Tag Archives: 40Before40

Another update on Challenge #8

16 Mar

I have been cracking on with this challenge over the past few months. The sofa is starting to show signs of wear and tear because I have been sitting on it for so long. However, I feel like I am starting to make progress with this challenge. I have now watched 151 of the 250 films, which means that I have 99 films left to watch – psychologically this is very important. I am beginning to think that I am going to be able to get through this challenge.

Here are the films that I have seen recently:

15. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

I must admit that this film lost me somewhere in the middle. Rather than the main action being about Froggo taking the ring back to Mordor, there seems to have been a switch to a lot of sub-plots that are happening. After being so pleasantly surprised after seeing the first installment of the series, I now feel a bit deflated. I hope that the final installment that I am still to watch is better.

21. City Of God

Any film that starts with an armed gang of men and young boys chasing a chicken down the backstreets of Rio is always going to be a winner. This was the story of a ghetto in Rio in the 1970s and the violent drug gangs who run it. It’s gory and graphic in places but it tells an interesting story and is based on a true story.

55. Cinema Paradiso

This film won the Oscar for the best foreign language film. As the name suggests the story revolves around a cinema. The cinema burns down leaving the projectionist blind, so a young boy takes over the responsibility. The projectionist tells the boy he must leave because he can achieve better things. The boy becomes a famous film maker and returns years later to his home town. I really enjoyed this film.

56. The Lives of Others

A couple are investigated by the secret police in East Germany. The man who is put in charge of their surveillance ends up becoming involved in their lives. The whole film is in German but I did use English subtitles because I am not sure that I would have had understood all of it.

66. Oldboy

If I had’ve known what this was about before I sat down to watch it, I’m not sure I would have. It is probably one of the most gruesome films I have seen in a long time. It’s a South Korean film about a man, who is imprisoned in a room for 15 years, but he has no idea why or who is keeping him captive. When he is released, he sets out to get revenge but ends up falling in love with a woman, who later turns out to be his daughter. It’s all very disturbing.

147. Elephant Man

The story of John Merrick is well documented but I still found this story quite shocking and incredibly sad. I also never knew that Anthony Hopkins was in this film which was a nice surprise.

148. Wild Strawberries

This was a first for me –  a black and white Swedish film. What would we do without subtitles! I found it to be quite a weird film. A doctor is on his way to collect and honorary doctorate and on the journey to the ceremony he has a series of nightmares and day dreams about his past that have always made him feel uncomfortable. It was a good exploration of the meaning of acceptance.

152. Warrior

I’m not so sure why this is so high on the list. It’s about two estranged brothers, who independently decide to enter a mixed martial arts competition because both of them are broke. I thought you could see the plot twists coming a mile off – the elder brother is a physic teacher struggling to pay the mortgage, the younger one is a former Marine who deserted. Having said that, it was more about the action out of the cage than in it. The brothers also have an alcoholic father and come to terms with the circumstances under which their mother died.

170. Mary and Max

I have never heard of this film before but it had an all-star cast. It was an animated film (Wallace-and-Gromit-esque but a bit darker) about an eight-year-old Australian girl who is being bullied so she becomes pen pals with an older Jewish man living in New York. It was a really emotional tale because both of the characters have hardships and their friendship is something that helps them through those times. A must watch.

180. Gone Girl

I always get this story mixed up with The Girl on a Train because I read the books at around the same time and the stories both involve a grown woman going missing. It was a powerful story about manipulation and revenge and follows the plot of the book very closely. I had forgotten how horrifying some of the scenes in the book were though.

187. Platoon

 

188. Hotel Rwanda

This was one of the films I was dreading watching because of the subject matter. I watched this after watching Oldboy (above) so the scenes of genocide weren’t so horrific as I was expecting. I didn’t know a lot about the genocide in Rwanda apart from that there was one and thousands died. It was well acted and it felt like I was watching a documentary or a film than something for entertainment. At the end of the film, it is revealed that the film was based on real events which I found chilling but also awe inspiring.

195. The 400 Blows

This was a French film about a boy struggling to fit in at school, who also has to deal with his neglectful parents. I was disappointed. Not a great deal happened in the film and if I am honest, I was a bit bored half way through, even though some scenes were very funny.

206. Amores Perros

I realised fairly quickly that I have seen this film before. I watched it anyway because it was a long time ago that I saw it. It is three separate stories that intersect into one during a car accident. The subject matter is forbidden love (between a man and his sister-in-law), loss when a model is scarred for life after being involved in the crash) and remorse after a former assassin cheats his way into some money and goes to find his daughter, who he left behind years previously.

