Tag Archives: 40Before40

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!

Four years to go…

5 Sep

It is now only four years until my 40th birthday and hopefully in this time I will have completed all the items on my #40Before40 list.

One year into the challenge I have completed 4 out of the 40 challenges. This sounds disappointing but several of the challenges are well underway and should be completed sooner rather than later.

The challenges I have already completed are:

  • Enter a photography competition
  • Go to the Opera
  • Go vegan for 3 months
  • Watch a series of 24 in 24 hours

Here is an update of where I am with the rest of the as-yet incomplete challenges:

  1. Pass C2 Goethe German exam – planned for November 2018. My life is currently a sea of German verbs, Grammar and practice exam papers and I am motivated so that I don’t have to take any more German lessons after the start of November.
  2. Visit 40 countries in Europe – visited 26 out of 40 and at least two more visits planned before the end of 2018.
  3. Go paragliding
  4. Enter a photography competition – completed on 16.01.2018
  5. Write my will and plan my funeral
  6. (Re)Learn the flute
  7. Go alcohol-free for a year
  8. Watch every movie on iMDB Top 250 Films list – watched 120 out of 250
  9. Write a novel (at least 50,000 words) – I have a number of ideas that I am currently working on and then I just need to chain myself to a chair and write.
  10. Beat at least one of my running PBs for 10k, 10 miles, half marathon or marathon – I have been struggling with a knee injury for most of this year so unfortunately I will have to try to complete this next year and hopefully my knee will be fit enough to get me round quickly enough
  11. Read the Bible cover to cover
  12. Go to the Opera – completed on 04.07.2018
  13. See the Northern Lights
  14. Go vegan for 3 months – completed on 15.07.2018
  15. Have something that I have written published
  16. Save money for a rainy day
  17. Write a diary for a year – currently in progress
  18. Take a Hot Air Balloon ride
  19. Take part in an Ultra race – I was hoping to do this in 2019 but with the knee injury that I have had in 2018, I might have to wait until 2020
  20. Throw a birthday party for myself
  21. Watch a series of 24 in 24 hours – completed on 25.11.2017
  22. Learn how to wolf whistle
  23. Try snowboarding
  24. Take an overnight sleeper train
  25. Cook every recipe from one cookbook – currently in progress – completed 60 out of 100 recipes
  26. Learn how to fold 40 origami designs
  27. Read 40 novels in German – read 6 out of 40
  28. Take a wine degustation course
  29. Read The 40 Books Every Woman Should Read read 15 out of 40
  30. Solve a Rubik cube – currently in progress
  31. Take up a new sport
  32. Catch, cook and eat a fish
  33. Make an item of clothing to wear
  34. Stop biting my nails
  35. Read 40 non-fiction books –  read 6 out of 40
  36. Fly long-haul business class
  37. Have a haircut at least 4 times a year – this is in progress but I am not going to tell you every time I have a haircut! That would be far too boring to read about!
  38. Be able to touch my toes
  39. Downsize – get rid of anything I don’t need or want by selling, giving away or donating
  40. Start and maintain my own travel website – the planning for this is well underway and I am hoping to go live in early 2019

Slow and steady progress – I will get there in the end!

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No regrets…

2 Sep

…at least not yet. This weekend I have done something drastic that in 10 weeks, or precisely 69 days, will come to fruition.

I have entered the C2 German exam. This is basically the highest qualification that a foreigner can attain when studying another language.

At the moment I have the time to sit and work my way through the grammar and the practice tests. If I waited until next year then I would just be putting off the inevitable. At least now I have a goal and something to work towards. I am hoping that it will help to focus me a bit more and that German words will learn to stick in my head, rather than me forgetting everything the second I have finished reading it.

The exam is relatively intensive. There are four modules: reading, writing, listening and speaking. I don’t have a favourite module (I used to when the level of German that I was learning was a lot easier!). I am under no illusions that if I was to sit the exam today that I would either fail outright or scrape a pass in some parts but not in others. But I do have some time left and between now and then. It would be nothing short of an impossibility that by November 10th I don’t improve just a little bit. I am already imagining myself being the very proud owner of a certificate by the middle of December, when the results come through.

As if that motivation isn’t enough, the first challenge of my #40Before40 is to pass the C2 German exam. One more challenge crossed off the list is perhaps more motivation than I can put into words. But this is definitely one of the most difficult challenges on my list. I guess it is time to hit the books and make sure I give myself a good chance of passing. Wish me luck!

