Tag Archives: 40Before40

40 Before 40 – Challenge #26 update

7 Apr

This is possibly one of the most fun challenges that I chose for my 40 Before 40 list of challenges. I am going to learn 40 different origami designs.

I must say that some of the designs are a lot harder to make than they look. I did start making a butterfly and gave up because I got completely lost about what I should fold where. I might come back to it later and try again because I don’t like to be defeated by something that seems so simple. I haven’t been

In a strange way I have found it quite relaxing. It’s very satisfying to take a piece of paper and turn it into something different entirely. It tends not to take very long as well which means the satisfaction is immediate. I have noticed though that it is incredibly difficult to fold a piece of paper exactly in half so that all of the sides are in line. If you don’t believe me try it yourself. Perhaps it’s just me.

Here are the first ten of the origami designs that I have made. In case you don’t see the connection (!), all of the designs are animals.

  • cat
  • dog
  • fish
  • shark
  • pig
  • rabbit (I think it looks more like a kangaroo)
  • frog
  • fox
  • turtle
  • crab

Here are the photos as evidence. Are they good enough that you can which animals are in each photo?

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Challenge #29 – Update

27 Mar

From the list of The 40 Books Every Woman Should Read, I have now read 33 of the books. This year I have had another good start to my reading year and being able to read some books and authors that I haven’t heard of before has helped.

The majority of these books have been so good that I have hardly been able to put them down for a break and I have noticed that I have been forgoing watching TV so that I can get through the books even faster.

With only 7 more books to go until I can cross this challenge off my list, you might think that it will only be a few more weeks before I am declaring that this challenge is complete. However, I seem to have unintentionally left the longer books until the end and there is a book on the list that I have begun but abandoned because I found it too boring. So, this might be a tricky one to complete.

Here are the books from the list that I have recently read:

Notes on a Scandal: What was she thinking? by Zoe Heller

I couldn’t put this book down and I read it in a few hours. It’s the story of a female teacher who has a relationship with a pupil. The story is told from the point of view of a fellow teacher and the confident of the teacher who has the affair. I would say that the reader learns a lot more about the person narrating the story rather than the details of the affair – her motives and interest in the story is slowly revealed as the story progresses.

Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

I didn’t realise that this book had been made into a film until after I had read it. The book tells the story of a girl nicknamed Bone and her relationship with her mother and step-father. Her relationship with her step-father is abusive and her mother struggles to admit that there is a problem that needs to be solve. The ending was very emotional and I also found it confusing – the resolution was not what I expected to happen.

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

This book was slightly odd. It starts off by the three main characters reminiscing about an event from the past and then the book switches to a third person narrator. The main character is suffering from a mental breakdown but it doesn’t become clear until later in the book what brought on this breakdown. There is also talk of her daughter who seems to have been taken from her because of health issues but these aren’t discussed or explained in detail. I thought the book had a dream-like quality about it – some parts of it didn’t seem real and I’m not clear about how or why some of the events described happened. It was a confusing read.

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

This is the story of two Native American families over a number of decades and how their lives are affected by one another. The chapters are each told by different characters during different years. It’s interesting to see how one character views events differently to others. You feel involved in the story because the whole book has a conversational style about it – as if you are just sat down having a coffee with someone and they are telling you a story. There is also a complicated love triangle between the two families which makes the story a bit juicier but also brings sadness to the story as well.

The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald

This was an historic novel that is based on the life of Friedrich von Hardenberg (I haven’t heard of him before either). In the story Friedrich falls in love with a girl, who is lower than his social class but he intends to marry her anyway. I was glad that I can speak German because there were quite a few German phases or words used in the book. I got annoyed reading another book recently that was set in France and had some French words that weren’t translated. It was possible to work out what they meant from the context but it could have been that I misinterpreted them.

The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton

This is the story of a young, privileged woman called Lily Bart, who lives in New York at the turn of the century. She likes to gamble and gets into a lot of debt and these debts force her to make decisions that make her situation, relationship and life even worse. I liked the main character and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her; everything she tries to do to make her life better end up backfiring and people are not kind to her and believe malicious rumours. I did take a lot time to enjoy this book. I felt like the story was slightly boring in the beginning. It was only in the second half when things start to get worse and worse that I wanted to read quicker to find out what was going to happen to her.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Even at the very start of this book, I knew I was reading something that was going to be epic. The book starts with the narrator, Richard Papin, revealing that because the snow came down the police didn’t find the body of his college classmate for ten days. What a way to start a story! I was hooked straight away. The book is his recollection of the events that led up to that point, from how he ended up choosing that college, how he ended up being accepted into a strange group within the university. It was a long book but I couldn’t put it down. The ending was unexpected as well.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

This book has such a sad ending. It tells the story of Edna Pontellier who realises that she is in love with a man who is not her husband. She struggles with being a wife and a mother and doesn’t have any interest in raising her own children. It is clear that the man she is in love with has the same feeling about her but they are both trapped because of the norms of society. I realised a few pages from the end what was going to be the outcome but it did make it any less upsetting.

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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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