219. Prisoners

I do love a kidnap story and I think I might be becoming an expert in them because I had virtually guessed who did what to whom before the film was three quarters finished. When two girls are kidnapped, it leads to one of their fathers, taking the law into his own hands but he ends up getting more than he bargained for. It was tense at times and interesting to see the view of a revengeful father figure rather than someone who sits back and lets the police do their job. But if he was then the film wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good.

230. The Bourne Ultimatum

One word to describe this film: intense. From the beginning it was all action. I have only seen the first film from the Bourne series but I don’t think that I missed out from not seeing the others. I do think that the music had a significant impact on how dramatic the action was. The pace of the film was good in the sense that there weren’t big build ups to storylines which I find boring.

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Spending a day in Liechtenstein

12 Mar

If you have been following my blog, you might recall me saying back in February that my next trip to another European country would be in May when we go to visit Poland. I had a feeling that I would be getting itchy feet long before then and I was right. So I decided to visit Liechtenstein for the day.

Liechtenstein is the fourth smallest country in Europe and is only 1 hour and 20 minutes from Zurich by train. I was surprised when I got there to see that there was so much snow on the mountains and the temperature was a lot colder than it is in Zurich.

As the country isn’t big, everything in the city centre is easy to get to by walking and there are plenty of museums. Here is what I go up to:

Vaduz Castle

I hiked up to the castle, which is on the top of a  hill looking down on the city. I’m not exaggerating by saying ‘hike’. It’s a pretty steep path up to the castle. Unfortunately, the castle isn’t open to the public because it is the permanent residency of the Liechtenstein royal family. I thought that was a bit of a shame. There are 130 rooms in the castle so I would have thought that it would be possible to open it up to visitors for time to time. They can’t possibly use all of those rooms all at once. Even the Queen let the public into her residence when she was skint. Perhaps that’s the fundamental difference between the British royal family and their European counterparts – money. However, the castle is still impressive even if you can’t see it from the inside.

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The Stamp Museum

This is only a small museum but it is free to visit. There are some cool interactive tools, like being able to browse through the whole of the back catalogue of Liechtenstein’s stamps. I also didn’t realise that stamps used to be printed by engraving the design onto metal and then these engravings were used to make the individual stamps. Some of the examples on display showed how detailed the engravings are.

There was also an exhibition about the history of postcards which was interesting, especially as people don’t send them these days. Did you know that the stamp didn’t always used to be in the top right hand corner? Sender used the position and orientation of the stamp to communicate secret messages to the recipent.

Sculptures in the Street

As I was walking around the city and taking photographs, I noticed that there was a lot of art in the street. There is a large contemporary art museum (which I wasn’t in the mood to visit) so the city has a feeling of being quite arty. I like art and sculptures being in the street – I don’t see the point of things being locked away behind closed door rather than been enjoyed by people.

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Liechtenstein is the 29th country that I have visited in Europe which means that I have another 11 to visit before I can tick Challenge #8 off my 40 Before 40 list. Plus I now know how to spell it properly!

We have decided to have a few long weekends in different places this year rather than two weeks somewhere. Our next planned trips will be in Poland (May 2019), Luxembourg (July 2019), Serbia (September 2019) and Ukraine (October 2019). It could be that I end up being spontaneous and book a few more trips in the meantime but I will try to restrain myself.

Update on Challenge #8

7 Feb

For challenge 8 on my #40Before40 list, I am attempting to watch all of the Top 250 films of all time as listed on iMDB. I realised in November that I hadn’t watched any of  the films since September so I am getting back into my film watching to give me a fighting chance of completing this challenge.

Here are the films I have watched recently:

11. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

To be fair, this wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I’m a little bit confused about what the difference between an orc, a goblin, an elf and a hobbit but I have been able to work out who the good guy are.However, the other two films are also on the list and I will have to watch them as well. So I have time to work out who is whom.

30. Once Upon A Time in the West

Westerns really aren’t my thing. I think my day put me off watching them because they always used to be on the TV when we were growing up. It involves an mysterious harmonica-playing cowboy and I can still hear the haunting tune that he played in my head. It wasn’t awful but it just wasn’t my sort of film.

54. Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

I have tried to watch this film before but failed miserably by falling asleep. I managed to say awake for the whole of the film and actually found it quite funny in parts. It’s the story of what happens when a nuclear war is triggered by mistake.