Proof that I’ve taken the first step!

Spain and Andorra

29 Aug

Last weekend we went to visit some of my boyfriend’s friends just outside of Barcelona. It was a nice short break and we managed to eat, drink and see a lot.

After collecting our rental car, we drove to Montserrat, a mountain range just outside Barcelona. The views from the top were nothing short of stunning. It is possible to walk to the top but we took the cable car to save our legs!

There is an impressive Basilica at the top and even more impressive queues to go into the church and pray to the Madonna at the top of the High Altar. Because of the heat, we decided not to wait but to go and have some lunch.

Later we drove to Manresa, where we would be staying. We found an amazing jamón shop where we tried some jamón, tomato bread and red wine. The wine was only 1.50 Euros and I was expecting it to taste like vinegar but I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. When we met up with our hosts, we got ready to go for evening meal and then onto a club where there was a jazz festival. It was a great atmosphere but after food and an early flight we were happy to go home for some rest.

The next day we went to Andorra. If you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that I have a #40Before40 challenge, in which I have challenged myself to do 40 challenges before I turn 40 (I have a few years to go yet!). One of my challenges is to visit 40 European countries and Andorra is one that I haven’t been to before.

Andorra wasn’t what I expected. It is a shoppers’ paradise because there are no taxes on the goods. It felt like every shop sold tobacco, booze, perfume and shoes and nothing else. I thought it had a bit of a weird atmosphere – like a place that’s in between here and there. I can’t imagine living there. It also took a long time to get in and out because so many people were crossing the border to get a bargain. However, I have been and it’s one less country to visit.

The next day we went to Sitges, a coastal town near to Barcelona. I had visited once before as part of a business trip but it was nice to go back again, especially for the delicious paella! I think Sitges is a bit like Blackpool for Spanish people. It was packed with lots of people who were just there for the weekend.

And then it was time to come home to Switzerland. I’m sure that weekends go quicker than weekdays – the secret is then to enjoy the weekends more!

Challenge #8 – update

25 Aug

Challenge number 8 on my #40Before40 is to watch all of the 250 Top Films as rated on iMDB.

I have now watched 120 out of 250 films, which means I am almost half way to the finish line!

23. The Silence of the Lambs

I thought that I had seen this before but I obviously hadn’t because the opening scenes were what I thought were the closing scenes. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be but I now know why the book version that my Dad used to have on his bedside table showed a person with a moth over the mouth. This hasn’t done anything for my moth-phobia. I thought the plot twist at the end was a little bit predictable but otherwise it was relatively enjoyable.

27. Léon: The Professional

This was the story of a professional hitman, who takes a orphaned girl in after her family have been brutally murdered. He teaches her how to make a hit but when she decides to kill the people who murdered her family things start to go round. It was action-packed, although the ending was a little bit predictable.

29. Spirited Away

Only one word can describe this film – weird! It was a Japanese Anime and I wasn’t sure what was going on most of the time. A girl is transported into a parallel world where her parents have been turned into pigs. She has to work in order to free them and return back to reality. It was confusing and surreal to watch. I just didn’t get it.

32. Interstellar

I have so many questions about the movie plot that I still don’t understand. The basic premise is that NASA is searching for other planets for the human race to escape to because nothing grows on the earth any more apart from corn. I was kind of with the plot until there is a long exploration of time being a non-linear concept. At this point it just became a bit too surreal for me. I don’t know why this film is so high on the list. It was ok but I didn’t think it was incredible.

34. City Lights

This is the first silent movie I have ever seen. It stars Charlie Chaplin as a tramp who falls in love with a blind girl. I found it really funny but sometime a bit predictable because the jokes have obviously been stolen and rehashed over the years. It also amazing how you don’t need dialogue to understand what is going on throughout the film.

37. The Intouchables

This is a French film (I watched it with subtitles) and is based on a true story. It’s about a carer and his patient who is an incredibly intelligent man but is paraplegic. At some parts of the film, I was howling with laughter. It was incredibly real and the end was heartwarming. It is to discover films like this that I would never watch normally.

38. Modern Times

Another Charlie Chaplin film on the list. I like that the characters in his films don’t have any name; he is just called “the Tramp” or “the factory worker”. Half of the time I don’t remember the characters in a film once I have watched it. The story is about a factory worker who has a nervous breakdown and then accidentally gets sent to jail when the police wrongly think that he is the leader of a protest. Like City Lights, I liked the jokes and the slapstick comedy.

