!

I have now completed 19 out of the 40 challenges on my list. Almost half way there!

Challenge 40 – completed

25 Mar

Life under lockdown is tough. I am managing to spend time on trying to complete challenges on my 40 Before 40 List. Of course, travelling is a no-no so I am concentrating on those that I can achieve by being locked in the house.

Last week I completed Challenge 40! The original challenge was to start and maintain my own travel website but I decided to change it to create a piece of art because I’ve done a bit of travel writing and I have to say I prefer travelling to writing about it. I made the change well before the Coronavirus outbreak!

So I made this:

In case you can’t tell, it’s a wolf. Okay, so it isn’t a painting by hand or something that I’ve conceived of myself. But I still think it’s impressive and you can’t say that it’s not art, even though I’m not sure what the exact definition of art is!

All of the materials were included in the pack that I ordered and then it was fairly simple to put together. The picture is made up of tiny squares, each with a symbol on them. You then have to look up on the key what colour needs to be glued into that square.

The squares are really tiny. I’m glad I didn’t order one that was bigger – I would have been doing it forever. This took me about a week to do. I did end up getting slightly addicted to it; just telling myself I will do another 10 minutes and still being hunched over the desk an hour and a half later. During this mad times, it provided a good distraction from everything going on in the world right now.

Incidentally, I have managed to almost destroy my left shoulder from leaning over it. I’ve had heat packs and all sorts on it trying to ease the pain. I have suffered for my art.

There are a lot of other challenges I can work on while I am house-bound. I am hoping to be able to tick off some more over the coming weeks. So stay tuned!