57. Grave of the Fireflies

This is a Japanese animated film. It’s another war film from the list and is about a brother and and sister who are separated from their parents during the war. It was a very heart warming story with an incredibly sad ending.

58. Paths of Glory

Set in World War I, this is a dramatisation of a court marshall of French soldiers because of cowardice. The commanding officer attempts to defend the soldiers and highlights the flawed tactics of his direct commander. It was an interesting story.

84. Double Indemnity

Insurance salesman falls in love with a clients wife and sets out to plot his death to claim on an accident insurance policy. I found it interesting that the film starts with the main character admitting that he had something to do with the death. The rest of the film is then an explanation of what happened leading up to the confession.

93. Singin’ in the Rain

I can’t make my mind up if I liked this film or not. I do generally like musicals so it isn’t that I don’t like the genre itself. The film hasn’t particularly aged well – a lot of the comments would be seen as sexism or discriminatory these dates, especially as the backdrop for the film is Hollywood movies.

135. On the Waterfront

This was a story about the mob trying to gain control of the waterfront and the underhand dealings that go along with that. I found the story hard to follow at first and the story didn’t keep my interest that much. There was a great fight scene in it though.

150. The Wolf of Wall Street

I genuinely thought this was just a remake of the original but it definitely isn’t. I didn’t watch this when it came out in the cinema because so many of my friends said that they didn’t like it. I thought it was ok and the story was so ridiculous that it was funny. I’m not sure I’d sit down and watch it again.

162. Fargo

The most incredible thing about this story is that it was based on a true story. When a kidnap plot goes wrong, murder and mayhem follow. I always like true stories and this was no except. I still can’t believe that it actually happened though but a great film and definitely worth a watch.

173. There Will Be Blood

A silver miner, who portrays himself as an honest family man, buys land from people at a pittance in order to drill for oil. As the title of the film suggests this doesn’t end well because a local priest realises what he is up to and a feud between the two develops and threatens the whole of the community. Daniel Day Lewis won one of his Oscars for this role and his performance is mesmorising.

199. Mad Max: Fury Road

It took me ages to work out what on earth was happening in this film. It’s set in some futuristic world in a desert, where people are controlled by a tyrant, until rebels try to break free. There isn’t a lot of dialogue but there is lots of action, with fight scene after fight scene.

215. Before Sunrise

Two strangers meet on a train and decide to spend the day together in Vienna. As I spent a few weeks in Vienna a few years ago it was nice to recognise some of the locations in the film. The film itself wasn’t as soppy as I thought that it would be; there was something innocent about two people agreeing to make a perfect memory of one day together.

217. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

I’ve read all of the Harry Potter books but I’ve only seen one or two of the films. I remember reading this book and being utterly terrified by it. Seeing the dramatic representation on screen was just as terrifying. None of the other Potter films are on the list so I would if the reason that this one makes the list is because of the computer graphics used. Either way, I really enjoyed it.

While I was reviewing the list of films that I am yet to see, I noticed that there were 3 that I have seen which I hadn’t noticed were on the list. I have seen Amélie (which I saw when Netflix sent the DVDs to your house – remember those days?), Donnie Darko (with the scary rabbit) and Monsters Inc. which I can probably recite line for line because I have seen it so many times before.

That means that my current total of films that I have seen from the list is 135, which means only 115 to go! Hurray!

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40 Before 40: Challenge #25 – completed!

19 Jan

Over the past week, I have managed to complete Challenge #25!

Here are the remaining 9 recipes that I needed to complete in order to finish the challenge.

Arabian Rice

This recipe used seitan, which I have never tried nor heard of before. It’s a protein-substitute. It was a pretty easy recipe to make and I decided to make it spicier that the recipe said and perhaps I shouldn’t have because it ended up being a bit too fiery. The seitan was ok as well. I can’t really see me using this as an ingredient again but it was more than edible.

Caramelized Rice Pudding Cakes

Easy to make but it takes a while because the mixture has to set in the fridge for at least 12 hours. I love rice pudding and i never would have thought about make them into cakes and then frying them. Yummy!

Baklava

This turned out well and I was surprised. You have to bake the nuts and filo pastry and then “feed” the baked result with a sugar and water syrup mixture. It didn’t taste like other authentic baklava that I’ve had before but it was a good imitation.