42. Rear Window

Another Hitchcock film on the list and one of my favourites of his so far – there are quite a few Hitchcock films on the list. The story is set in an apartment block. The main character, played by James Stewart, is recuperating from a broken leg and spends all day watching the neighbours come and go. Things take a drastic turn when he witnesses a possible murder in an adjacent flat. I also spotted Hitchcock’s cameo when he was winding up a clock in an apartment when he was playing a butler.

45. Whiplash

I had no idea what this was going to be about – possible someone suffering with the after effects of a car accident and was thinking of suing? Thankfully it was about a young drummer trying to break into the music industry and his relationship with his mentor. It explores the fine line that exists between trying to nurture talent and the consequences when someone is pushed to their limits. It had a very moral and ethical undertone to it.

47. The Prestige

Another film that I have never even heard of on the list. It’s the story of the rivalry of two magicians. It’s one of those films that you could re-watch to get all of the clues about how the story will unfold. I had managed to pick up most of the clues but it was only right at the end that I had the “A-ha!” moment. Highly recommended if you haven’t seen it!

79. Requiem for a Dream

Three words to describe this film: weird, weird and weird. It explores the relationship that four people have with drugs, though not all of them are illegal drugs. It is shot in a dream-like manner where reality and fantasy overlap each other. I still don’t know how I feel about the film as a whole. The ending was abrupt and left me wanting to know what would happen later to the characters, although there is an overwhelming sense that the characters are all trapped and they won’t be able to achieve the dreams and the lives that they were hoping for.

94. The Sting

This was a film about some conmen and the elaborate sting that they set up. I couldn’t really get into it. It seemed a little bit outdated when you have seen the Ocean’s series. The best thing was Robert Redford’s dapper pin-striped suit and matching hat.

104. The Hunt

This is the story of a teacher, who is falsely accused of child abuse by his best friend’s daughter. Halfway through I was wondering what this had to do with “The Hunt” but the title of the film has a double meaning but you only find that out at the end of the film. An interesting portrayal of something that often happens in our society.

156. Dial M for Murder

A man blackmails a friend to kill his wife but it all goes wrong and the police soon suspect that he is to blame but proving it is difficult. Another Hitchcock’s film but not one of the best of them, in my opinion. I did think this was the best cameo role that Hitchcock plays.

197. The Grand Budapest Hotel

I have been avoiding this film for a while but I think it’s because I was mixing it up with the film with a similar title. It is one of the best films that I have seen in a long time, even though it had Jude Law in it. It’s all about a valuable painting that is inherited by a hotel employee and the family of the deceased trying to steal it back. Funny, strange and wonderful all at the same time.

182. Into the Wild

Another true story in the list about a young man who leaves his family and hometown without a word because he doesn’t want to live according to society’s rules. He survives by moving from place to place earning enough money to get by and learns how to hunt and fend for himself off the land. He also visits Salvation Mountain which I did a few years back. I remember our tour guide saying that it was featured in a film and since then lots of people have come to see it.

243. In the Mood for Love

This was set in Hong Kong and Singapore and was mainly in Cantonese so it was lucky that I was able to get the film with subtitles. It’s the story about two neighbours who realise that their spouses are having an affair with each other. Even though they both have feeling for each other as well after becoming friends, they find it difficult to act on their emotions because they don’t want to be cheaters, despite the actions of their partners. It’s an interesting movie and I thought the music was interesting as well.

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V is for Victory (and Vegan) – Part II

17 Jul

As I mentioned yesterday in this blog post, I have now completed Challenge #14 on my #40Before40 list. Although the challenge is over, I will be continuing to eat vegan (at least part-time) for a while into the future. And these are the reasons why:1.If you have been following my blog for a while, you will know that I have been simultaneously this challenge along side my challenge to cook every recipe from a cookbook which is the 25th challenge on my list of #40Before40 challenges. I am about half-way through this challenge so there are still plenty more dinners, desserts and salads that I need to eat in order to complete this challenge as well. Come back soon to hear how I have been getting on with the latest recipes I have cooked.2. In order to celebrate my achievement, I will be having a vegan BBQ for some of my friends to enjoy some of the new recipes that I have learnt over the past few months. I really do think that this is an achievement. Before I started the challenge, I was a meat-eater and I went cold turkey for this challenge. (Possibly not the best turn of phase in the instance – perhaps cold tofu is more apt?) There will be some meat options at this BBQ party but more than 90% of the food will be vegan.3. I recently read an article on BBC about the growing rise of flexitarianism, which is people who eat vegan or vegetarian part-time. As my other half is keen to get back to eating meat (even though he has not gone hungry during this time), it seems like this would be a reasonable solution: I can chose to eat vegan but when we eat together we can eat meat and dairy products.4. I have lost quite a lot of weight during the past three months. I am a little worried that if I switch back to my diet from before that I will put all of the weight on again. However, I haven’t felt like I have been starving myself in the same way as I have felt when I have been on other diets. Being at least a part-time vegan would mean that I would be able to continue to control my weight.5. It may sound arrogant to say it but I know that this challenge has had a positive impact on the environment. I have been eating a lot more locally grown products. I won’t bore you with details about how much water, carbon dioxide and grain I have saved during this time. But there are lots of details about this on the internet if you are interest. This alone is motivation for keeping to a vegan diet for at least some of the time.6. I haven’t found it too difficult to refrain from eating meat. My Achilles heal is cheese. Living in Switzerland with the thought of not eating cheese during the winter fondue season would feel like Hell on earth for me. This is the reason why I chose to do this challenge in the summer months. So never having cheese again is not something that I could contemplate. If you hear news from Switzerland by the end of the week that there is a cheese shortage then you know that I have been making up for lost time!7. Being a vegan isn’t that bad. It can be tricky to eat out sometimes but more and more restaurants are catering for people with different dietary requirements. As I have said, I have never been hungry (apart from the very first week) and there are definitely lots of options, if you can plan ahead and are creative!Those are the reasons why I will be sticking with veganism for the moment. Come back soon to see if I do manage to complete my 25th challenge of cooking every recipe from a (vegan) cookbook!salad-2756467__340.jpg

V is for Victory (and Vegan) – Part I

16 Jul

After 3 months or 13 weeks or 91 days, I have finally completed my 14th Challenge on my #40Before40 list. I have spent the last 3 months eating a vegan diet which means I have completely abstained from eating anything that is produced from animal products. That means no meat, no dairy products and no honey.

Rather than feeling relieved that this challenge is over, I am actually a bit sad. Although the challenge hasn’t been always easy (mainly when eating in restaurants), I have really grown to like preparing a lot of my meals from scratch and learning new recipes.

So, for the last time, here is what I have been eating this week.

Mastering Lentils

I have always struggled to cook lentils properly, which sounds a little bit strange because you just put them in a pan and boil them. But mine have always turned to mush and, although they have been edible, they haven’t had a really nice texture and don’t look good either. Thanks to my friend, Melina, I have now completely mastered the art of cooking lentils. Her advice to me was not to put salt in the water and it has worked a treat. I also read online that you don’t need to aggressively boil the lentils in the water, which I was probably doing the whole time. With the combination of these two gems of advice, I ended up with these perfectly cooked lentils for a salad this week. Finally!

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Korean pancakes

Melina also gave me a packet of Korean pancake mix which is vegan (depending on what you add into it). I added some diced red pepper, spring onions, coriander and some garlic. The pancakes weren’t very round but I think perfection is overrated. They tasted good which was the main thing. I ate them with a spicy salsa dip that I made.

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Pomegranate Debacle 

I had a recipe for a chickpea and pomegranate salad which I wanted to make. It seemed like it would be a nice alternative, especially as the weather is so hot and the recipe didn’t need any cooking. I have had pomegranate before but I have never bought one and prepared it myself. Perhaps there is a specific way that you should prepare it because I found it a complete hassle. I also found that whenever I cut into it juice would squirt out and all over the kitchen. By the time I was finished, the kitchen looked like it had been the location for the filming of a slasher movie. Also I was wearing a white T-shirt so that went straight into the washing basket as soon as I had cleared up the “blood” splatters! I did enjoy the salad but I think that I will be buying the pre-prepared pomegranate from the supermarket next time, even if it is a bit more expensive.

Amazing Homemade Sandwich

I made an amazingly good sandwich this week. It was so full of flavour and only took a few minutes to make. It was tomatoes, cucumber and a thin layer of vegan cream cheese, with a smoked tofu that had been cooked in a mixture of maple syrup, soy sauce and a pinch of chili powder. I will be making this again in the future!

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And that is the challenge over. Tomorrow I will be reflecting on this challenge and what is means for the future so come back and find read Part II soon.