Easter Buns

We had Easter Buns in January! And I will probably be making them again in April. It took a lot time to proof the dough – around 100 minutes in total. I was impressed that I managed to make the dough and it rose so well. Two thumbs up!
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Stuffed Polenta and Mojo Sauce

I would happily make this again (and I will because I’ve got 500g of a packet of polenta left). I did forget to add the oil before putting it in the oven and I thought it would be dry but it turned out well. I wasn’t such a fan of the sauce that was with it.

Triple Nut Plait

This was an absolute nightmare. At one point I was even thinking about throwing the whole thing in the bin and giving up. Making the dough itself was no problem but I found that I had far too much filling for the plait and everything just oozed out, which seemed like a waste of time and food. I managed to salvage it in the end. It didn’t look like it did in the book – but I have found that quite a few of the recipes looked nothing like the pictures provided, even though I have followed the recipe to the letter.

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Pitta Breads with Egg Salad

This was easy to make and tasted great. You don’t actually need to have the pitta breads as an accompaniment. If I made it again (and I think I would) I would just eat it without the egg salad. Another complaint of mine throughout this challenge is how many ingredients it takes to make a recipe. In this case I personally don’t think it’s necessary to have the chickpeas added into the mixture. The recipe says to use only 90g (most cans are 400g) and there is enough texture and crunch from the other ingredients so by not having them included you don’t really lose anything.

Macaroni Salad

This is another recipe that I would make again but I would be a bit more careful with the portion sizes. The recipe said that this made enough for 2 large portions but it ended up being more like 4 large portions. I was surprised that the ingredients (onion, sweet potato, red pepper) that were blended to make the sauce actually tasted good. I would have never thought about putting them together and blending them. The book also says that the sauce can be used on its own as a dip instead, which I might try one day in the future.

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Autumnal Apple Dream

It took me a while to find coconut cream to use in this recipe. I am not a huge fan of coconut anyway so I don’t think that I would make this again. It was easy to make and I had all the ingredients apart from the coconut cream at home but I would need to find a substitute for the cream, if I was to make it again.

As I have mentioned in previous post this challenge was inspired after I watched the film Julie & Julia. It tells of the story of Julie Powell, who successfully made all of the recipes out of Julia Child’s classic French cookbook “Mastering the Art of French cooking” in a year. Powell’s achievement of cooking 524 recipes in one year. And she was cooking classic French recipes! It has taken me almost a year to cook 100! C’est la vie!

And, finally, thanks to all the people who have supported me on this challenge. My many vegan recipe tasters are definitely the best. Everyone that I spoke to about this challenge has been open-minded and ready to embrace my eccentricity. I’ve been really touched by peoples’ support, encouraged by comments (both personally and people who have contacted me through my blog) and I’ve learnt a lot about cooking, ingredients and baking. It’s been fun but I’m glad this challenge is finally complete.

 

Challenge #17 complete!

2 Jan

Another challenge from my #40Before40 list is complete. My seventeenth challenge was to write a diary for a whole year.

As a teenager I always thought that this was a good idea but soon got bored of it, so I thought that this would be interesting to see if I would have the discipline to do this as an adult. It was also a way to make sure that I was writing something at least once a day. I have heard that it takes between 30 to 60 days to form a habit so it was also an opportunity to test this theory.

I started the challenge on 1st January 2018 and finished writing my last entry on 31st December 2018. I was glad that I chose this year to document. We spent the best part of five weeks travelling around South America last year. While I wasn’t able to write down every single thing that we did on holiday and all of the funny encounters that we had, I have a comprehensive account of our time there and I think I will definitely come back to the diary to relive some of the things that we did and experienced there.

Of course, there are a lot of days when not a lot at all happened. This is perhaps a reminder that life isn’t always go, go go and that we need some normality mixed into the extraordinary to achieve the right balance.

I was particularly impressed that I managed to fit the whole year into one book and I didn’t have to buy an additional one. My entries towards the end of the year seemed to get a bit shorter at the end but every day is accounted for. I used the ink from one and a half pens over the course of the year. I was careful to find the same type of Biro when the first one ran out. I couldn’t stand a different colour being used for the second half of the year.

So there you have it. One of the “longest” lasting challenges from my list is completed. I will miss sitting down at the end of the day to think about what the stand out point of the day have been. I may even carry on but not commit myself to write in it every single day but there are more challenges to get on with (34 in fact!) so I can use some of the time I am saving to concentrate on my other challenges.

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The results are in…

6 Dec

Four weeks ago, I was sitting nervously in an exam room trying my best to prove that I could pass the C2 German exam. After being really sick the week before, I was just glad to be able to make it to the exam room and take the test.

Today I got the results. There is good and bad news. The good news is that the modules that I passed I got good marks in. The bad news is that the module that I didn’t pass I was only short one mark. One measly mark. Personally I think that they should have rounded up the total so that I could pass.

I knew that this module was hard because the examiner had also commented to us that she wouldn’t have been able to answer all of the questions correctly. I was expecting not to do so well in this and I also thought that I might have to resit it.

So resitting this is exactly what I am going to do. If I can only just fail when the questions are hard, I am confidence that I will pass with flying colours when the questions are a bit easier. I think that they vary how hard the modules are so I am banking on the resit being much easier than the original exam.

Of course, I don’t have to resit but it would be nice to get the full certificate and, more importantly, the first thing to do on my #40Before40 list is to pass the C2 German exam. It is annoying that I didn’t manage to get every module passed in one time but that’s life.

Fingers crossed for the end of January when I will be back in an exam room once again.

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One more challenge completed!

16 Sep

I’ve been thinking for the best part of the last week if I have completed another one of my #40Before40 challenges.

I wasn’t sure if that I had done counted or not but, after I wrote down on paper the criteria, I am now convinced that I have completed Challenge #20 from my list: to throw a birthday party for myself.

I can’t remember the last time I had a birthday party. To be honest, I am not really a huge celebrator of birthdays not because I don’t like getting old, but more because it is a bit of a faff to organise and people tend to let you down. I thought I make the effort to have a party and see if this time that I felt different about inviting people over to celebrate.

In my consideration of the criteria for a party, I came up with this list:

  • Invited guests
  • Uninvited guests
  • Selection of food and drink
  • Birthday cake
  • A rousing chorus of Happy Birthday
  • Presents
  • A speech from the celebrating person
  • Party game
  • Huge amounts of tidying up

Let’s look in turn at each of these:

Invited Guests

Either by Whatsapp or by mouth people received an invitation to come. My original idea was to make handmade or printed invitation but then I would need to find out peoples’ addresses to send them. It was a lot easier to send everyone a message and get a quick reply if they were able to make it or not.

Uninvited Guests

There is always someone who turns up unannounced or someone brings some one to the party who hasn’t specifically been invited. In my case, this was the neighbours’ cat. As we had a BBQ, we were outside and the cat made an appearance. I think he was scared about the number of people who were there and he didn’t stick around for long.

Selection of food and drinks

If anything, we prepared a selection of food and drinks that was far, far too much. One fridge was full with beer and the other was full with food. There was plenty of food to go on the grill, salads, finger food and desserts. We had so much left over but enough room in the freezer to save it for another time.

Birthday cake

I didn’t plan to have a birthday cake but I was fairly confident that one of my guests would bring one for me. Luckily, my friend, Stefan, didn’t let me know. He made me a fantastic Spider-Man cake that I am sure that he spent hours and hours made. It not only looked amazing, but it tasted incredible too.

A rousing chorus of Happy Birthday

I was treated to Happy Birthday in English and in German, which I think deserves double points. I think I did have Happy Birthday sung to me last year but it is an essential part of birthday party.

Presents

I was treated to some lovely presents. The main theme of my presents was a high alcohol content. I think I should be ok for alcoholic drinks from now until next March. I will need to consume it all before I take on my challenge of not drink for a year. It seems more and more unlikely that I will be able to achieve this and I haven’t decided when to start this challenge yet. I have been trying to find a “good time” to do it but I don’t think that such a thing exists.

A speech from the celebrating person

I did make a small speech to thank everyone for coming and making the party a success. I was actually really pleased about how many people had made the effort to come.

Party game

There was a Swiss game of King’s Chess that was played in the garden area outside. I’m still not 100% sure what the rule of the games were but it involved throwing wooden blocks at your opponents’ posts and being the first to knock down the King in the middle.

Huge amounts of tidying up

It’s strange that you spend so long cleaning your place for guest to come round and when they have left you have to start the cleaning all over again. The washing machine was put on about five times, the floors in the apartment had to be wasted again, the recycling taken to the recycling centre, crockery returned to the right guest and tables and chairs that we had borrowed from relatives returned as well.

Looking at the evidence, it is fair to say that I have now completed Challenge #20 of my #40Before40.

I did genuinely enjoy the party. I wasn’t able to talk to everyone as much as I would have liked (which is the downside of hosting so many people) and it was hard work getting everything ready and tidying up but it was worth it and I would do it again. Thank you to everyone who came to join the celebrations!